Notes from Harrogate: Part 2

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Saturday at Harrogate was again gorgeously sunny. After a fabulous breakfast, I went along (with minimal hangover) to Forensics: Val McDermid in conversation with Sue Black. It was a great session, and especially useful for any budding crime writers. Sue Black demystified the world of forensics with a special focus on identity including DNA sampling and facial reconstruction.

After a quick coffee (my fifth of the day) I went back into the hall for the New Book panel. Expertly chaired by Val McDermid, debut authors Derek B. Miller (Norwegian by Night), Anya Lipska (Where The Devil Can’t Go), Malcolm Mackay (The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter) and Colette McBeth (Precious Thing), discussed their novels, their journey to publication, and what was next for them. From this panel I heard one of my favourite quotes of the festival. It was from Derek B. Miller, who said, “crime writers don’t love crime, they love justice.” Brilliant.

After a quick lunch (sandwiches and crisps on the lawn – no alcohol) I headed to the Library for the C&R Crime party (and a glass of wine!). It was great to catch up with the team from C&R Crime, hear about all the exciting releases they’ve got coming up, and talk to their authors.

By this point it was almost five o’clock, and that meant it was time to get my seat for the Lee Child interview. The hall was packed to bursting, but with my trusty Festival Friend card (which gave the equivalent of ‘speedy boarding’ into the hall) I was able to get a seat three rows from the front. Comedienne Sarah Millican did a superb job with the interview – it was witty, insightful and all round entertaining. The hour-long session went past far too fast, but I was thrilled that I managed to meet Lee Child afterwards (he is my literary hero) and get a photo with him. I was grinning for the rest of the evening.

Anyway, from there it was a mad dash to the License to Thrill dinner. Author David Mark had written a bond themed murder mystery puzzle for the tables to solve during dinner. It was great fun and although the table I was on didn’t win, we had a lot of fun trying.

After a brief rest in the bar (!) it was on to the Late Night Quiz with quizmasters Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Although the rules clearly stated teams should have six members, we flexed the rules a little and went with seven. It didn’t matter, we reasoned, we were going to lose anyway. But, with plenty of wine (plus the Theakstons beers that we ‘had to’ drink as part of the Name That Beer Round) we discovered that we were not quite as rubbish at the questions as we had thought that we would be. We didn’t win a prize, but we weren’t too far off. So to celebrate we returned to the bar until the early hours.

And then it was Sunday. After a ridiculously late night/early morning I needed a bit of a lie in, so I only made it to one session. But what a great one it was. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (which became HBO’s True Blood) and a whole bunch of stand-alone novels and other mystery series’, was interviewed by Paul Blezard. An inspiring and highly entertaining hour.

And then it was over.

As I packed up my bags, loaded the car, and said goodbye to all the fabulous people I’d met over the weekend I knew one thing for sure. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Notes from Harrogate: Part 1

Social Media: Who Are You? panel

Social Media: Who Are You? panel

This was my first time at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate, and to say I was excited doesn’t cover the half of it. I arrived on Thursday evening and had already spotted half a dozen crime writers chilling outside on the lawn before I parked the car.

Anyway, the evening kicked off with the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award presentation, won this year by Denise Mina (who also won the accolade in 2012) for her wonderful novel Gods and Beasts. After the awards ceremony had finished the Festival Opening Party got everyone into the party mood, which continued well into the early hours back in the bar.

I woke on Friday to glorious sunshine and a (mild) hangover. The first panel I attended was ‘Dead In Deutschland’. Barry Forshaw expertly chaired the session with Jan Costin Wagner, Sebastian Fitzek, Nele Neuhaus, and Dane Jussi Adler-Olsen talking about German crime novels or ‘Krimis’. After that, as I felt like I was melting in the heat, I headed outside to the lawn (and the shade of the trees) to cool down before the ‘Social Media: Who are You?’ panel. Mark Billingham chaired with Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Erin Kelly, Steve Mosby and Sarah Pinborough discussing the merits and pitfalls of authors using social media. This was by far the most fabulously sweary and high-spirited session that I attended. I admired the panel’s honesty about the good (and the bad) that they’d experienced through interactions online, and their ability to keep their cool when a member of the audience started firing questions at them. In essence, the panel concluded that social media can be a good thing – letting readers and writers connect in a way that wasn’t possible ten years ago – just so long as it’s used in a respectful and decent way. I immediately wanted to follow each of the panellists on Twitter, and so I did!

'Live' storytelling at the Random House - Dead Good Books party

‘Live’ storytelling at the Random House – Dead Good Books party

After more time chatting on the lawn, I attended the Random House – Dead Good Books party in the fabulous PapaKata Tent. Here I broke my promise to myself of not drinking, and started on the wine. It was great to meet up with lots of fantastic writers and bloggers and I even had my photo taken in the ‘crime scene’ area of the tent – lying ‘dead’ on the carpet with a blood stain by my head! A highlight of the event was a story being written ‘live’ by the Random House authors – with Lee Child starting it off with the first couple of sentences (see photo).

After the party I had meant to head out into Harrogate for dinner, however the bar proved too much of a distraction and I found myself chatting with a bunch of fabulous people until the early hours. I’ll say one thing about crime writers – they certainly know how to party!

The festival was halfway through, and as I went to bed that night I resolved that on Saturday I would attend more panels …

Swag from Harrogate TOP Crime Writing Festival

Harrogate swag

Harrogate swag

 

 

Okay, so last weekend I went to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

It was a fabulous event, and I’ll be telling you more in my blog post tomorrow, but for today I thought I’d post a photo of all the fabulous goodies I got at the event – a whole bunch of brilliant books (many of which I managed to have signed), an awesome festival goodie bag, and an amazing ‘Reacher said Nothing’ t-shirt.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the event …

 

The Beauty of Murder by A K Benedict

The Beauty of Murder cover image

The Beauty of Murder cover image

What the blurb says: “Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge as a senior lecturer. Something about the seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university has given him a chill he can’t shake. When he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen, he thinks he’s found the reason. But when the police go to retrieve the body they find no trace of it. Killigan has found a problem – and a killer – that is the very opposite of reason.

Killingan’s unwitting entry into the sinister world of Jackamore Grass will lead him on a trail of tattooists, philosophers, cadavers and scholars of a deadly beauty. As Killigan traces a path between our age and seventeenth-century Cambridge, he must work out how it is that a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, and whether he’s being pushed towards the edge of madness or an astonishing discovery.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. They are the first three words (or one word repeated) that comes into my mind on finishing The Beauty of Murder.

This is a literary crime thriller which ticks all the boxes with a flourish: intriguing characters, fascinating storylines, gorgeous settings, beautiful prose and a sprinting pace. And it’s A K Benedict’s debut novel.

Stephen Killigan is a likable guy – he’s smart, likes a beer (or two, or more), and is looking for love. He also wants to do the right thing when he discovers the body of a missing woman. But being a good citizen soon turns out to be the start of a journey that threatens to destroy all he holds dear. When the police find no trace of the body, Stephen is determined to find out what happened to her. But as he finds clues to the mystery, each one makes less sense than that before it. Is he losing his mind as so many suggest? As the body count rises, and the links of the modern-day murders with those in 1635 become clearer to him, Stephen becomes the prime suspect. Yet he finds an unlikely friend in Inspector Jane Horne, who is trying to solve the series of seemingly unsolvable cases whilst keeping her own private health battles secret from those at work.

The Beauty of Murder is filled with unusual, memorable supporting characters like Stephen’s friend, Satnam, who likes a few beers and loves the girl in the library, and Robert Sachs, the “poncey philosopher who loves himself” who muses over the beauty of the dead. I think my favorite of these is Iris Burton, the eccentric academic who takes it upon herself to teach Stephen Killigan about time travel including what to carry in your kit bag and how to avoid paradoxes (in my mind she was played by Helena Bonham Carter!).

The relationship between Stephen Killigan and Jackamore Grass has real Sherlock/Moriarty feel to it: two highly intelligent men pitting their wits (and their lives) against each other to solve the mystery (in Stephen’s case) and win the game (in Jackamore’s case). Jackamore, who finds getting away with murder tiresomely easy, is pleased to at last have a worthy opponent, but as Stephen hones his skills and closes in on the truth, Jackamore starts to pick his victims from those close to Stephen.

Quirky, mind (and time) bending, and compulsively addictive, this is an outstanding literary crime thriller. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

Highly recommended.

[A bought my copy of The Beauty of Murder]

The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald

The Deep Blue Goodbye cover image

The Deep Blue Goodbye cover image

What the blurb says: “Travis McGee isn’t your typical knight in shining armour. He only works when his cash runs out, and his rule is simple: He’ll help you find whatever was taken from you, as long as he can keep half.

Travis McGee isn’t particularly strapped for cash, but how can anyone say no to Cathy, a sweet girl who’s been tortured repeatedly by  her manipulative ex-boyfriend Junior Allen? What Travis isn’t anticipating is just how many women Junior has torn apart and left in his wake.

As Travis hunts for the ruthless man who steals women’s sensibilities and livelihoods, he can’t guess how violent his quest is soon to become. He’ll learn the hard way that there must be casualties in this game of cat and mouse …”

Gosh, where to start.

Well, within the first few pages of this story I was both shocked that it’d taken me this long to pick up a John D. MacDonald novel, and delighted that there is now a whole new series for me to work my way through. MacDonald’s straight-talking, uber observant yet fast paced style feels highly contemporary, despite The Deep Blue Goodbye first being published in 1964.

Travis McGee is a character you can’t help but want to spend time with: tough yet tender, honest yet outside of the law when necessary, and to-the-point yet charming. He lives by his own rules, even when those rules might well get him into life or death situations.

In The Deep Blue Goodbye, Travis McGee is living on his houseboat, the Busted Flush, and not especially looking for work, but when a friend asks him to help her friend, Cathy, he agrees to look into the situation. He starts following the trail of Junior Allen, an insincere, charmingly seductive but abusive con-man, and as he digs a little deeper Travis discovers the wartime secret Cathy’s father left behind and just why it made her a target of Junior Allen. In the process of trying to recover what is rightfully Cathy’s, Travis comes across another woman who has suffered at the hands of Junior. Determined to help both woman, Travis tracks Junior down and prepares to confront him during the climax of the con he’s working on a group of young people. It’s a bold and dangerous move, and one that requires all Travis’ resourcefulness to survive.

As well as a masterfully plotted storyline, MacDonald’s book takes the reader into Travis’ world – Lauderdale, Florida in the 1960s. It balances perfectly timed action and pace with deep emotion and heartbreak. It makes you want to keep reading, undisturbed, from the first sentence to the very last.

Highly recommended.

 

The Deep Blue Goodbye is available through Transworld Digital on Kindle. Over the coming months each of the Travis McGee series will be re-published in order. This new release of the series includes a foreword by Lee Child.

[A massive thank you to Transworld Digital for my copy of The Deep Blue Goodbye]

CWA announces first 2013 Dagger Winners

At the Crime Writers’ Association Dinner held at Kings Place, London, last night the CWA announced the first batch of winners for the 2013 Dagger Awards and the longlists for the remaining three Daggers.

Awarded last night were:

The CWA International Dagger: which went to two French writers – Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre.

The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger: awarded to Andrew Taylor for an unprecedented third time.

The 2013 CWA Non-fiction Dagger: to Paul French for Midnight in Peking.

The Dagger in the Library: awarded to Belinda Bauer.

The Short Story Dagger: won by Stella Duffy.

The Debut Dagger, for previously unpublished crime writers, won by Finn Clarke.

And the CWA Diamond Dagger: presented to Lee Child by last year’s winner, Frederick Forsyth.

 

The longlists for the CWA Gold, Steel and John Creasey Daggers were announced last night, and the winners will be announced at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards in the autumn. To see those nominated pop on over to the CWA website at http://www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/2013/index.html

 

Congratulations to all the winners and the nominees.

An interview with author Josie Brown creator of The Housewife Assassin series

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook cover image

The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook cover image

A few months back I read and reviewed the fabulous Housewife Assassin’s Handbook by Josie Brown. Today I’m thrilled to be welcoming Josie to the CTG blog to talk about the Housewife Assassin Series …

So tell me, how did you get the idea for the Housewife Assassin’s Handbook?

Wow, great question! And believe it or not, no one has ever asked me that before. Go figure. 

It was several years after 911. Still, as a mother, that event had such an impact on me–really, on everyone, parent, child or whomever–

So much so, that I felt…well, helpless.

When that happens, I figure a way in which to turn it around. In this case, I asked myself:  What could a parent–a mother–do to not only protect herself AND her children, but life she thought she’d secured?

That’s how Donna Stone* was born.

And what readers discover is that Donna doesn’t know how close the threat is to her.

Seriously, the day I came up with her and the plot for Book 1 — The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook  — I got chills. It was a hot day in August, and yet I got CHILLS. 

I called an author friend of mine, Karin Tabke, and I said, “Here’s a story I want to write…”

After I told her the plot, she said, “Oh my God. It’s the ultimate woman’s mission: to protect her loved ones–and the ultimate response. Now, write it.”

So I did.

But when I presented it to my first literary agent, he said, “I don’t get it.”

Immediately I got another agent. 

 

Your main character, Donna Stone, is fabulously dynamic and gutsy. When you created her, did you model her on any actors or people you know?

Ha ha! Personally, I feel there are several actresses who could play her. EMBRACE her gutsiness. I’m happy to say  a television producer feels the same way, and is currently shopping it around. She’s as excited about it as me. So fingers crossed, others will buy into Donna’s world. 

Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events before sitting down to write, or do you dive right in and see where the story takes you?

I come up with an overall premise. And then I do the heavy lifting and actually do a full chapter-by-chapter outline. In doing so, I throw “plot spaghetti” at the proverbial wall. In other words, I do a lot of what ifs: 

How will Donna get out of this tight spot, or another?

How will her relationship change–and grow–with Jack?

What threat will the Quorum through their way?

How will Donna’s children survive a world that is more dangerous than anyone realizes?

I endeavor to move her journey forward in each book. I truly am honored when readers appreciate her story.

How do you organise your writing day: do you have a favourite time and place to write?

I write on a netbook, which allows me to roam all over my home and garden (I live in San Francisco, so I’m drawn to the sun, like a moth to a flame), or to a coffee shop, with one of my writer pals (COUGH! — Kate Perry — COUGH!)

What tips and tricks have you learnt that you’d like to pass on to aspiring crime and thriller writers?

I’m so happy to do so. Here’s the one that counts the most:

Don’t be afraid to write the book YOU’D want to read. You are the best judge of what you should be writing: not an editor, not an agent, not a trend, not your mother. Not even your best friend. YOU. 

During NaNoWriMo, I put up thirty-one tips, one for each day, for other authors, both aspiring and published. We all need to remember why we put in the hard hours–and our hearts on ours sleeves-as we scribble away. I wanted to share my thoughts on the industry, now some seven years and twelve books later.

And what’s next for you, have you got a novel in progress at the moment and, if so, when will we be able to read it?

Vacation to Die For cover image

Vacation to Die For cover image

This month in fact, I’ll be releasing a one-off The Candidate, a political thriller. Or as I put it: SCANDAL meets HOMELAND when a political campaign manager discovers that Washington’s power elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an imminent act of terrorism on US soil.

And of course, Donna is back in August, in The Housewife Assassin’s Vacation to Die For

Also I invite your readers to enter my contest (which is running only through August 2nd) for a $100 gift card from the bookstore of their choice. It’s my way of thanking readers for appreciating the fourth book of the series, The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide.

Thanks, Crime Thriller Girl, for sharing me with your friends and readers! — Josie

A huge thank you to Josie Brown for dropping by the blog, and do make sure you follow the links above to pop on over to her website and enter the fantastic contest that’s running to 2nd August.