Sunday 26 February 2023

Call for Papers:- The Mysterious Mrs Christie: Evidence, Elusion, Afterlives


The Mysterious Mrs Christie: 

Evidence, Elusion, Afterlives 

1.5-day international conference at the University of Exeter and Exeter Library 12-13 September 2023 

Keynote Speakers: Dr Mark Aldridge, Solent University and Prof. Michelle M. Kazmer, Florida State University 

2023 marks fifty years since the last novel Agatha Christie wrote, Postern of Fate, was published. By 1973, Christie was already established as the world’s bestselling novelist, and her popularity has only risen in subsequent years. In addition, a flame of scholarly interest has ignited and grown. The quintessential mystery writer, creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, is now also a legitimate figure in academic research. 

It is tempting to think that the there are no Agatha Christie mysteries left. Few writers have received such levels of popular scrutiny and her life and work have been approached from a range of angles. Millions of words have been written about this significant body of work. Recent or anticipated works such as Lucy Worsley’s Agatha Christie, Nina de Gramot’s The Christie Affair, and Mark Aldridge’s Agatha Christie’s Marple attest to the mainstream dissemination of detailed archival research and unconventional approaches. However, mysteries remain. As Worsley notes in her recent biography of Christie, she is ‘a very elusive woman’. 

For the seventh international Agatha Christie conference, we are seeking research and/or creative papers that consider underexplored aspects of Christie’s work, life, and legacies. These could be neglected topics/areas or reflections on critical conversations which could use a new perspective. 

Potential topics may include but are certainly not limited to: 

  • Across and beyond genre 

  • Afterlives and adaptations 

  • Character studies 

  • Christie and creative writing 

  • Christie in an international context 

  • Colonialism and racism 

  • Continuations and tributes 

  • Creative legacies 

  • Ecology and the environment 

  • Ethical considerations 

  • Gender, sex, and sexuality 

  • Gothic and the supernatural 

  • Life writing and autobiography 

  • Mary Westmacott 

  • New theoretical frameworks 

  • Place, space, and time 

  • Plays and dramatisations 

  • Religion and theology 

  • Radio and the BBC 

  • Short stories 

  • Teaching and pedagogy 

    Please submit a short (up to 200 words) abstract for a 20-minute presentation and a brief biographical note to no later than 1 May 2023. You may direct queries to the same address. 

    Please note that speakers will be expected to register for the conference at the 1.5-day rate of £115. 

    Conference organisers: Dr Mia Dormer, Dr J.C. Bernthal, Sarah Martin, and Dr Stefano Serafini. 

Thursday 23 February 2023

Ten good questions by Alex Gray

Whenever I am talking to students of creative writing about researching a novel, I ask them to consider the following. Rather than poring over the internet or even reading lots of books, both practical ways in themselves, try going out to find experts on the subject that you want to research armed with ten good questions. My own experience tells me that I might come home afterwards with twenty answers and several great stories.

One novel that stands out to illustrate this is the fourth in my Lorimer series. I wanted to begin my story with a body being pulled out of the river Clyde, only I could not envisage just how this was carried out. A friend suggested that I seek the help of the Humane Society officer, George Parsonage MBE, and so I was introduced to him and visited his home in Glasgow Green. There, I not only saw photographs of the very process that I had in mind but heard many tales of rescues and others of fishing dead bodies from the depths of the river and made a good friend. George was a fascinating character, so much so that he agreed to be himself in the story and the book was entitled The Riverman, a nickname that George had been given. The authenticity of the setting brought the book to the attention of major publishers as well as composer, Ken Walton, who used some words from it for his choral symphony Colours of the Clyde. And all because I had gone out to seek a real person in my research! George and I have been friends to this day.

Before the advent of mobile phones, I would go out armed with a notebook and camera, photographing places and jotting down my first impressions. Being out and about in, for example, the city of Glasgow also gives one the added benefit of sensory information. I might hear sirens in the distance, the roar of traffic, sounds of local dialect, smells from street food markets and all sorts of things. My very first novel, Never Somewhere Else, is set in Glasgow’s art world and I will be forever grateful that I managed to take photographs of Glasgow School of Art and set down my detailed observations of its former glories. Who could have guessed that this gem in Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s crown would suffer two horrific fires decades later? 

My dear friend, the late Alanna Knight, had a mantra; walk the paths and touch the stones, she would say, and it was sound advice that I follow to this very day. Going out to talk to experts in their field and seeing what really happens in their world is invaluable source material. I have been fortunate to enjoy a good relationship with the police ever since I first wrote to Sir John Orr back in the 1990’s, asking for help to research a crime novel. Coming from a position of not knowing anything about police procedure and being invited into police stations then divisional headquarters was a fascinating start for this wannabe crime novelist.

My latest novel, Questions For a Dead Man, took me to Tulliallan, the police training college, thanks to the co-operation of senior officers in Police Scotland. I was invited to attend on the day of the cadets’ passing out parade, but before that I was given a talk on so many aspects of the training plus advice on how my character, Daniel Kohi, might proceed in his career. I watched my own video clips many times but actually being there and watching the parade, listening to the chief constable address the new recruits, was pure gold for this crime writer. Much of what we write is fiction, of course, but having research like this adds so much authenticity to a story and readers are forever saying how much they enjoyed the setting of different books, surely a testament to my methods. 

It is no mistake that ideas will spring from encounters with other people on visits like this. I can recall several times when a plot centred on a tiny thing that I found as I was looking for material. Not just ten answers and some good stories, but sometimes the very hinge upon which a plot might turn! Best of all, I now count several experts amongst my good friends, a lasting legacy that is even more satisfying.

Questions for a Dead Man by Alex Gray, (Sphere, £16.99) - the 20th book in the Lorimer series.

When a prominent MSP goes missing, DSI William Lorimer wastes no time in investigating. Robert Truesdale was fronting the controversial campaign to legalise drugs in Scotland, and his enemies were numerous. With every passing day, the chances of finding him alive grow slimmer. Then the worst happens. A car bomb explodes in a nearby village, and the blackened body pulled from the wreckage appears to be Truesdale's. Yet there are details that don't add up and soon Lorimer is questioning whether the victim was all he claimed to be. Lorimer calls on the assistance of his friend, PC Daniel Kohi, who has infiltrated a local gang as part of a police initiative to crack down on drug-related crime in Glasgow. As their investigation draws them into the dark heart of Glasgow's criminal underworld, Lorimer and Kohi discover that danger is everywhere and nobody is as they seem.

More information about Alex Gray and her books can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @Alexincrimeland.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

CrimeFest Announce 2023 Line-Up


Mark Billingham and Elly Griffiths have been announced as the Featured Guests at one of Europe’s biggest crime fiction conventions this spring.

CrimeFest, sponsored by Specsavers, is hosted from 11 to 14 May 2023 at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel. Up to 150 authors will descend on Bristol appearing in over 50 panels.

Featured guest Mark Billingham worked as an actor and stand-up comedian before publishing his first crime novel Sleepyhead in 2001. Billingham’s novels have now sold over 6 million copies. He has had 21 Sunday Times bestsellers and two TV series have been made of Mark’s books – Thorne by Sky starring David Morrissey, and In the Dark by the BBC. A third is currently in development. Rabbit Hole, his 2020 novel, was named as Crime Book of the Year by The Times.

A regular on TV and radio, he launches his first new book series for 20 years with The Last Dance, which is set in Blackpool and features Detective Declan Miller. The Last Dance is published on 25 May 2023.

Acclaimed crime author Elly Griffiths is best known for her Dr Ruth Galloway series. This year, she brings the beloved series to a close with the 15th instalment of the no. 1 Sunday Times bestselling series, The Last Remains.

Elly is also the author of The Brighton Mystery series, set in the 1950’s and 60’s, inspired by her own grandfather’s life on the stage, as well as three standalone novels, the latest Bleeding Heart Yard, was published to glowing reviews in October 2022. She is #18 on the list of most borrowed authors from UK libraries and is a recipient of the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library award.

The CrimeFest convention began in Bristol in 2008 and attracts readers, fans, editors, publishers and reviewers, thanks to its reputation as a hotbed for crime writing talent.

Director and co-founder of CrimeFest, Adrian Muller, said: “It’s a delight to welcome each year featured guest authors to CrimeFest, and we are thrilled to announce Elly and Mark for 2023. Both are not only hugely acclaimed names in the genre, but are also known for being warm, friendly and entertaining at literary events, so audiences are in for a real treat.”

As a convention, CrimeFest is open to all published authors and known for its inclusive approach. The event is run by a team of committed volunteers. 

Also returning is last year’s featured guest, Andrew Child – brother of Lee Child and co-writer of the iconic Jack Reacher series. Reacher had the big screen treatment with Tom Cruise, followed by the more recent Amazon TV adaptation starring Alan Ritchson.

Other acclaimed authors include Vaseem Khan, the author of two award-winning crime series set in India. His latest, The Last Man of Bombay was picked as the top crime book of the year by the Guardian, Financial Times and Daily Express.

Will Dean, whose debut in 2017 Dark Pines became a word-of-mouth sensation, attends with his latest novel Wolf Pack. Also appearing is Abigail Dean, who was an instant Sunday Times bestseller with her debut Girl A in 2021.

CrimeFest also welcomes the 2022 CWA New Blood Dagger winner and CrimeFest Award nominee, Janice Hallett, best known for her phenomenally successful debut thriller, The Appeal with her latest, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.

Also returning is a former CrimeFest Toastmaster, the screenwriter and novelist Robert Thorogood, creator of the immensely popular BBC One series Death in Paradise; the new spin-off series Beyond Paradise starring Kris Marshall will be screened on BBC1 from Friday, February 24, 2023.

Bristol will see some of the genre’s most established names descend, including the crime author, playwright and TV and radio producer Simon Brett, the Canadian mystery writer Cathy Ace, the author, critic and historian Martin Edwards, and author and chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, Maxim Jakubowski. Maxim also returns as the host of the closing Criminal Mastermind Quiz.

Crime fiction is the most popular genre in the UK and dominates our TV screens; a wealth of crime authors in attendance have had books recently snapped up for TV or film adaptations.

Dame Mary Perkins, who founded the national and international chain of opticians Specsavers in Bristol, is the headline sponsor.

Dame Mary said: “I am an avid reader and fan of the genre, and I always look forward to CrimeFest, which is so friendly it feels like all who go are welcomed as part of a big family, connected by a love of books and reading. We are proud sponsors of the convention.

Donna Moore, co-founder: “We pride ourselves on being open to new and established authors, creating a friendly and inclusive energy at CrimeFest. Bristol is known for its vibrant, creative and independent spirit, and CrimeFest offers an exciting opportunity for writers and readers alike to meet and mingle.”

Highlights include the annual Pub Quiz with the journalist and author Peter Guttridge as the Inquisitor; Peter is also the Toastmaster at the annual CrimeFest Awards, featuring the Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award.

2023 will also offer the CrimeFest bursary for a crime fiction author of colour. The bursary covers the costs of a weekend pass to the convention, with a night’s accommodation and panel appearance.

In partnership with the independent Max Minerva’s Bookshop, CrimeFest is giving away £4,000 worth of books to eight primary and five secondary inner-city schools in Bristol. CrimeFest offers discounts to students and the unemployed.

The full programme will be announced shortly.

 CrimeFest runs at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel from 11-14 May, 2023. For details and to book, go to:

Monday 20 February 2023

The Last Orphan Q & A with Gregg Hurwitz


Ayo:                Hello Gregg how lovely to see you after such a long time. How are you?

Gregg:            I am doing well. It is always good to see you. Always a highlight.

Ayo:                I am so pleased to get the opportunity to do interview this evening as I have loads of questions. What I wanted to start of with first of all with is one of things that you seem to have gathered with the Orphan Series is the fact that you have this huge swath of new fans. How did you come up with the Orphan X concept?

Gregg:            Hmm, well I do a lot of research with many of it with sketchy characters. I have interviewed outlaw biker gangs; I have gone undercover in a mind control cult and one of the community's I am pretty close with are former spies or spec ops guys. A lot of friends in the Navy Seals community and they are always talking about these “black programmes” right buried deep in the DoD (Department of Defence). I was always interested in how they ran the money, how they work, how they function. And I just thought, look what if there is a programme called the Orphan programme where the Government were taking these kids. They want to train basically US assets to go places the US cannot go and do things that the US cannot legally do.  And what they want is expendable weapons.  They want disposable people that no one is going to miss. Okay, well that is a notion that is not wildly unheard of. David Morrell played in that sandbox – La Femme Nikita and so that was the starting notion of it. 

What would that be like and what would that kid be like? But one of the big things that turned the corner for me was when I thought what if his handler who takes him out of this foster home, In Evan Smoak, Orphan X is the smallest kid in the whole foster home.  Jack Jones(?) who is his handler his CIA handler picks him because he tells Evan you know look you got knocked down the most time as the smallest kid but that also means that you got up the most times. He wanted a kid with grit. And it turns out that Jack actually loved this kid and that for me is where it started to take on a little bit more depth and humanity. Not only was joining the Orphan programme one of the most crazy and difficult things that Evan is going to encounter to be a twelve-year-old who is now trained to be an assassin, but it is also the best thing that ever happened to him.  Jack is the first person whoever treated him like a human being. And Jack even says to him, and this for me is the key line around which the whole series coalesces, he says to him the hard part is not going to be making you a killer, the hard part is keeping you human. And I thought okay, well now we have something because that collision between being trained to be a killer and trying to stay human with Evan being trained under these very very strict rules of the assassins ten commandments that gives me a template of a series that I can keep writing on and forward and that was the opening kernel for it.

Ayo:                Following on from that did you expect it to become such a well-loved series? Because everyone just loves the Orphan X series.  Did you expect it to go down that route or did you just think oh, just let me write this series and see where it goes?

Gregg:            I think I have been doing this long enough not to have that be an expectation for sure. I think that was certainly the hope. I mean, look, I was afraid to write this book. I had the idea for it. I wrote four other standalone thrillers first. I kept back burning it, developing it more in my head, letting it simmer. Because if I was going to step off on this stage you know and think about trying to create a character that might one day have a place in a pantheon with Reacher, Bourne and Bond I better really figure out what it is that is going to make this unique. That is going to make every plot, and every bit of dialogue, every action sequence feel like that it is an Orphan X not, like it could just be anyone else that has done it. Because we all know that Reacher has a particular feel. We all know Reacher dialogue, we all know Reacher fights, we all know that kind of style of dry wit that Lee is so masterful at and now Andrew. But I really wanted to get this character three dimensionalised before I sat down to do it and a lot of other pieces had to come into focus for me before I was willing to do that.

Ayo:                So, when Evan broke free and became the Nowhere Man so that he could use his skills for those in dire need did you expect the response that you received? Because it just appears that with The Nowhere Man the action went up a notch.

Gregg:            Uh um, Look I mean if you raise someone to be a human and to also be a killer it’s just not going to work. One of the ways that I think of Evan is that it is almost as if he was raised and trained to be Pinocchio, but he wants to be a real boy. Right, I say he never learned to speak the strange language of intimacy.  So, this series it’s really about his process of becoming. Why he was raised totally outside of society. He was trained one on one in dojos, he was drown proofed, psych ops training, he learned foreign etiquette right, so that he could blend in in Eastern Europe and commit all these acts. Hand to hand combat, knife fighting. Everything that he was trained in, but he never learned to know what is was to be real or to be in a real family. And so, I think of him always that he has his face up to the glass and that he is like looking in on other people leading these ordinary lives that he himself can never but at least he can protect it for him. He is like the wolf that is going to hunt other wolves. And so with The Nowhere Man, part of what happened was when he became the Nowhere Man which was one of his operational aliases he put the full focus for the first time, his whole operational ability and strategy and all of that was put finally in a position where it was aligned with his moral compass and so there was greater force for that and greater willingness to do anything he had to do to help somebody who no one else can help.  It is always somebody who calls that encrypted number whose got nowhere to turn but are in a desperate place and they are just being terrorised by another human or group of humans.

The complete interview with Gregg Hurwitz can be found on the Shots website at the following link.

The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin Books) Out Now.

The world needs a new hero, and Evan Smoak - aka Orphan X - is here to help in this electrifying new adventure perfect for fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. As a child, Evan Smoak was plucked out of a group home, raised and trained as an off-the-books assassin for the government as part of the Orphan program. When he broke with the program and went deep underground, he left with a lot of secrets in his head that the government would do anything to make sure never got out. When he remade himself as The Nowhere Man, dedicated to helping the most desperate in their times of trouble, Evan found himself slowly back on the government's radar. Having eliminated most of the Orphans in the program, the government will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat they see in Evan. But Orphan X has always been several steps ahead of his pursuers. Until he makes one little mistake.  Now the President has him in her control and offers Evan a deal - eliminate a rich, powerful man she says is too dangerous to live and, in turn, she'll let Evan survive. But when Evan left the Programme, he swore to only use his skills against those who really deserve it. Now he has to decide what's more important - his principles or his life.

 ©Ayo Onatade (2023)

Thursday 16 February 2023

What happens next by Kate Hamer

In my debut novel ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ (published in 2015) Carmel is kidnapped by a religious cult when she was just eight years old, as they believed she had healing powers. We follow her journey as she struggles to hang on to her sense of identity while under immense pressure to take on an identity that was not hers, while her desperate mother searches for her.

While I was writing the book I didn’t know if a anybody would ever read it, let alone that it might be published. The response was as unexpected as it was overwhelming. When it charted as a Sunday Times bestseller I had to face one of my greatest fears – being asked to appear in public! What I hadn’t realised is that with any book that does well there’s an audience wanting to meet the author in book clubs and festivals up and down the land. As someone who had been too shy to do a reading in the school assembly this was terrifying. The first one was Cheltenham Literary Festival, an event I’d been to as an audience member to soak up some of my favourite writers. Now, here I was. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking, I actually thought I was going to fall over on the steps on the way up to the stage. Yet, somehow with the help of my editor and a generous chair I got through it.

I was so glad I did, because if I’d given up at that first hurdle I’d never have got to meet the wonderful crime readers at events all over the country, not to mention fellow authors. I have heard whispers that the nicest authors are the crime writers and the more grisly the books the nicer they are. I’m not sure if this is true but it’s amazing how the panel often was great fun, and something miraculous happened – I started to enjoy these events! 

I soon realised that my very favourite bit was the audience questions at the end. It was always interesting and unexpected and it confirmed my belief that once a book is published and ‘out there’ in the big, wide world it really doesn’t belong to me anymore, it belongs to the readers. I’ve had questions about the writing process, about character’s lives ‘outside’ the book, about tiny details I’m amazed that anyone picked up on, but the most frequent question was, ‘Are you going to write a sequel?’ or even, ‘When are you going to write a sequel?’ 

Well, it took a long time. I wrote other books, ‘The Doll Funeral’ and ‘Crushed’. Yet somehow the seed planted by readers took root. The characters in that first book began clamouring again, especially one – a little girl called Mercy who has the briefest of all appearances in the first book – I felt emerge so powerfully, wanting to tell her story, wanting everyone to know what had happened to her.

So over two long years I wrote ‘The Lost Girls’ and now it’s here in glorious technicolour. In the book, after a five year long ordeal Carmel is returned to her mother Beth, but of course nothing can ever be the same again. The family might crave to return to normal but the longer Carmel is home the more she begins remembering, digging into what happened – despite the fact her that her traumatised mother is desperate to move on and never have to talk about it again. Carmel begins to remember dreadful things that make her blood run cold – and starts to ask herself the question: what happened to the other lost girls before her? The novel is her quest to find out. 

In fiction, we’re made to believe that the crime is resolved when the case is solved, but more and more I pondered on the aftermath. What about the effect of the crime, many years later on. How has it changed relationships, life paths? How has it blown people off course or make them take directions they never would have if the crime had gone uncommitted? That’s what I wanted to explore here, alongside Carmel turning detective herself, reclaiming her power and her own life story by exposing what happened to others.

I loved meeting the characters from the first book again, feeling them live and breathe once more and give a voice to others that seemed to be waiting in the wings in the first book. In fact, I think I may now be hooked on writing sequels!

The Lost Girls by Kate Hamer (Faber & Faber) Out Now

Lost, she narrowly escaped disaster. Beth is desperate to return to normality. After a years-long ordeal, her daughter is finally home and safe. But Carmel has questions she can't ignore about the cult that kidnapped her, and about the preacher who gave her another girl's name. Found, she must survive a miracle. Digging into her past, Carmel uncovers secrets which suggest that she wasn't the only lost girl - and which puts her in danger all over again. While her mother struggles to salvage the safety they've only just found, Carmel tries to come to terms with who she has become. One question, a mystery at the heart of her disappearance as a child, haunts her: What happened to the other lost girls?

You can find more information about Kate Hamer and her books on her website. You can also find Kate Hamer on Twitter @kate_hamer

Tove Alsterdal on Researching for You Will Never Be Found.

Until recently, far up north in Sweden there was a mining town called Malmberget. It was one of those places with a huge sense of pride; in the hard work in the iron ore mines, the ice hockey team, the sports hall, and the musicians who became famous. 

What it also had was a high rate of suicides among young men in the 1980's. By then the town had started to fall into the ground, literary. The main iron ledge passes beneath and bit by bit, houses were torn down and childhood memories fell into the expanding hole that split the society in two parts.

When I went back there to do research for my latest novel, You Will Never Be Found, Malmberget was almost abandoned. The whole town is now being demolished, apart from some houses of historical value that have been moved to new locations. 

The novel begins with a crime in one of those houses. When police investigator Eira Sjödin hears of it and draws parallels to a murder in her own region many miles south of Malmberget, the crime scene is already gone. It has been moved to a clearing in the forest, eight kilometers away.

Researching a place is so much more than walking the streets, it goes far beyond what my eyes can see. Even more important when I write about a place is to find the memories and stories of the landscape.

My main character Eira Sjödin was born and raised in a small town in an area called Ådalen (River Valley), by the High Coast in northern Sweden. This used to be the artery of the wood industry in Sweden for more than 200 years, now the remains of the era are scattered and overgrown in the forests, hidden on the bottom of the river, and fading in the memories of people. Luckily, I could give Eira the long memory of small towners. In her blood runs the stories her parents and grandparents told her, and their grandparents before them, so from her perspective every tree or bump in the road can hide a story from long before she was born.

In the research I of course read a lot; history, facts about birds and gunshot wounds and timber rafting, poetry, anything I can find about a place, but the best details might not yet have been written. So much only exist in the memories of people. When I hear those stories, it's like finding hidden treasures, they take me beneath and beyond the common clichés of the place.

I named my heroine after a victim of a shooting in Ådalen in 1931 - an event that shook Sweden and changed our modern history. Workers in the paper mills went on strike and scabs were brought in, the confrontations led to the death of five workers, shot by military forces. One of them was a 20-year-old girl, Eira. This is a well-known story in Sweden and the monument commemorating the event is now a tourist spot. A number of books, even PhD’s, have been written about it, but I recently came across an untold detail. Not far from the monument there is an overgrown stone. One of the victims were carried into a house nearby where he died on the sofa. The next day the mother of the house scraped the blood from the floor and buried it on the spot where the man had been shot. She told no one but their closest relatives, and one of her children told me and suddenly a story that had been told a million times over came to life again.

In the next book in the series that I’m working on now, The Deeper You Go, some divers will find an old body on the bottom of the deep river, among the hundreds of forgotten wrecks that remain there. I have taken a course in diving, dug deep into the heritage beneath the water surface and lots more, but when it comes to the time when the victim was alive there's no such source as those who remember. Where did they dance and fall in love, what music was played when it happened?

Even if the stories are fictional, they are closely linked to reality. I want to write about real places, places that have remain unsung. I want readers who live there to recognise themselves and those who don't, feel like they do for a moment.

But in the end, it's a novel. In You Will Never Be Found a man is found dead in the basement of an abandoned house in the forest. He was locked up and tried everything imaginable to survive. During autopsy an earthworm is still alive in his stomach.

"Would that be possible?" I asked the coroner.

"Well," she said, "the earthworm needs a damp environment so maybe it would feel like home. I can't say I'm sure, but on the other hand: Who would check?"

You Will Never Be Found by Tove Alsterdal (Faber & Faber) Out Now.

He was locked inside an abandoned house. But he's not the only one . . . When a dead man is found locked in the basement of an abandoned house, deep in the woods, there is no evidence of what happened beyond his name - scratched into the wall before he died. The regional police can't find anyone who knew him. But no-one knows the locals like tough, smart, and determined Detective Eira Sjoedin. When her expert knowledge of her home town is again called in, she knows one of them must have seen something. Then, a shock: before she can uncover the truth, someone close to her disappears. Has he fallen victim to the same criminal they've been chasing? And can Eira put the pieces together in time to save him? 

Tuesday 14 February 2023

BayTales 2023


With only 17 days to go before Bay Tales 2023 there is still time to get tickets. Join over 15 of the biggest and best authors at the Whitely Bay Playhouse on Saturday 4 March 2023 whether you are a reader or a writer.

More info and tickets can be found here.

I shall be moderating the Simon and Schuster panel featuring Ruth Ware, Jo Callaghan and Jack Jordan where we will be discussing Dark Disappearances and Hidden Secrets.

On-site bookshop, Whitley Bay’s favourite indie the bound, will have new and backlist titles available

Author signings during breaks throughout the day.

Tote bags on sale featuring exclusive advance copies of some of 2023’s biggest titles (These items are limited stock only and details of how to buy will be revealed during the introduction)

Charity raffle featuring money-can’t-buy prizes from authors, publishers, local businesses and more

Surprise guest authors to meet across the day.

Sunday 12 February 2023

Commemorative Afternoon for Peter Robinson


From Dr Christiana Gregoriou 

Dear CSN-ers

I'm in the process of organising a hybrid commemorative afternoon for crime writer Peter Robinson who we, very sadly and unexpectedly, lost last October.

The event is likely to take place in early April at the University of Leeds (though we expect that it can be viewed live via a weblink), and I am after any crime fiction researchers who have studied his crime fiction work and/or have used the archive of his creative process material held in the University of Leeds' special collections. Such scholars would be interested in participating in the celebratory event, either as members of the audience, or as scholars who can share a bit of their research in relation to his work. I envision a 3-hour event, part of which can be devoted to short academic papers about his creative work, and part of which can be devoted to anyone else who would like to speak about his legacy (in the form of fellow crime writers, students who have used his archive and/or benefitted from the scholarship he set up at the University of Leeds), with a break in-between where participants can have a look through some of the archive material to be displayed in the room on the day. Let me know if you're interested in participating in any capacity by the end of February (by emailing me directly). Though academic (for the scholars), the talks can be as short as 10-15 minutes, and accessible to a general audience. We would like it if presenters participated in person, for ease.

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Dr Christiana Gregoriou

Associate Professor in English Language

School of English,

University of Leeds

Friday 10 February 2023

Nero Wolfe Banquet at Bouchercon


Nero Wolfe © Kevin Gordon, used with permission from the artist.

We eat. We drink. We sing. We toast.

We have fun! We’re the Wolfe Pack!

All Are Welcome!

Join fellow members of the Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe, and Wolfean fans for a sumptuous meal in a gorgeous venue. Over the course of the evening, we celebrate Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories by singing pastiches; completing hilarious quizzes about the opus; and toasting our favorite characters—Mr. Stout, Mr. Wolfe, Archie, Fritz, and “Other.” The format of this banquet is similar to the annual Black Orchid Banquet held by the Wolfe Pack every December in New York City— for those of you not near New York, this is your chance to share this special experience!

Date: Friday, September 1st, 2023

Time: Cocktails at 6:30 p.m. (Open bar for one hour)

Dinner at 7:30 p.m.

Location: Morton’s Steakhouse, 285 J Street, a 2-minute walk from the convention hotel, 

with shuttle rides available.

Price: $175.00. Limited seating so don’t wait!


Register Nero Wolfe

New Bouchercon Scholarship Award Program


A new Bouchercon Scholarship Award Program (BSA) has been created to assist fans and writers of the mystery genre by offering a financial subsidy. This subsidy addresses registration fees and associated costs needed to attend and participate in a current annual Bouchercon convention.

One of the richest and greatest benefits of attending a Bouchercon convention is participation as a volunteer. The opportunity to have one-on-one contact with: fellow mystery buffs, high profile authors, Guests of Honor and industry professionals, is a side treat that adds to the experience that is Bouchercon. Subsidy recipients will be required to volunteer for no less than four hours.

The BSA Program includes a paid registration fee and reimbursement for up to Five-Hundred Dollars ($500.00). 

Who May Apply?

A. Anyone who will be attending the next upcoming Bouchercon convention, an

B. Anyone willing to contribute up to four hours of volunteering during the eligible convention.

What is the Financial Assistance Offered?

1. The registration fee is waived.

2. Travel and lodging costs are reimbursed up to $500.00 for up to five awardees.

3. Awardees will be sent a reimbursement check within seven business days at the conclusion of Bouchercon and after receipts have been scanned/mailed to the Bouchercon Treasurer.

What is the Process?

- 300 to 500 word essay on the applicant’s interest in attending Bouchercon, the mystery genre (fan or author) and need for assistance.

- Past Bouchercons attended

- The BSA will be awarded on the basis of strength and clarity of the essay, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds.

- A panel, one each of three persons, from the fields of: fans, authors and industry professionals, shall judge submittals and make the determinations. This is separate from the board or the LOC.

- Awardees will need to submit photos and bios in order to promote the program and recognize the recipients

Deadline: Send applications to no later than May 1st, 2023

Scholarships will be announced on June 1st, 2023.

Thursday 9 February 2023

Steven Powell on Love Me Fierce in Danger: The Life of James Ellroy


How did James Ellroy become one of the greatest crime novelists of his generation? He had a traumatic upbringing in Los Angeles and El Monte. His mother was murdered when he was ten years old. He became hooked on drugs and alcohol, served jailtime and was frequently homeless and had several near-death experiences. All of this happened before he wrote a word. Ellroy’s only remaining family, living thousands of miles away from him in Wisconsin, assumed he was dead. They were shocked to later discover he had become a bestselling novelist. While they were relieved, It must have been a mystery to them.

Solving this mystery has been my driving force as Ellroy’s biographer. Indeed, it is a question that has fascinated me ever since I became hooked on Ellroy’s writing after first reading American Tabloid, his brilliant novel on the events leading up to the Kennedy assassination. In a sense, the question answers itself. Writers are often motivated by trauma and lonely childhoods. This compels them to open an empty page and transform it into worlds of limitless imagination. Still, we take Ellroy’s literary achievements too much for granted. Ellroy wrote six novels (including three in his short-lived Lloyd Hopkins series) before he penned his first bestseller The Black Dahlia. Ellroy’s Dahlia novel portrayed the events surrounding the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short in LA. The case had fascinated Ellroy ever since he was a child, given the parallels between Elizabeth Short’s unsolved murder and the murder of his mother Jean Ellroy. From The Black Dahlia onwards, Ellroy has been unstoppable. The success of the book taught him to trust his instincts, which for Ellroy translates as trust your obsessions. But to get this point, it’s often difficult for a novelist to write six books that sell badly and survive. Ellroy was frequently in danger of being dropped by his publisher and not finding another outlet for his fiction. Ellroy’s professional relationship with his first publisher Avon was short-lived, partly because even his early thirties Ellroy was still a callow youth and strutted around the Avon offices. He laboured under the delusion that writers were permanently secured by their talent, not realising that in Avon’s eyes he was just a midlist author who was unlikely to write a bestseller. As Avon editor Nellie Sabin put it after reading his third manuscript, the ultimately rejected ‘LA Death Trip’:

[It was] page after page of slicing and dicing women. I thought his writing was getting worse instead of better. I asked other people to read it too, and no one was enthusiastic. So, I had to send it back. p.113

In one sense Ellroy’s confidence was vindicated. You can’t keep talent like his down. And after Avon rejected ‘LA Death Trip’ Ellroy heavily revised the manuscript, and it was eventually published as Blood on the Moon with the Mysterious Press and adapted into the film Cop. Ellroy had taken the setback and overcome it to forge new professional relationships with editor Otto Penzler and agent Nat Sobel, both of whom would serve him well for decades. This is the untold story of Ellroy’s rise to prominence as an author. But Ellroy the author is only half the story. His determination to push the boundaries of crime fiction is paralleled by an insatiable passion for women. I spoke to many of Ellroy’s ex-partners, most of whom, surprisingly, had very fond memories of him. His relationships with women followed a similar pattern. He would storm into their life, wooing them with his intense charisma and generosity. Soon he would be talking about marriage and children, but then the romance would end abruptly. Either his partner inadvertently triggered some dormant trauma or Ellroy would start obsessing about another woman. As one of his partners put it to me:

It was very strange, sort of a whirlwind. He pursued me I guess is the simplest way to put it, and it was really fun at the beginning and really intense. We were together every day or if we weren’t together, it was a three-hour phone call in the evening. At the time it seemed all magical and ultimately the wheels started coming off and it became clear to me that that was just his MO and really none of it had anything to do with me. P.268

Ultimately, Ellroy was in love with the chase more than the women themselves. He titled his memoir The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women. Some reviewers were stunned by the stark candour of that memoir, just as I was sometimes taken aback at how open Ellroy was with me in describing his harrowing but often inspiring life. The hundreds of hours I spent talking to Ellroy was just one component in the years of research required to write Love Me Fierce in Danger. I believe the result is not just a biography of Ellroy, but a book which provides an important chapter in the history of modern American literature.

Love Me Fierce in Danger: The Life of James Ellroy is published by Bloomsbury.

Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy uncovers the life-story of one of the most fascinating and provocative figures in American literature. Tracing the history of Ellroy’s life and family, Steven Powell reveals how his parents were migrants to Los Angeles, and how Ellroy’s upbringing in LA, always on the periphery of Hollywood, had a substantial influence on his later work as a novelist. Using new sources, this book uncovers Ellroy’s family secrets including the mysterious first marriage of his mother Jean Ellroy, which happened eighteen years before her brutal, unsolved murder. Her death marked the start of a long and turbulent road for James Ellroy that includes alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, and jail time. Steven Powell sheds new light on how Ellroy managed to turn his life around and become a bestselling crime author of such classics as The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential. This biography is the untold story of how Ellroy created a literary persona for himself as the Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction, giving him a celebrity status and notoriety that few authors can match. However, his success comes at a high cost that few readers are aware of. Two divorces, a nervous breakdown, and a relapse into addiction are just some of the traumas he endures in his pursuit of literary greatness. To his admirers Ellroy is a literary genius who has reinvented crime fiction. To his detractors he is a reactionary, overrated figure. Love Me Fierce In Danger examines the enigma of an author who has striven for critical acclaim and often courted controversy with equal zealotry.

Steven Powell is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Liverpool. He is the editor of Conversations with James Ellroy (2012) and The Big Somewhere: Essays on James Ellroy’s Noir World (2018). His previous books include James Ellroy: Demon Dog of Crime Fiction (2016).

You can follow Steven Powell on Facebook and you can also find him on Twitter @EllroyReader

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Walter Mosley Awarded CWA Diamond Dagger 2023

Walter Mosley is the 2023 recipient of the highest honour in crime writing, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Diamond Dagger.

The CWA Daggers are now regarded by the publishing world as the foremost awards hosted in Britain for crime writing. Mosley receives the award in the CWA’s 70th Jubilee year; the CWA was founded in 1953.

The Diamond Dagger recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

One of the most versatile and admired writers in America, Walter Mosley was born and raised in Los Angeles, and now lives in Brooklyn and LA.

Walter Mosley is the author of more than 60 critically acclaimed books, that cover a wide range of genres. His work has been translated into 25 languages.

He brought a cast of crime fiction characters into the American canon with his first novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, featuring private detective, Easy Rawlins. Several of his books have been adapted for screen, including Devil in a Blue Dress starring Denzel Washington, the HBO production of Always Outnumbered, starring Laurence Fishburne and Natalie Cole, and Apple TV+’s production of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey starring Samuel Jackson.

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the CWA, said: “I am truly delighted my friend Walter has been deemed worthy of the Diamond Dagger by my colleagues and members of the CWA. His voice has dominated the fiction scene for decades and I can think of no more deserving and ground-breaking an author to be given this ultimate accolade, for the so many things he has contributed to our genre but also to modern society.”

A multi-award-winning author, Mosley was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame in 2013. His numerous awards include The Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, a Grammy, and a PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020, he was named the recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement from Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and the National Book Foundation presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The CWA Diamond Dagger is selected from nominations provided by CWA members.

Walter Mosley joins icons of the genre who have been recognised with the accolade, Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, PD James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Peter Lovesey, John Le Carré, Martina Cole, Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, Eric Ambler, Ed McBain and CJ Sansom.

Walter Mosley said: “At the beginning of my writing career I was fortunate enough to be awarded the CWA’s New Blood Dagger, otherwise called the John Creasey Award. That was the highest point of my experience as a first book author. Since then, I have picked up other honours along the way but the only award that comes near the Diamond Dagger is the MWA’s Grand Master nod. These two together make the apex of a career that I never expected.”

Celia Killen, Walter Mosley’s editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, said: “With over sixty books published, numerous bestsellers and multiple awards, Walter Mosley is a master storyteller and a true icon of crime writing. His career has been characterised not only by creative excellence, but by significant contribution to the publishing landscape, notably establishing The Publishing Certificate Program to encourage diversity in all levels of the industry. In 2020, the National Book Foundation presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. We are incredibly proud to publish Walter and thrilled that his brilliant work is being recognised with this year’s CWA Diamond Dagger.

One of the UK’s most prominent societies, the CWA was founded in 1953 by John Creasey. As the oldest awards in the genre, they have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century. Its awards started in 1955, with its first award going to Winston Graham, best known for Poldark.

The Diamond Dagger is announced before the annual CWA Dagger Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars of the crime genre’, due to take place on July 6th at a glittering gala evening.

Monday 6 February 2023

Thriller Raises Money for Charity


Screenwriter and novelist Samantha Lee Howe is supporting the Yorkshire-based domestic abuse charity IDAS with a night of glamour and red-carpet celebrity and a special screening of her award-winning film The Stranger In Our Bed.

The event takes place on 14 March 2023 from 18:30 with the film screening at 19:30. The screening is followed with an exclusive Q&A featuring both Samantha and actress and producer Terri Dwyer. Tickets available from: or telephone: 01226 767532. £12 per person.

Samantha Lee Howe is a Survivor Ambassador for the Yorkshire based charity IDAS. ‘Many perpetrators of abuse almost brainwash their victims into thinking it is all their fault, and I’m here to tell them, it really isn’t!’ says Samantha, whose childhood abuse and toxic first marriage led to her battling trauma and mental health issues for most of her life. Using her writing skills, and with the support and love of her second husband, writer David J Howe, Samantha started to self-heal. She was anxious to help other people battling any kind of abuse and is using her voice to help IDAS.

IDAS – Independent Domestic Abuse Service – is the leading specialist domestic abuse service in Yorkshire, supporting over 20,000 people affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence in Yorkshire each year.

This is Samantha’s first major event for the charity that promises to be a wonderful evening. And a hundred percent of the profits are going to IDAS.

I'm delighted to be supporting IDAS with the charity screening of The Stranger In Our Bed at the Penistone Paramount Cinema. As a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence I have an affinity with the charity,’ explains Samantha. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the event.

The Stranger In Our Bed was published on 16 April 2020 by HarperCollins One More Chapter and became a USA Today bestseller before being snapped up by Buffalo Dragon for development into a movie, which was released to all streaming platforms in 2022.

The Stranger in Our Bed by Samantha Lee Howe (Harper Collins)

I ended my marriage for a man who didn’t exist… I have everything money can buy. I’m a good wife, but sometimes I feel trapped. And when I start an affair with a stranger called Ewan, my life changes in ways I can’t begin to understand. Because Ewan breaks apart my marriage piece by piece and then he just disappears. He uses a fake name and leaves no trace behind; it’s like he doesn’t even exist. Someone did this to me and now they’re waiting for me to unravel, watching my every move. I can’t trust anyone, not even myself – not even the people I love.

For press: Steven Smith

For more information on IDAS: 

For more information on Samantha Lee Howe: