Tuesday 31 October 2023

New Daggers Added to Prestigious Crime Writing Awards

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers – the most prestigious awards for crime, mystery, and thriller writers – has announced two new award categories. Entries are open in early 2024 for the CWA Twisted Dagger and the CWA Whodunnit Dagger.

The Twisted Dagger is aimed at psychological and suspense thrillers and the Whodunnit Dagger covers cosy crime, traditional mysteries, and Golden Age crime. 

The oldest membership organisation for crime writers in the UK, the CWA was founded 70 years ago in 1953. It began its awards in 1955, with Agatha Christie as the principal guest at its first awards ceremony in 1956. 

 Vaseem Khan, Chair of the CWA, said: “Earlier this year, when I took over as Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, I pledged to add two new Daggers to our awards roster. One of my aims as CWA Chair is to evolve the CWA’s offering in line with the genre. The Daggers should not be static.

 Crime fiction is now the most popular genre in publishing, with this trend showing no signs of abating.

 Vaseem added: “Psychological thrillers have dominated the crime fiction landscape in recent years and now cosy crime is having its moment, with Golden Age crime also enjoying a resurgence. These Daggers recognise these trends, and I, for one, am excited to see the range of books that publishers – and authors – will submit to these new awards.”

The CWA’s mission is to promote the genre and act as a voice for the interests of its author members. 

The Daggers are considered a marker of excellence in the industry and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century. The awards are judged by independent expert panels. 

 They are also one of the most inclusive genre awards that recognise the broad church of the genre, with categories for crime fiction in translation, short stories, and debut authors, alongside the Gold Dagger for the novel of the year and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller.

Eligible books for the CWA Twisted Dagger are psychological thrillers (set in any period), suspense thrillers and domestic noir. The Dagger will celebrate thrillers, and  twisty noir that

often feature unreliable narrators, disturbed emotions, a healthy dose of moral ambiguity, and a sting in the tail. 

Eligible books for the CWA Whodunnit Dagger include cosy crime (including the ‘modern cosy’), traditional crime, and Golden Age mysteries. These books focus on the intellectual challenge at the heart of a good mystery, and revolve around often quirky characters. 

Entries open in early 2024 on the CWA website and the inaugural awards will be presented at the annual Dagger awards ceremony in 2025.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Just A Girl With a Gun Q & A with Jakubowski

AO:- Your latest book sees the return of Cornelia a hit woman whom we first encountered in a short story that was published in PARIS NOIR What made you decide to bring Cornelia back?

MJ:- Somehow Cornelia imposed herself as a haunting presence in so much of the crime fiction I have been writing since that particular anthology. On one hand I liked the character and, on the other, I paradoxically identified with her. In the words of Madame Bovary and Flaubert, ‘Cornelia, c’est moi’, even though I am naturally neither a woman or a hired killer, but I did give her traits that I have… Maniac book collecting, a complicated attitude to sex and relationships, a certain detachment that conceals a turmoil inside, tastes in music.... So she kept on reappearing in some of my other novels as a minor character several times and I pursued her ‘adventures’ in over a handful of short stories. Readers also appeared to enjoy her, so I felt it was time to ‘give’ her a book of her own.

AO:- It is pretty much clear that she is named after Cornell Woolrich whom (I know if I am not mistaken) is your favourite writer. How big an influence was Cornell Woolrich on Cornelia as a character aside from her name?

MJ:- Yes, that is indeed the case. Unlike the majority of Woolrich’s characters she is very much proactive, but she navigates in the same waters, streets and nights in a zone where doom is ever on the horizon and fate plays a large part, a demi-monde of noir and fatalism. I had to reverse engineer some of the stories in which she had appeared to avoid repetitions or contradictions and also cannibalised a few in the process, which was an interesting process.

AO:- One of the great things about Cornelia is the fact that she is a collector of books. All book collectors have at least one prized novel in their collection. Does Cornelia have one and if so which book is it and also do you

MJ:- Many of the titles she collects with the proceeds of her hits are books I either have or covet. I’ve never actually asked her if she has any favourites, but I’m sure they would align with mine. This would include first edition F. Scott Fitzgerald titles, a notorious first state advance proof of John Le Carré’s THE NIGHT MANAGER and many more. I don’t think she’s ever collected Woolrich titles, though, as that might have been incestuous, but I, of course, do. Where we do part ways is she doesn’t appear to collect crime and mystery titles like me, but I do make a reference to her owning some books I actually wrote under a pseudonym; all part of my pulling the strings behind the curtains and setting up my customary hall of mirrors. In addition, there is an anonymous writer she comes across in the interests of the plot who might or might not bear similarities to me!

AO:- Is this really Cornelia's last hurrah?

MJ:- It will be. I’ve exhausted her; I’ve exhausted myself. But I hope I’ve done her proud and over the course of JUST A GIRL WITH A GUN I’ve filled in some of the missing gaps, given her an extra human dimension although her motivations and inner life still remain shrouded in mystery and questions, which I feel is true to real life where I find it impossible to ever understand certain people/characters fully. She’s complicated, certainly not evil;, she’s both strong and weak, a mass of paradoxes. 

AO:- Where did the title JUST A GIRL WITH A GUN come from?

MJ:- It came to me out of the blue. It felt right; like the title of a song. And, ironically, gave me a chance to use the word ‘girl’ in a title, years after the time when it was so much in vogue. I enjoy being out of sync with fashion, although in this instance I also happened to be years ahead of the trend in introducing a female hitwoman, decades before Villanelle, of KILLING EVE! Also, JUST A WOMAN WITH A GUN doesn’t sound right, no?

AO:- The book cover for JUST A GIRL WITH A GUN reminds me of Edward Hopper paintings specifically the 1927 painting Automat. How important is Edward Hopper to you?

MJ:- The world of Woolrich, which Cornelia and her hapless companions inhabits is one I’ve always identified with and is very much part and parcel of Hopper’s art and its liminality; a territory of fixed characters in a city landscape at night, where colours and stances determine their fate, like flies caught in a spider’s web. I had suggested a Hopper sort of mood to the publishers when they canvased me for cover ideas, and they tried to use an actual Hopper painting, but that particular one was still in copyright and therefore financially out of reach – unlike earlier Hopper work before he moved into the waters of noir – so they came up with the clever suggestion to commission Martin Baines to do a variation on a Hopper figure in a book-ish context, which I think works very well.

AO:- Is this the end of your writing novels or will you still continue to write even if it is solely short stories? 

MJ:- Without giving away a double spoiler, it might well be. I have always found writing novels agonising, even though I’ve now given birth to 21 of the bastards. I fear age is catching up with me and neither energy nor the will is there any longer. I’m unsure if I can face writing another, with all the inner pain, sleepless nights, doubts and all that entails. Despite my deep immersion into the world of crime and mystery, my novels in the genre have always been marginal. I have no interest in whodunnits, puzzles, police procedure (indeed I have NEVER had a cop as a character, even minor…). I suppose you could call them psychological thrillers but even then, my novels have been on the outer margins of that category; they’ve never fitted in. I prefer to label them twisted love stories. And I’m not likely to change anymore! My previous two novels, respectively THE LOUISIANA REPUBLIC and THE PIPER’S DANCE were actually a dystopia (albeit with a futuristic PI) and a magical realist fantasy about the Pied Piper of Hamelin and castrating mermaids, and harked back to my early years as a writer in science fiction and fantasy, so I felt as I was about to stand down as Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association that surely what might turn out to be my final novel should be a thriller. Who knows what the future might bring? There has always been a strong element of metafiction or autofiction in my books and I’m unsure whether I could sustain another novel. I will certainly keep on writing and reviewing; in fact since completing JUST A GIRL I have penned a half dozen short stories, albeit mostly in the supernatural genre. I love writing short stories and, frankly, I think they are my best work, and it would be nice to accumulate enough new ones to fill a whole collection; all my previously uncollected ones appeared in 2022 in DEATH HAS A THOUSAND FACES, so another such volume would be great if I could come up with sufficient new material. Prior to embarking on JUST A GIRL I consulted with my agent as to which novel I should then write next as I had two other ideas, one for a mainstream historical novel about British expatriates in Paris in the 1950s, and another for a major, and also quite final, ‘big’ erotica opus. She suggested there was possibly more demand for a thriller, but should I find the courage, the time and the will to write another novel, I would opt for the latter project although both she and my own inner voice are sadly aware there is no likely demand for such a book right now, which is sad. Having said that, despite my past and reputation as a literary ‘pornographer’, I don’t think I could ever go out in public again should I ever write ‘that’ erotic book, but what a way to go! Who knows?

AO:- If any of the answers to my previous question is yes, then what are you working on at the moment that we can look forward to reading.

MJ:- A bunch of short stories are all appearing over the next few months: ‘On Our Way to the Shore’ in TERROR TALES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN, edited by Paul Finch; ‘The Book Collector’ in SOMETHING PECULIARGREAT BRITISH HORROR 8, edited by Steve Shaw and ‘Springtime in New Orleans’ in a limited edition collection of new stories inspired by the wonderful French writer Boris Vian from Raphus Press.

AO:- What next for Maxim Jakubowski?

MJ:- You tell me!

Just a Girl With a Gun by Maxim Jakuboswski (Telos Publishing) 1 November 2023

In the neon-lit world of seduction and secrets, Cornelia, a mesmerizing stripper, finds herself pulled into a sinister web spun by the enigmatic organization known only as ‘The Bureau’. Recruited for her hidden talents, she becomes an unlikely assassin, caught between the dance floor and a life of deadly precision. But Cornelia harbours a secret passion that sets her apart from the other killers – she has a penchant for rare books. With each mission she completes, Cornelia indulges her obsession, using her ill-gotten gains to amass a collection that becomes both her refuge and her escape. Amidst the chaos and danger, Cornelia’s path intertwines with Hopley, a fellow assassin haunted by his past. Unwittingly drawn together by their shared world of shadows, they navigate a treacherous landscape where trust is scarce, and survival is paramount. As their forbidden romance blooms amidst the darkness, Cornelia and Hopley find solace in each other’s arms, their connection a fragile thread of love against a backdrop of deceit and danger. Yet, as they delve deeper into the heart of The Bureau, they discover a haunting truth that threatens to tear them apart. In this exotic and gripping thriller, where death is a dance partner and love flickers in the shadows, Cornelia must confront her own loneliness and unravel the mysteries that surround her. Will she find redemption and a chance at a life beyond the deadly stage? Or will the sinister forces at play consume her, leaving only echoes of a lost love in their wake?

Maxim Jakubowski was for over 20 years the owner of the much missed Murder One bookshop which he owned and ran. He was also ran Crime Scene, London's Annual crime film and literary festival. He has worked for many years as an editor in publishing and he currently writes, edits and translates full-time in London where he lives. A former columnist for Time Out and The Guardian he is now a monthly book columnist for Crime Time. Maxim Jakubwoski is also a former Chair of the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain. More information about Maxim and his work can be found on his website.

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Glencairn Glass Crime Short Story Competition


Do you have a knack for conjuring up sinister plots, capturing the perfect crime, or documenting deadly deeds? If so, this is your chance to showcase your talent. Glencairn Crystal, the maker of the world’s favourite whisky glass – the Glencairn Glass, and sponsor of the McIlvanney and Bloody Scotland Debut crime writing awards, is seeking crime short stories in collaboration with Bloody Scotland and Scottish Field Magazine. This year’s theme is ‘A Crime Set In Scotland.’


Short stories must be 2,000 words or less.

The competition is open to all writers worldwide, published and unpublished, who are over 16 years old by 23rd October 2023.

Stories entered for the competition should not have been previously published in any format, online or print, self-published or paid.


The short story must be based on the theme ‘A Crime Story Set In Scotland


First prize – £1000 Runner Up – £500

Both winners will also receive a set of six bespoke engraved Glencairn Glasses.

The overall winning entry will be published in Scottish Field Magazine and online at www.whiskyglass.com


Callum McSorley, this year’s Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize winner for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

Kate Foster, this year’s Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year winner.

Gordon Brown, who also writes under the name Morgan Cry, has had eleven crime and thriller books published to date.

Closing Date

All entries should be uploaded below by midnight on Sunday 31st December 2023. Please click here to see to terms and conditions.

Friday 27 October 2023

The Marlow Murder Club

PBS have announced news of the adaptation of the first in the Marlow Murder Club series. It will be show in 2024. More information about the screen adaptation can be found here.

The Queen of Poisons by Robert Thorogood.(HarperCollins) Published on 18 January 2024.

Geoffrey Lushington, Mayor of Marlow, dies suddenly during a Town Council meeting. When traces of aconite – also known as the queen of poisons – are found in his coffee cup, the police realise he was murdered. But who did it? And why? 

The police bring Judith, Suzie and Becks in to investigate as Civilian Advisors right from the start, so they have free rein to interview suspects and follow the evidence to their heart’s content, which is perfect because Judith has no time for rules and standard procedure. 

But this case has the Marlow Murder Club stumped. Who would want to kill the affable Mayor of Marlow? How did they even get the poison into his coffee? And is anyone else in danger? The Marlow Murder Club are about to face their most difficult case yet… 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Robin Jarossi on Why I turned to a life of crime on Substack

 Writing a book can be a long slog. 

Writing non-fiction – crime is my beat – can be a particularly long-winded yomp. Once you’ve cajoled and seduced a publisher with a ton of unpaid research and marketing strategies for the opus (isn’t marketing their job?), you’ve then got to do a lot more digging, fact-checking, writing and arm-wrestling with some clever-dick editor. 

All of which can take at least a couple of years. 

The fun bits? I enjoy getting lost in archives and interviewing people. Working on a book gets you privileged access to fascinating former detectives, legal experts, profilers and forensic psychologists. What they tell you may not always make it into the book, but their expertise and insights can open your eyes to intriguing hidden elements in the story you’re trying to tell. 

So, writers accrue a lot of anecdotal material and ideas that make good dinner-table conversation but go no further. 

This is what attracted me to Substack, the fast-growing writing platform offering newsletters, blogs, podcasts, videos and more. Novelists, artists, tech folk, musicians, chefs, political pundits, academics – these and many more are creating quality content on Substack. 

There have been stories of big-name journalists giving up the day job to migrate to Substack, where they are said to be earning six-figure incomes from its subscription model. 

Not all ’stackers are charging a sub, however; many offer their content for free. Others have tiers of subscription from free to premium. 

Without paying any subscriptions, you can still follow some brilliant writing. My current faves are the likes of Booker-winner George Saunders (Story Club, about how short stories work), Christina Newland on women and crime in cinema (Under the Mink), and Sarah Weinman (The Crime Lady, about true crime and crime fiction). 

Apart from the humour and erudition of much of the writing, what makes Substack such a convivial place is that it is a world away from ads and click-bait. Contributors do not need salacious headlines to generate ‘likes’ and click-throughs. They are on the platform to engage with readers, write something of quality, and build a list of followers (sometimes adopting the paid subscription facility). 

Substack also recently launched Notes, an antidote to the Muskification of Twitter, now sliding into a bear pit of disinformation as X. Notes is where you can publish short posts and share ideas with other readers and writers on Substack.  

I am also enjoying it as a writer because it is a great space to discuss those anecdotes and ideas that don’t make into my books. It is good also to have an outlet between books and during the writing of books to discuss writing and research, true crime on TV, in books and podcasts. 

I’ve recently been looking at ITV’s powerful drama about Peter Sutcliffe, The Long Shadow. I’ve posted a video from CrimeCon 2023, which was a terrific event. And I’ve also done a two-part post about the strangest case I’ve ever covered (The Blackpool Poisoner, 1953). 

There’s a lot more to come – corruption, killers who got away with murder, favourite true-crime books.

My spot is called Persons Unknown (www.personsunknown.net) . I’d love to see some Shotsmag readers there, so do drop by and subscribe – it’s free. 

More information about Robin and his work can be found on his website. You can also follow him on X @robinjarossi 

Tuesday 24 October 2023



The Macavity Award Winners 2023 
(for works published in 2022)

The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends of MRI. 

Best Mystery Novel

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery 

The Maid by Nita Prose (Ballantine)

Best Mystery Short Story

Beauty and the Beyotch” by Barb Goffman (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Jan 2022)

Best Mystery Critical/Biographical

The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators
 by Martin Edwards (Collins Crime Club)

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery
Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen (Forge)

Congratulations to all.

Friday 20 October 2023

The Enduring Appeal of the Ghost Story

My third novel, Hazardous Spirits, takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1923. It follows a woman, Evelyn Hazard, whose husband, Robert announces one day out of the blue that he has acquired an unexpected talent for speaking to the spirits of the dead. While nursing a loss of her own, Eveyln has to navigate a new world of Spiritualists and high-society eccentrics as she tries to determine if her husband is a fraud, unwell, or perhaps most frighteningly, if he’s telling the truth.

I wrote a large part of the novel during the Covid-19 national lockdowns in the UK, and perhaps like many people forced to spend longer physically in their homes than ever before, my thoughts turned to ghost stories. We have a powerful history of ghost stories in the UK, and across the nation there are many contenders battling it out for the title of the ‘most haunted’ castle, pub or hotel. Perhaps it’s the gloomy weather that has driven people indoors around a crackling fire, perhaps it's a hangover from the macabre inheritance of the Victorian imagination, or an awareness of the many layers of historical turbulence that saturate even the most humble village. Whatever the cause, ghost stories are a popular tradition across the UK, and the appeal of a spooky tale only increases as the days grow shorter. 

When the events of Hazardous Spirits open in 1923, the characters are trying to cope with a world that is not unlike our current moment, almost exactly 100 years later. In the early 1920s, society was still suffering the after-effects of the combined trauma of WW1 and the 1918 -1920 flu epidemic. In this moment, appetite for the esoteric became particularly popular, and the Spiritualist movement reached arguably the peak of its appeal, as people sought comfort for their grief.

Spiritualism as a movement emerged in response to the public mediumship of two young women, Kate and Maggie Fox in America in the late 1840s, who claimed the ability to channel spirits though rapping and knocking noises. The movement grew in popularity and influence on both sides of the Atlantic, adopted by some as a religious practice within a Spiritualist church, and for others a social phenomenon that promised thrilling and comforting messages from mediums in touch with disembodied spirits.

An example of one prominent Scottish advocate for Spiritualism is Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) who is most well remembered as the creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle became involved in Spiritualist circles from the end of the 1880s and by 1916 he was more publicly associated with the movement. The loss of several close family members, including his son, Arthur Alleyne Kingsley, due to injuries inflicted by the war only served to reinforce Doyle’s belief in Spiritualism. Doyle went on to write several non-fiction books about Spiritualism, and in 1922 published The Coming of the Fairies, which defended the infamous set of photographs of allegedly real fairies taken by another pair of young female relatives, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths.

Both Kate and Maggie Fox and Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths eventually renounced their gifts for communing with the supernatural. Kate and Maggie Fox produced the ‘knocking’ sounds of their spiritual counterparts by clicking their joints. Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths created their fairies initially as a hoax, by cutting out and posing with paper images held up by hatpins. But the stories catalysed by these young women had for a time seized the popular imagination, promising that a new horizon of spiritual encounters was only a few moments away.

Ultimately, the appeal of a good ghost story makes similar promises; familiar enough to be recognisable, with enough suggestion of the otherworldly to be spine-chilling. In Hazardous Spirits, it is just this kind of slippery struggle between falsehood and reality that makes Evelyn’s questions about her husband so difficult to answer. Throughout the novel, Evelyn changes her mind often about the possibility of life persisting beyond death, finding it hard to trust even her own instincts. As a reader, I have always felt that tales of the supernatural are often at their most terrifying when the hint of the paranormal interrupts and transforms the everyday. And as a writer, I’m interested in exploring the uncanny sense that what has previously been hidden may suddenly be revealed. After all, what could be more frightening than the ghost of your own secrets? 

Hazadous Spirits by Anbara Salam. (John Murray Press) Out Now

Edinburgh, 1923Evelyn Hazard is a young woman living a comfortable and unremarkable middle-class life. One day, her quiet existence is shattered when her steady, reliable husband Robert makes a startling announcement: he can communicate with the deadAs the couple are pulled into the spiritualist movement that emerged following the mass deaths caused by the First World War and the Spanish Flu, Evelyn's life becomes increasingly unsettled as dark secrets from her past threaten to surface.Faced with the prospect of losing all that is dear to her, Evelyn finds herself asking: is the man she loves a fraud, a madman or - most frighteningly - is he telling the truth?A gothic literary mystery, written in sparkling prose, Hazardous Spirits evokes the spirit of 1920s Edinburgh, in all its bohemian vibrancy.

More information about Anbara Salam and her work can be found on her website. You can also follow her on “X” at @anbara_salam and on nstagram @anbarasalam

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Winner of Wilbur Smith Adventure Prize Announced




WEDNESDAY 18th OCTOBER 2023, The Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation is thrilled to announce that the winner of the 2023 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, Best Published Novel, is Emma Styles with No Country for Girls (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group). 

No Country for Girls was selected by judges Felicity Aston MBE, climate scientist, polar explorer, and expedition leader; Leon McCarron, award-winning adventurer, filmmaker, and writer; Simon Savidge, journalist, presenter, Associate Literary Curator at Story House, and founder of the popular blog and BookTube channel @SavidgeReads; and Giles Kristian, acclaimed author and winner of the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, along with a reader’s vote equating to one seat on the judging panel. 

Giles Kristian said: ‘For this prize, No Country for Girls has everything you could want –

living, breathing characters, evocative descriptions, and a journey across an unforgiving landscape. It is an adventure novel through and through.

Leon McCarron commented: ‘I just love the sense of adventure in No Country for Girls. That road trip is written to perfection. The protagonists are great, and it is full of excitement and jeopardy. It is just what an adventure book should be.’ 

Styles’ contemporary Australian road trip emerged victorious from an incredibly strong shortlist, comprising three modern and three historical novels. 

Niso Smith, Founder, formally announced Styles as the winner at the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize Awards Ceremony, hosted at London’s Royal Geographical Society on Wednesday 18th October.

She said: ‘The entries this year were strong, the shortlist filled with remarkable yarns that push the boundaries of adventure fiction. It was a delight to have such diverse and inventive narratives to share with readers, a testament to this thriving genre and its ability to take readers on exhilarating journeys, through landscapes and experiences.

As for No Country for Girls? It’s gritty. Arresting. A story of young, female empowerment and resilience. A resounding triumph. Congratulations, Emma!’

Niso Smith continued: ‘I want to express our sincere gratitude to the committed librarians and library staff who generously volunteer their time to select the long and shortlists. We had panellists from huge inner-city public libraries to tiny community-run rural libraries, from the North and South of the UK, from coastal communities and the most inland points of the country. The award’s ethos is ‘an adventure for everyone’, so we try to make everyone a part of the process.’ 

The annual Prize has three distinct categories designed to provide opportunities to published, unpublished and young writers. It is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English. Across the categories, the Prize received over 1,000 submissions from 67 different countries.


Also announced at the ceremony were the five writers selected as the winners of this year’s New Voices award, designed to unearth and support aspiring writers as they take a fledgling idea from work-in-progress to completed manuscript.

The five hail from Ghana, the USA and the UK, and will receive nine months of mentorship and one-to-one editorial guidance from a first-rate editor.

Rachel Johnson, Head of Brand at Bonnier Books who sponsor and support the award, said: ‘It is a privilege to be part of the exciting writing journey these five writers are about to embark on.

This year, it has been particularly thrilling to see such original story ideas: from a high school science teacher trying to untangle himself from an unusual criminal gang; to the tension of ten months’ isolation in preparation for a space mission; to being dropped into a new culture with an accompanying political scandal, we have seen fresh ideas and exciting talent. We can’t wait to see how the stories develop over the coming months. Congratulations to the five winners, and good luck!

For more information on the authors and their works-in-progress, please visit our website.


Selected by a panel of young judges, the winners of the Author of Tomorrow award for a short adventure story by writers aged 21 and under, are:

11 and Under - Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school

Winner: Crown of the Crows by Amber XinTi Wang (age 11)

12-15 years - Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school

Winner: Death & Co. by Luke Zhang (age 14)

16-21 years - Prize: £1,000

Winner: Cold Moon by Tianna Maidens (age 16)

Highly Commended by Niso Smith: 

Bear Country by Justin Schwab (age 18)

Each of the ten shortlisted writers worked with an editor to ready their work for digital publication. Then ten stories are now available to read in Worldreader’s app BookSmart, in an anthology titled Aliens, Apocalypse and the Afterlife. Worldreader is a global literacy charity on a mission to make everyone a reader.

To read the anthology, visit https://booksmart.world/kPBL.

For further information about this year’s authors click here.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Crime and Nourishment 2023


Oleander is delighted to be joining forces with Richard Reynolds to bring you an exciting crime fiction event featuring 8 brilliant local authors.

Each of our authors will be taking the stage and speaking about their latest book releases, answering questions from the audience and all will be signing their books for attendees.

The authors' books will  be on sale at the event and complimentary tea and cake will be served.

Come along and have a fun afternoon with your favourite authors and buy some Christmas gifts (even if they're for yourself!)

Richard is well-known locally as the recently-retired Crime Specialist at the world-famous Cambridge bookseller Heffers. He is also Chair of the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

The Oleander Press has been the other Cambridge publisher since 1960.Oleander is delighted to be joining forces with Richard Reynolds to bring you an exciting crime fiction event featuring 8 brilliant local authors.

Each of our authors will be taking the stage and speaking about their latest book releases, answering questions from the audience and all will be signing their books for attendees.

The authors' books will  be on sale at the event and complimentary tea and cake will be served.

Come along and have a fun afternoon with your favourite authors and buy some Christmas gifts (even if they're for yourself!)

Richard is well-known locally as the recently-retired Crime Specialist at the world-famous Cambridge bookseller Heffers. He is also Chair of the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

The Oleander Press has been the other Cambridge publisher since 1960.

Tickets can be bought here.

The Return of Penguin Greens

From the 1930s onwards crime novels published by Penguin had covers using a lot of green ink. This led to a clear distinction between two different kinds of novel – effectively all other novels (orange) and crime novels (green). This had the unintended effect of implying that these were different reading experiences or had different statuses when, of course, some ‘crime’ novels are simply among the best novels of any kind whereas orange novels came to seem more middle- to-upper brow even if they might be in practice be much less well written, ambition and plausible than novels by Dorothy M. Sayers, say, or Raymond Chandler. 

Famously it was on returning from a visit to Agatha Christie that Allen Lane, standing on a platform at Exeter station, had the idea for Penguin paperbacks and in the 1950s he once celebrated Christie’s birthday by printing in one go a million copies of her books (10 different novels x 100,000).

Crime of every description has therefore, from the most horrific to the most genteel, always stood at the heart of the entire Penguin enterprise. For reasons not now clear in the 1980s it was decided to drop the green spine and publish all fiction with an orange spine. Then design moved on again, often restricting the Penguin element to the bird logo itself and only keeping hints of Penguin orange. Around the same time light blue Pelicans were also dropped, with the Penguin colour schemes restricted to the black-spined Penguin Classics or the various shades of eau-de-Nil and grey for Penguin Modern Classics.

I have published various series as a Penguin employee over the years—Great Ideas, Little Black Classics and others—and it is really almost with a sense of embarrassment that it has taken until 2023 to realize that one of the most potent and fun traditional Penguin colour codes was simply lying around waiting to be reused: Green for Crime. I mention this because it is at some level shameful that it should have taken so many years to come up with something so straightforward that it barely qualifies as a concept or an idea: why didn’t we do this a decade ago? Two decades?

Lurking within Penguin Modern Classics we already published some of the greatest crime writers – Dorothy B. Hughes’s sensational In a Lonely Place, Eric Ambler’s great pre-War thrillers, Chester Himes’s wonderful, frenzied fantasies of Harlem, Ross Macdonald’s novels of southern California’s squalor lurking under the pretty surface. I am myself responsible at Penguin for the backlist of two great writers in the genre, John le Carré and Len Deighton, and yet had not noticed until very recently that these could be assembled into a matchless series of the greatest crime writers.

Once, very belatedly, we decided to proceed with the idea it seemed a shame not to add other writers. We already published Georges Simenon’s extraordinary books, of which he wrote so many (and at such a consistent level of excellence) that it would make sense to showcase a couple simply to give readers a way into his enormous oeuvre. Josephine Tey’s novels had just come out of copyright, so this provided the opportunity to publish her superb, unsettling The Franchise Affair and Brat Farrar. We also had C.S. Forester’s wonderfully nasty little shocker Payment Deferred about a murderous South London miser (written long before Forester became famous for the Hornblower novels).

For the series to be fresh though it needed some new discoveries and a lot of time was spent reading sometimes terrible books (please do not read anything by Peter Cheyney!) but also books which had just aged badly. I was particularly sorry that Helen MacInnes now seemed so lacklustre as my parents had loved her novels of international espionage when they were published – but now they seemed to consist predominantly of people endlessly walking around, having meals and checking into hotels, with very occasional outbursts of unengaging and tasteful violence.

Battling through some quite neither-here-nor-there stuff though made it much easier to spot wonderful things. Many recent crime novelists remain in print because of Kindle editions or print-on-demand versions, but it was very exciting to find two giants of British thriller writing from the 1970s and 1980s, Anthony Price and Michael Gilbert, available to be discovered. Both giants in their day, their work still has an ingenuity and excellence which has in no way dated – so Price’s Other Paths to Glory and Gilbert’s Game Without Rules joined the list. And I was tipped off to try Dick Lochte, whose 1985 debut Sleeping Dog is a classic, extremely funny piece of neo-noir with the simple but useful advice: if you are a jaded private investigator in L.A. and a girl on roller-skates asks you to help her find her missing dog, don’t say yes. The other great find was the Japanese writer Edogawa Rampo (real name Tarō Hirai – his pen name derives from the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allen Poe). Between the wars he wrote a number of thrilling and disturbing classics, some with a wonderful Tintin-like flavour (Gold Mask and The Black Lizard) and others with the depravity dialled up (Beast in the Shadows). All three of these are in the series. 

We are now finishing work on a third set of ten, including some just wonderfully recommendable stuff! Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Ian Fleming’s From Russia with Love, Anthony Price’s The Labyrinth Makers and John le Carré’s The Night Manager. Best of all (but of course they are all best) is a long forgotten classic of New York City noir, The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin, set in a gloomy wartime Manhattan and Coney Island. The fate of its decent psychiatrist hero as he unwillingly wades deeper and deeper into an inexplicable, surreal and truly horrible urban underbelly has to be experienced to be believed.

Here are the three sets, with the third not published until June 2024:

  1. Davis Grubb NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
  2. Edogawa Rampo BEAST IN THE SHADOWS
  3. Dorothy B. Hughes IN A LONELY PLACE
  5. Eric Ambler JOURNEY INTO FEAR
  6. John le Carré CALL FOR THE DEAD
  8. Len Deighton SS-GB
  9. Ross Macdonald THE DROWNING POOL
  10. Chester Himes COTTON COMES TO HARLEM
  11. Dick Lochte SLEEPING DOG
  12. Raymond Chandler THE BIG SLEEP & FAREWELL, MY LOVELY
  13. Anthony Price OTHER PATHS TO GLORY
  14. Michael Gilbert GAME WITHOUT RULES
  15. Georges Simenon MAIGRET’S REVOLVER
  17. Edogawa Rampo THE BLACK LIZARD
  19. Josephine Tey BRAT FARRAR
  21. Anthony Price THE LABYRINTH MAKERS
  22. Chester Himes A RAGE IN HARLEM
  23. John le Carré THE NIGHT MANAGER
  24. Edogawa Rampo GOLD MASK
  26. Georges Simenon NIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS
  27. John Franklin Bardin THE DEADLY PERCHERON
  28. Ross Macdonald THE UNDERGROUND MAN
  30. Cornell Woolrich I MARRIED A DEAD MAN

Any suggestions anyone might have for unfairly out-of-print crime and espionage classics would be warmly received!

Simon Winder is the Publishing Director at Penguin Press. 

Thursday 12 October 2023

2023 Petrona Award Winner Announced

The winner of the 2023 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year is: 

Femicide by Pascal Engman, translated from the Swedish by Michael Gallagher and published by Legend Press.

Pascal Engman will receive a trophy, and both the author and translator will receive a cash prize.

The judges’ statement on Femicide:

This year’s Petrona Award winner is a page-turning, absorbing and uncomfortable Swedish thriller. Femicide tells of a young woman, Emilie, who is found murdered in her Stockholm apartment in the same week that her violent ex-boyfriend is released from prison. Detective Vanessa Frank is assigned the case. Meanwhile, we hear the story of young journalist Jasmina, the survivor of a recent, severe sexual assault. Author Pascal Engman dives into the world of incels through Tom, a very believable character who is part of a weaponised gender war brought about by, amongst other things, misguided hatred, feelings of being ignored by society, and sexual frustration. Femicide comes to a pinnacle as the attacks against women escalate on a huge scale.

Continuing in the tradition of fellow Swedish authors Sjöwall and Wahlöö, and Henning Mankell, Pascal Engman uses his writing to comment on societal values making Femicide an interesting, fictional take on the multifaceted topic of violence against women. The book stood out to all the Petrona judges for several reasons. The way Femicide opens the reader’s eyes to the steadily increasing threat of the incel movement and what makes these men tick was felt by all the judges. Femicide is a challenging read that broadens thinking. The writing is well informed, the book has a good sense of urban space, and it picks up pace in a satisfying manner. There is a cast of interesting, and sometimes unconventional, characters for the reader to get to know. All the judges felt this book offered something creatively original that captured the zeitgeist of the early twenty-first century and it is a deserved winner.

Pascal Engman (author):

It feels incredibly significant to win this award. Several of my major idols and heroes in this genre have been recipients of it. I consider it an honour, a great honour. Writing Femicide was a unique experience. The research on the incel movement was very challenging. I was pulled towards their darkness in many ways. Therefore, I also want to thank Linnea, my fiancée, for putting up with me then, as she does now.

Michael Gallagher (translator):

Femicide was a fantastic book to work on. Pascal Engman certainly belongs to the Nordic Noir tradition, but his writing and his characters deftly reflect the tectonic shifts underway in Sweden and the wider world. Always unsettling and compelling, he is not bound by conventions or old cliches. I am delighted that the jury has recognised his talent and that my translation seems to have done it justice!

Cari Rosen (Legend Press Commissioning Editor

We are so thrilled that Femicide has been chosen as the winner of this year's Petrona Award. The novel delves into the world of incels after a series of brutal attacks against women, and perfectly encapsulates the pace, drama and drive of Pascal's writing. The Vanessa Frank series has sold more than a million copies worldwide and everyone at Legend is delighted to be able to bring this, the first of three books, to an English-speaking audience thanks to Michael Gallagher's expert translation.

The Petrona team would like to thank David Hicks for his continuing sponsorship of the Petrona Award.

Back From The Dead: The Golden Age Revival by Tom Mead

In a field as diverse as crime fiction, “Golden Age” means different things to different people. To some, it’s an intractable term for murder mysteries written between the World Wars. Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, John Dickson Carr, E.C.R. Lorac, Christianna Brand, et al are all exemplars of the Golden Age crime novel. But to others – myself included – it is in fact a considerably looser term which refers to a certain style of murder mystery, and one which has been enjoying a well-deserved renaissance in recent years. 

To me, the Golden Age is synonymous with the puzzle mystery, where a detective is tasked with identifying a criminal through the use of logic and deduction. There are bonus points, too, if the reader is able to play along and have a crack at solving the case themselves. 

Even after the Golden Age officially ended, this type of mystery did not go away. Throughout the latter decades of the twentieth century, several high-profile authors produced numerous works that fall within that category. For example, Simon Brett’s Fethering mysteries feature amateur sleuths in a village setting – thematically speaking, pure Agatha Christie. Meanwhile, Paul Doherty’s mysteries are set hundreds or even thousands of years in the past, but nonetheless employ classic Golden Age plotting techniques, such as the “closed circle” of suspects, the sifting of alibis, and the “impossible crime.”

Other authors have interpolated Golden Age-style puzzle plotting in contemporary police procedurals. Think of Peter Lovesey’s Peter Diamond series, Martin Edwards’s Lake District mysteries, or Kate Ellis’s Wesley Peterson series. All of these bear the deductive hallmark of the Golden Age, albeit subtly. 

As for my own experience, I grew up in a house full of Agatha Christie novels; they were among the first "grown up" books I actually read. So the Golden Age was a constant presence throughout my formative years, both in book form and on TV thanks to the ITV Poirot adaptations, plus the frequent repeats of films like Murder on the Orient Express. But when I went to university and studied English lit and creative writing, there was a tendency to lean away from "genre" fiction and toward the more overtly literary. 

However, the Golden Age has a funny way of creeping back into your conscious mind. Inevitably, I delved into the past, and returned to the authors I’d loved when I was younger. To my surprise and delight, I found that I enjoyed them more, not less. But not only that; there were heaps of “new” authors (new to me, anyway) whose works had been out-of-print for almost a century but were now enjoying posthumous rediscovery. Authors I’d never heard of before, like John Bude and J. Jefferson Farjeon. 

This boom in Golden Age reissues over the last ten years or so has been largely spearheaded by Martin Edwards’s British Library Crime Classics series and Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics series. Coupled with certain high-profile critical reassessments by genre scholars like Edwards himself (The Golden Age of Murder), John Curran (The Hooded Gunman), Curtis Evans (Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery), and Jeffrey Marks (Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography) – not to mention A-list Hollywood movies like Knives Out – it’s fair to say the Golden Age whodunit is back with a vengeance. 

Anthony Horowitz, for instance, has recently commenced a wonderful new series which is not only Golden Age in style, but about the Golden Age. I’m talking about Magpie Murders, where a vintage mystery pastiche is coupled with a present-day murder plot, perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the revival. Meanwhile, authors like Janice Hallett and Vaseem Khan write complex puzzle mysteries which offer the same level of reader satisfaction as the classics. Pleasingly, the trend appears to be global, with authors such as Sulari Gentill (Australia) and Ovidia Yu (Singapore) combining the puzzle plot and the historical fiction milieu to excellent effect. Additionally, the way in which the Golden Age style is evoked can be startlingly diverse – ranging from the cosy crime of Robert Thorogood to the Scandi-noir of Ragnar Jonasson.

Whichever way you look at it, there is a steadily growing crowd of authors who are endeavouring to recapture the style, the distinctive characters, the period detail, and the great plots that made the Golden Age golden. My own books Death and the Conjuror and The Murder Wheel are my attempts to engage with this revival. As both a writer and a reader, I’m eager to see where we go from here. 

The Murder Wheel by Tom Mead (Head of Zeus) Out of Now

In London, 1938, young and idealistic lawyer Edmund Ibbs is trying to find any shred of evidence that his client Carla Dean wasn’t the one who shot her husband dead at the top of a Ferris Wheel. But the deeper he digs, the more complex the case becomes, and Edmund soon finds himself drawn into a nightmarish web of conspiracy and murder. Before long he himself is implicated in not one but two seemingly impossible crimes.

First, a corpse appears out of thin air during a performance by famed illusionist “Professor Paolini” in front of a packed auditorium at the Pomegranate Theatre. Then a second victim is shot dead in a locked dressing room along one of the theatre’s winding backstage corridors. Edmund is in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time, and attracts the suspicion of Scotland Yard inspector George Flint. Luckily, conjuror-turned-detective Joseph Spector is on the scene. Only Spector’s uniquely logical perspective can pierce the veil of deceit in a world of illusion and misdirection, where seeing is not always believing.

The Murder Wheel by Tom Mead is published by Head of Zeus on 12th October at £20

More information about Tom Mead and his work can be found on his website. You can also find him on Facebook and on X @TomMeadAuthor and on Instagram @tommeadauthor

Richard Armitage on Writing Geneva

Hi everyone, 

Richard Armitage here introducing you to my Shots magazine guest post and my debut novel ‘Geneva’. Some of you might know me through my work as an actor on TV, Film and Stage, but also from the many recordings I have made for Audible which is how ‘Geneva’ came about. Audible asked me if I would be interested in writing a crime thriller; one of the genres which I was particularly enthusiastic about as one of their readers and I didn’t have to be asked twice; I jumped at the chance. There have been various doors which brought me to my work as an actor, but my love of literature was the driving force. Many of the roles I have played have been adaptations of novel; Tolkien's ‘The Hobbit’, ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell, Harlan Coben's ‘The Stranger’ ‘Stay Close’ and Josephine Harts ‘Damage’ and many more. These authors have inspired me, and I’ve always loved working on drama that begins life as a book. Literature has played a crucial role in how I prepare a character; I always have a pile of research books for each person that I am examining.

Over the years I have acquired an obsession for the structure of storytelling. What makes us lean in? What makes the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up? What makes us rush home to watch the next episode or read the next chapter? I set out to find out the answers to these questions when I began work on ‘Geneva’.

I’ve always be curious about science and science fiction which is has its toes on the line of ‘science fact’. I had friends who's loved ones had been touched by dementia, and I was dreaming of this story at the end of the Covid pandemic, which gave me the seeds of an idea for a story. I had followed the work of Sarah Gilbert who was the virologist who headed up the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine program, so she became my foundation. Inspired by the films of Hitchcock and Orson Wells, and story tellers such as Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming, I set out to write a modern crime thriller with a central female character, Sarah Collier, who finds herself at the centre of a sabotage story and an unfathomable crime. At the heart of the tale is a once impassioned marriage which is now broken, a happy family decaying from the inside, but a dazzling opportunity presents itself which Daniel Collier, Sarah’s husband, believes will fix all of their woes. However, the course of events which unfold in Geneva are not quite what Sarah had anticipated. 

This was a debut novel for me so as I imagine most first attempts are, a big, exciting experiment of themes and ideas. I have worked closely in the past with screenwriters and producers on TV and Film scripts but have never fully held the reins of the story myself until now. It was a huge learning curve and one which I hope will serve me well for future stories. I started writing the story of ‘Geneva’ in a Winnebago up in Manchester on the set of ‘Stay Close’. My next stop was a hotel room just outside Seville on the set of ‘The Man from Rome’, another hotel in Madrid, and a third in Rome (what a life!!!), I wrote on the long-haul flight from New York to London as I came home for Christmas 2021. Another Winnebago on the set of the Netflix show, ‘Obsession’, as I did the final edits and then I decided to put the finishing touches to the novel from the city of Geneva itself. I toured the city and its environs, finding all the places in the novel that you might notice if ever you get to visit, I rented a car and travelled to the mountains of Chateaux D’Oex and Gsaadt, trying to make sure my geography was as accurate as possible. I found a potential site for The Schiller Institute and the place where Daniels car tumbles off the edge of a cliff (spoiler alert!). One might say I was on an early location scout for the TV adaptation… well all I can say is ‘watch this space’.

I really hope that you enjoy Geneva.

Geneva by Richard Armitage (Faber & Faber) Out Now 

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sarah Collier has started to show the same tell-tale signs of the Alzheimer's disease as her father: memory loss, even blackouts. So she is reluctant to accept the invitation to be the guest of honour at a prestigious biotech conference - until her husband Daniel, also a neuroscientist, persuades her that the publicity storm will be worth it. The technology being unveiled at this conference could revolutionise medicine forever. More than that, it could save Sarah's life. In Geneva, the couple are feted as stars - at least, Sarah is. But behind the five-star luxury, investors are circling, controversial blogger Terri Landau is all over the story, and Sarah's symptoms are getting worse. As events begin to spiral out of control, Sarah can't be sure who to trust - including herself.

More information about his novel Geneva can be found on the website. You can find Richard Armitage on X @RCArmitage and on Instagram @richardcarmitage

Photograph - ©Kaitlyn Mikayla