GIRLS ON TOP: SEX IN CRIME FICTION (PART 1) with STEPH BROADRIBB & SJI HOLLIDAY #GirlsOnTop

 

Today it’s time for something a little different. Susi (SJI) Holliday and me, in conjunction with CrimeTime, have been thinking about sex in crime fiction. You can read our thoughts in a few places – the first half of our conversation here on the CTG blog, the second half over on Susi’s blog HERE, and the full article over on the CrimeTime website HERE

Once you’ve had a read, we’d love to know your thoughts – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday using hashtag #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

[STEPH] Let’s talk about sex. Sex in crime fiction, specifically. Okay, so I’ll go first – I’m not embarrassed – there’s a couple of sex scenes in my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD. One is more of a cut away as the action happens, but the other one, towards the end of the book, is very much the action as it happens; my protagonist Lori Anderson riding a male character cowgirl style. I put it in because the scene felt right for the story and (I hope) conveys something about the characters, adding additional conflict and raising the emotional stakes of the decisions they’re about to make and the (negative) consequences they could have for their relationship. That’s a whole lot of subtext to put on a sex scene, but that’s my rationale.

Back when I was starting to write my novel, I was told that sex and crime fiction don’t mix, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I can think of memorable sex scenes in the crime thriller genre like Lee Child’s The Affair – Jack Reacher has sex as a train thunders along the tracks – and that chilling sex scene in Gone Girl between Amy and Desi – the book, and the slightly more bloody film version! But, now I think about it, I can’t think of many detective stories that have sex scenes playing out in full in them unless the sex itself is the crime to be solved. Surely there must be more and my memory is just playing tricks on me? To help, I’ve enlisted crime writer S.J.I. Holliday – author of the Banktoun series – to answer the question, do sex and detective fiction mix?

[SUSI] I really don’t see why not. When you ask people about this, you get very mixed responses. Readers (in general) are absolutely fine with serial killers, blood, gore, death and destruction. But throw a blow job in there and they’re skimming the pages faster than a quickie in the stationery cupboard.

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The Slice Girls [L-R]: Alexandra Sokoloff, Steph Broadribb, AK Benedict, Louise Voss, Susi Holliday, Harley Jane Kozak

Personally, I love a bit of sex. Slotted in at the right time, it can help add to the tension of your story, especially if the characters are having sex with people they shouldn’t. In all three of my books, there is a hint of sex – an encounter reminiscent of 9½ Weeks on a kitchen table in BLACK WOOD, where various food items are strewn around the kitchen… In WILLOW WALK, there’s a first-timer’s sex scene down by the river which I thought was quite touching (so to speak) and entirely relevant to the plot. There’s actually less sex in THE DAMSELFLY than in the other two. A thwarted BJ and an illicit scene in a lock-up that’s kept mainly off the page. It totally depends on the story. It definitely shouldn’t be shoehorned in if it doesn’t advance the plot.

[STEPH] Seems like Susi and me are on the same page about sex-on-the-page, but what about other crime writers, what do they think? We asked a few to find out.

Neil White – From the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre) – said, ‘Never written a sex scene. Too buttoned up. My mum will read it’ and Mason Cross – The Time To Kill (Orion) – said, ‘I’ve only included PG13 sex scenes so far, although I may need to change that for plot reasons in the new one. But Jeez, my dad reads these!’ So it could be the fear of family members reading intimate scenes is in the forefront of some writers’s minds (and limits them going all the way) but that’s not all. Chris Ewan – Long Time Lost (Faber) – said, ‘I almost wrote one yesterday and then … just cut away again. Performance anxiety.’

It also depends on the character. James Oswald – Written In Bones (Penguin) – said, ‘I don’t put much sex in my books. Tony McLean is incredibly repressed anyway, so there’s that too … on the other hand there’s auto-erotic asphyxiation and death by priapism in my latest, so maybe I do write sex after all.’

Andy Martin – Reacher Said Nothing (Transworld) – said, ‘Sad to say there are few explicit sex scenes of note in Reacher Said Nothing. I only looked over Lee Child’s shoulder while he was writing Make Me. I think there is the occasional manly handshake. But Lee – as straight as a die – had some wry remarks to make on the subject. “Never sleep with someone you know,” still resonates in my mind. And more recently he said that the most erotic experience he had ever had was a brief encounter on a train. They shared a moment but had no actual language in common. I think I may have been influenced by Childean minimalism, that “zero degree” of writing recommended by Roland Barthes. I was at a Norman Mailer writers colony in Wyoming recently when a brilliant Indian writer devised an elaborate sex scene about a dozen pages long. I wrote one, rather shorter, that went like this: “We had sex.” It’s not exactly lyrical or spiritual but it gets the job done.’

It seems, from the guys we spoke to, that male crime thriller writers generally prefer not to write on-the-page sex and to cut away before the act takes place. Mark Edwards – The Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer) – bucks this trend, he wants more sex in crime fiction, and said, ‘we Brits are notoriously squeamish when it comes to the squelchy bits. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our great detectives were as skillful in bed as they are at solving crimes? Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers because they like being handcuffed to beds?’

To find out what the female crime writers thought, why Susi hates ‘panties’ and what the trick to writing a good sex scene is, hop over to Susi’s blog HERE then come find us on Twitter @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday and tell us your thoughts on sex in crime fiction using hashtag #GirlsOnTop

And check out the article in full on Barry Forshaw’s CrimeTime at www.crimetime.co.uk  and check out his Rough Guide to Crime Fiction here

Buy DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb here

Buy THE DAMSELFLY by SJI Holliday here

And you can buy books by our contributing authors by clicking the book titles below:

Neil WhiteFrom the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre)

Mason CrossThe Time To Kill (Orion)

Chris EwanLong Time Lost (Faber)

James OswaldWritten In Bones (Penguin)

Andy MartinReacher Said Nothing (Transworld)

Mark EdwardsThe Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer)

 

More about Steph and Susi:

Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com right here!

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and now lives in London. She works as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and writes books set in a creepy and claustrophobic small town in Scotland where the crime rate is apparently higher than in New York. BLACK WOOD, WILLOW WALK and THE DAMSELFLY are a mix of psychological thriller and detective fiction, featuring the terminally unlucky in love, Sergeant Davie Gray. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com

 

CTG REVIEWS: FEVER CITY by Tim Baker

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What the blurb says: “Nick Alston, a Los Angeles private investigator, is hired to find the kidnapped son of America’s richest and most hated man. Hastings, a mob hitman in search of redemption, is also on the trail. But both men soon become ensnared by a sinister cabal that spreads from the White House all the way to Dealey Plaza. Decades later in Dallas, Alston’s son stumbles across evidence from JFK conspiracy buffs that just might link his father to the shot heard round the world.”

 

This is one hell of a read.

I’m a total sucker for anything to do with JFK and Marilyn Monroe, so FEVER CITY with its thriller and conspiracy plotlines had me totally hooked.

The story is told through multiple narrators, and across three timelines – two in the 1960s and one in present time. As the storylines of investigation, redemption, obsession and the search for personal truth intertwine, they give the reader tantalising glimpses of the full picture, and raise the stakes and the tension ever-higher towards the shocking climax.

It’s as gritty and violent as the most ruthless hitman, and as glamorous and captivating as the most beautiful femme fatale. And the writing is simply stunning.

FEVER CITY is a cinematic, mystery-filled thrill of a read. If you like your thrillers super twisty with an extra loading of suspense, you won’t be disappointed – buy it now!

 

FEVER CITY is out in paperback now. You can buy it from Amazon here and from Waterstones here

To find out more about Tim Baker and stay up to date with news on his books follow him on Twitter @TimBakerWrites

CTG REVIEWS: BLACK NIGHT FALLING by ROD REYNOLDS

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To celebrate Rod Reynolds’s BLACK NIGHT FALLING being published in paperback today I’m re-running my review of this fabulous book…

What the blurb says: “Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late …”

The second book in the Charlie Yates series is another noir-drenched belter of a thriller.

When Charlie gets a call from Jimmy Robinson, a shady reporter from Texarkana – a place Charlie just wants to forget – asking for help, his gut instinct is to hang up. But when Jimmy hints that the trouble that chased Charlie from Texarkana could be connected to murders in Hot Springs, Charlie finds himself agreeing to make the trip. But when he lands at Hot Springs things aren’t at all what he’d expected, and a bad situation turns dire fast. Charlie feels driven to discover the truth of what’s going on and starts to investigate. He soon finds out that beneath it’s party town exterior, Hot Springs has a darker, and much more dangerous side.

Picking up a few months after Rod Reynolds stunning debut The Dark Inside ended, Black Night Falling oozes authenticity and a whole lot of deeply dark menace. The prose is a delight, and I adored the rhythmic cadence.

Reporter Charlie Yates is a great character, and in this second book of the series he’s doing his damnedest to move on from his past – his exile from New York, his failed marriage, and the brutal events in Texarkana that nearly claimed his life – by making a new life for himself in California. But it seems no matter how hard he tries, trouble always finds him! He’s still rather brooding and a bit mysterious, but he’s got a little more hope about him – or at least he’s trying to have!

I think that if Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald had co-written a book it might have been rather like BLACK NIGHT FALLING. Darkly gritty and authentically compelling, this is a flawless treat of a novel.

A must-read for all thriller fans. I recommend that you get it right now!

(And if you’ve not read The Dark Inside – get that too!)

BLACK NIGHT FALLING is published today! You can buy the book here from Amazon or from Waterstones by clicking on the store name.

To find out more about Rod Reynolds and his books go to his Amazon author page here and be sure to follow him on Twitter @Rod_RW

CTG Reviews: BONE DUST WHITE by Karin Salvalaggio

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What the blurb says: “Someone is knocking at the door to Grace Adams’s house and won’t stop. Grace thinks she knows who it is, but when she looks out her bedroom window, she sees a woman she doesn’t recognize walking on the trails behind her home. The woman isn’t alone for long before a man emerges from the dark of the surrounding woods and stabs her, then retreats into the shadows, leaving her to die in the snow. Frantic, Grace calls the police, but knows they’ll never arrive in time, so she herself goes to the woman and is surprised to find she’s not a stranger – and that only raises more questions.

Badly shocked, Grace is taken to the hospital, and Detective Macy Greeley is called back to the small town of Collier, Montana, where she worked a case once before. She needs to track down the killer and find out what the murder has to do with Grace, a troubled young woman whose harrowing past may have finally come in from the cold. But the town of Collier is just as hard-bitten now as it was years ago, and Macy will have to reopen old wounds as she investigates a murder that looks like it took eleven years to come to pass.”

This is one of those books that pulls you into its world and holds you captive throughout the story until the very last word. And be warned, the world of BONE DUST WHITE is a claustrophobic place; a small town bursting with lies and deceit, a harsh winter environment that is as much of a killer as the humans who stab and shoot within it, a place where you can never escape from your past or the interference of others in your future. In short, the perfect setting for a crime thriller!

Detective Macy Greeley is a strong female lead. She’s pregnant, and heading towards single motherhood due to a rather complicated set of circumstances, but focused on solving the fresh case of the shooting outside Grace Adams’s house, and finding answers to solve the cold case of four young women’s deaths and the disappearance of another, many years previously. It’s not easy though. Aside from the dead ends, and difficulty in getting straight answers about either case from anyone in Collier, she’s also forced to reconnect with her own past in the small town, and the unfinished business she left behind.

As Macy digs deeper into the present and the past she starts to unravel the intricate web of secrets, lies and messy relationships that bind friends and enemies to the town. I especially loved the dark, brooding atmosphere of Collier and the quirky, unique characters that populate it. With gorgeous writing, a suspenseful storyline, and cast of characters where no one is telling the whole truth, this is thriller writing at its finest.

Chillingly creepy and hauntingly atmospheric BONE DUST WHITE is an absolute must read for crime fiction fans.

You can buy BONE DUST WHITE from Amazon here

And find out all about Karin Salvalaggio and her books here and follow her on Twitter @KarinSalvala

CTG EXCLUSIVE: STASI WOLF AND THE CROSSWORD PUZZLE MURDER

Today I’m super excited to have award winning crime writer (and good pal of mine) David Young guest posting on the CTG blog as part of his STASI WOLF Blog Tour. STASI WOLF is the second book in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series following up from the smash hit STASI CHILD. Today, David Young is talking about the real life case that inspired the story in STASI WOLF.

Over to David …

Twenty-six years ago this month communist East Germany’s most well-known murder hunt began when the torso of a young boy was found stuffed in a suitcase by the side of the Halle to Leipzig rail line.

The body was soon identified as that of seven-year-old Lars Bense, who’d gone missing on a cinema trip two weeks earlier in the supposedly ideal socialist new city of Halle-Neustadt. A city where every apartment was near-identical, where streets didn’t have names, and where addresses were simply a strange six-digit code.

It’s the city that is the setting for Stasi Wolf, and although my fictional story is set six years earlier than the real-life murder, I’ve ‘borrowed’ some aspects of the murder investigation for the novel.

In the actual murder case, the only clue detectives had to the identity of the killer was found in a newspaper the body was wrapped in. A crossword puzzle was partially completed – the idiosyncratic handwriting, so experts said, was that of a middle-aged woman.

So began what still ranks as the biggest-ever handwriting sampling exercise in world history as part of the Kreuzworträtselmord – the Crossword Puzzle Murder. More than half-a-million samples of writing were collected, sometimes by ingenious methods such as staged competitions.

Die grossen Kriminalfaelle

At the heart of the hunt were the GDR’s reviled secret police, the Stasi – only this time they were doing some good, providing the manpower to help the overworked CID section of the People’s Police. I have them playing the same role in the novel – but also have them constantly overseeing my fictional detective Karin Müller’s work, because they don’t want news of her investigation to alarm the model city’s residents. And that has some basis in truth too. The successful end of the actual investigation was – in East German times – only mentioned in one small local newspaper report.

Today Halle-Neustadt is battered and worn, with many of its apartment blocks empty and condemned. A once-thriving population of 100,000 – mostly workers at the giant chemical works at nearby Merseburg – has shrunk to less than 40,000. But memories of the Crossword Puzzle Murder live on.

The team that eventually cracked the case – after several months – was led by Halle murder squad head Hauptmann Siegfried Schwarz. ‘Sigi’ – as he’s known – is still a hunter – but now it’s his hobby, and animals and birds are the quarry, rather than murderers, in the fields north-east of Halle where he now lives.

He agreed to meet me in Halle-Neustadt as part of his research and talked me through some of his cases, as well as his most famous one.

Although generally a jovial man, his face clouded over with sadness and his voice cracked with emotion when he spoke of another case that is perhaps closer to the central plot of Stasi Wolf – the killing of a baby whose body was found stuffed in a drawer in Halle city itself.

But it’s the Crossword Puzzle that he’s most well-known for. Some nine months after the hunt began the culprit was arrested. The handwriting had been matched to a resident of Block 398 – a middle-aged woman working as a seasonal worker on the Baltic Coast.

A male friend of the woman’s daughter fitted the profile of the killer, and eventually confessed to murder and sexual abuse of the boy, and was jailed for life – although after reunification this sentence was reduced because as he was eighteen at the time, he qualified as a juvenile.

He was released in 1999 and died in 2013 – on the day of the 32nd anniversary of his crime.

But – just as in the fictional Stasi Wolf – the real-life case has a final twist. His then girlfriend published what was supposedly a German-language ‘novel’ based on the murder that same year. Prosecutors opened a new case against her, on the grounds of alleged complicity to murder, because her statements in the novel differed from her accounts at the time.

However, she and her publishers insisted her book was fiction – and the case against her was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence.

A huge thank you to David Young for guest posting on the CTG blog today.

STASI WOLF is out now. Here’s the blurb: East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing. But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town – the pride of the communist state – and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town’s flawless image. Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .”

You can buy STASI WOLF from Amazon HERE

And be sure to check out all the fantastic stops on the STASI WOLF Blog Tour and follow David Young on Twitter @djy_writer

 

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CTG’s CRIME THRILLER CLUB: #DEEPDOWNDEAD VALENTINE #COMP #WIN

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This week valentine’s day happens, and that sounds like a good excuse for a competition to me …

… so everyone who subscribes to my new Crime Thriller Club will be automatically entered into a prize draw with the chance to win this valentine’s prize (pictured) including:

  • A signed copy of DEEP DOWN DEAD
  • A box of valentine’s chocolates from Hotel Chocolat
  • A mini bottle of rose champagne (only to UK entrants, sorry!)
  • A pair of handcuffs (cos nothing says ‘be my valentine’ like a pair of handcuffs right?)

By signing up to the CTG Crime Thriller Club you’ll get access to my eNewsletters with exclusive subscriber competitions, content and will be the first to hear about my book news and events.

It only takes a moment, so CLICK HERE to sign up now to be in with a chance to win!

** This competition closes at 9pm on Sunday 19th February 2017 **

Rules
(1) One entry per subscriber (2) Open worldwide, but champagne will only be posted to UK addresses – sorry! (3) All entrants must be 18 years or over (4) The winner will be drawn at random (5) No cash alternative (6)  The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into

CTG HITS THE ROAD: STEPH BROADRIBB TALKS DEEP DOWN DEAD (AND MORE!)

 

I’m thrilled to have been invited to speak on panels at a whole bunch of fabulous crime writing events and festivals this year. While some of the details are still being finalised, I thought I’d give you a heads up on where I’ll be heading between now and May.

Hopefully see you there …

 

6 FEBRUARY at 6.30pm – FIRST MONDAY CRIME at BROWNS, THE JUDGE’S COURT, LONDON

Panel with M.R. Hall, David Young, Sheena Kamal and Steph Broadribb, chaired by Barry Forshaw

Details: https://www.goldsborobooks.com/event/february-first-monday/

 

28 FEBRUARY at 6.30pm – INTERNATIONAL CRIME FICTION EVENT at WATERSTONES LIVERPOOL 1

Orenda Books Roadshow with Kati Hiekkapelto, Michael J. Malone, Antti Tuomainen, Louise Beech, Steph Broadribb, Matt Johnson and Matt Wesolowski

Details: https://www.waterstones.com/events/join-us-for-an-evening-of-international-crime-fiction-writing-with-the-orenda-roadshow/liverpool

 

11 MARCH at 8.15pm – AYE WRITE, GLASGOW

3 Slices of Crime panel with SJI Holliday, Russel McLean and Steph Broadribb chaired by Gordon Brown

Details: http://www.ayewrite.com/Pages/default.aspx

 

25 MARCH – DEAL NOIR, KENT

Panel details tbc

Details: https://dealnoir.wordpress.com/

 

29/30 APRIL – NEWCASTLE NOIR FESTIVAL

Panel details tbc

Details: http://newcastlenoir.blogspot.co.uk/

 

18-21 MAY – CRIMEFEST, BRISTOL

Panel details tbc

Details: http://www.crimefest.com/