CTG Exclusive: Chris Ewan talks rebooting the Good Thief’s Guide series

Today the fabulous Chris Ewan – a great crime writer and all-round good guy – is reissuing the first few books in his awesome Good Thief’s Guide… series.  

To celebrate, Chris is taking the controls for the day at CTG HQ to tell us more about the series and how it came about.

Over to Chris…

Just lately, I’ve been in the process of reissuing the first five titles in my Good Thief’s Guide To … series of mystery novels as ebooks in the UK. (I’ve priced them very reasonably! You should totally check them out!) The novels are fun, fast-paced capers about globetrotting crime writer and thief-for-hire Charlie Howard, with each book set in a different international city, ranging from Amsterdam to Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin.

One of the most interesting parts for me in reissuing the books has been the opportunity to read them again and remember all of the experiences and ideas that went into each one – from the research trips I made to the cities I was writing about, to learning how to pick locks and crack safes, to figuring out (usually after a LOT of swearing) whodunnit and why. As I thought about some of those experiences, it occurred to me that it might be a nice idea to include a letter to readers in the back of each of the reissued books sharing a few of my memories.

Which brings us to the letter below. It’s a slightly amended version of the letter I’ve included in the back of my first Good Thief’s Guide novel, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, and it tells the story of how I got published for the first time. It took me a while to get there – a little under a decade – but the story has a pretty neat ending, I think. I hope you enjoy reading about it. And hey, if you fancy checking out one of my Good Thief’s Guides while you’re at it, I’d be doubly thrilled.

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Dear Reader

In 2006, when I was twenty-nine years old, I made my wife a promise. I had spent most of my twenties pursuing my dream of becoming a published author. I had written in the early mornings before work, in the evenings and nights after work, and all day every weekend. In that time, I had written and endlessly rewritten three novels. I’d been taken on by a literary agent but I hadn’t got my break. Eventually, my wife pointed out that I was spending more time in my makeshift study with the imaginary people in my head than I was with her. She was right, and I felt bad about it, and so I promised her that if I wasn’t published by the time I was thirty, I would take a breather for a few years. (I still wasn’t prepared to give up on the dream quite yet).

That year, I happened to be working on a book about a burglar set in Amsterdam. I chose Amsterdam because I had lived there for six months when I was training to be a lawyer and I had fallen in love with the city. I chose a burglar because I’ve always enjoyed crime novels about crooks. And I made my lead character a writer of mystery novels because I wanted to write about my love of the genre. I called the book The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam.

One day, some time around April, I think, when I had just completed yet another draft of the book, a colleague at my law firm on the Isle of Man came into my office and asked me if I had seen that the author Susan Hill was running a competition for unpublished writers. Anyone could submit their work and the winner would have their book published by Susan’s small publishing company, Long Barn Books. I emailed my novel to the competition in the secret hope that if I was very lucky I might get a small word of feedback from Susan, perhaps even a gem of advice.

Many months went by. Then, on a day in September, the same colleague stuck their head into my office to say that I should look at Susan’s website because my book was on the shortlist for the award. A week later, my phone went at work. I picked it up and a voice on the other end said, “Hello, this is Susan Hill. You’ve won my competition. You’re going to be a published author.”

That phone call changed my life. It remains the single best phone call I’ve ever received. And it reached me one week before I turned thirty.

Since then, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam has gone on to be published in thirteen countries around the world. It has led to four more Good Thief’s Guides, set in Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin. The books have been optioned for television three times and they set me on my way to realizing an even bigger dream of becoming a full-time writer. I am itching to write more books in the series, and with your support, I hope there may be many more Good Thief’s Guides to come.

But none of this would be possible, or worthwhile, without you. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this book and for becoming such a crucial part of the Good Thief’s Guides story.

These books are brilliant. I recommend you read them right now! As a fabulous bonus the Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam is only 99p on Kindle right now, and the Good Thief’s Guides Box Set just £6.99.

Here are the links…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Thiefs-Guide-Amsterdam-Guides-ebook/dp/B071F6PBQM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Thiefs-Guides-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B072LXDRWB/

And be sure to pop by Chris Ewan’s website and follow him on all the social media sites to stay up to date with his news

www.chrisewan.com

www.facebook.com/chrisewanauthor

Twitter: @chrisewan

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#TheIntrusions Blog Tour: Stav Sherez talks about writing Prologues

 

Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the #TheIntrusions Blog Tour and am joined by fabulous crime writer Stav Sherez.

Stav is a fan of using prologues in his novels (as am I) and he’s kindly agreed to talk about his process for prologue writing and how the prologue in his latest book – THE INTRUSIONS – came about.

Over to Stav …

Every crime novel has a beginning, middle and end – but where, exactly, do you begin? The question of whether to prologue or not is one of the most frequently asked in creative writing classes. The answer is often hotly debated but, like everything else in fiction, there is no right or wrong way, only what suits the book in question.

I’ve seen so many creative writing tips and lists that tell you never to prologue. They claim it slows the action down, prevents readers from immediately engaging with the narrative, and is unnecessary.

I disagree with this. I love prologues. I love to read them and I love to write them. All my novels have featured them. And – despite being beginnings – they’re nearly always the last sections to be written.

There’s something about the very nature of a prologue that is perfect for creating mystery. The prologue, rather than putting off the action, plunges you straight into the story, not knowing if it’s the beginning, middle or end of the narrative. Prologues create a frame and that’s perhaps one of the main reasons I like them, the way they stand outside the main action – the prologue can chart events that take place days or weeks or even years before the central narrative or they can be enigmatic flash-forwards straight into the heart of the book. As a reader, my favourite type of prologues are the ones where I have no idea how they relate to the plot until three-quarters of the way through – it all clicks into place.

But I never get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Or the twenty-third. Every novel I’ve ever written has featured several very different prologues before I settled on the final one. I never know how to start until I have reached the end.

The Intrusions proved the hardest of my novels to write a prologue for. I wrote what I thought was a decent prologue after I’d finished the first draft. It was set 30 years before the action of the novel and in another country – but it didn’t fit. It knocked the main storyline off-kilter. I cut it and rethought the beginning. My second prologue was 10,000 words and consisted of only one sentence! The idea was to start the book with a long tracking shot the way Orson Welles does in Touch of Evil. The prologue followed a relay of CCTV cameras across London on a Friday night, picking up the main characters, following them, dropping them, and roving across the capital. I’m kind of glad I didn’t stick with that one…

The next prologue was set during one of the character’s childhood years. It was a family dinner scene, static and tense and a world away from the previous prologue. I was quite happy with it but one of the benefits of doing many drafts is you get to read over the novel a hundred times or more and anything that doesn’t fit or is boring becomes obvious very quickly – and the new prologue was just too far removed from the action and themes of the novel.

I tried again. I started from scratch and this time the prologue, though it takes place some time before the action of the book, supplied part of the puzzle that Carrigan and Miller would later have to solve. It also introduced some of the themes I wanted to explore in the novel and, finally, it felt exciting, plunging the reader directly into peril.

It took me two and a half years of writing different prologues before I found the one which suited the book but, sometimes, you need to write all the wrong things before you can get it right.

A huge thank you to Stav Sherez for popping over to the CTG blog today and talking about prologues.

THE INTRUSIONS is out now. Here’s what the blurb says: “When a distressed young woman arrives at the station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and ‘claim her next’, Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession.

Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez’s work has been so acclaimed for.

Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities resurfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two woman have been subjected to?”

THE INTRUSIONS is out now on Kindle and the 2 February in trade paperback. You can order it from Amazon here

To find out more about Stav Sherez hop over to his publisher Faber’s website here and be sure to follow him on Twitter @stavsherez

You can also check out the great stops on THE INTRUSIONS Blog Tour …

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GUEST POST: Dave Weaver talks Unreliable Narrators

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Today I’m handing over the reins at CTG HQ to author Dave Weaver. Dave’s a fan of unreliable narrators and uses one in his latest book THE UNSEEN. Over to Dave …

The Reliable ‘Unreliable Narrator’

It’s something both ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ have in common as well as many other popular thrillers and famous novels across genres – the ‘unreliable narrator’. Our protagonist appears to be balanced and coherent but then unfolding events contradict their skewed reasoning and drive an ever-growing wedge between their perception of reality and ours. Things just don’t add up; the reader can no longer take the story at face value. Is the POV character insane, lying, deluded or just plain wrong? We won’t know until the final piece of the jigsaw that is their damaged mind fits into place.

This is what gives the narrative its strength; the need to understand the true nature of the head we are locked in and the reason that person disguises it. For once we give them our trust there is no escape from the consequences of their actions. We become helpless partners in their chaotic drift towards disaster.

The unreliable narrator works particularly well in crime and mystery plots where the reasons for a person’s odd behaviour are shown in the story’s resolution. But how can the author make the reader understand that he or she is not to be believed or trusted? Clues must be planted at regular intervals to make sure the reader understands that things are not as they should be, even if the narrator remains unaware of this. Other characters’ reactions, the narrator’s inappropriate behaviour in various situations and a general sense of normalcy slipping away can help achieve this.

The phrase ‘unreliable narrator’ was first coined by literary critic Wayne Booth in the early 1960s. It has many classic examples:

Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabakov’s ‘Lolita’, whose unreliability is shown by his outrageous claims, endless self justification and contempt for others; Alex from Anthony Burgess’ dystopian classic ‘A Clockwork Orange’ who proves at the very start to be a violent, manipulative sociopath who uses a fictional language, has delusions of grandeur and enjoys exaggerating his reprehensible acts to strut and show off to us, his horrified accomplices; the main character in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club’, a maladjusted insomniac who joins an underground fight club for therapy that quickly transforms into a terrorist group, leading us down a particularly nasty rabbit hole to a stunning reveal that makes us question everything gone before; J. D. Salinger’s cynical teenage Caulfield in ‘Catcher in the Rye’, an admitted liar whose opinions are provoked by adolescent angst and filtered through the distorting prism of immaturity.

What does the writer gain from this deception of using a misleading main character to tell the story? The main reward would seem to be balance, or rather lack of it. If the reader’s perceptions are continually challenged they are in a state of constant tension and the story becomes a fairground ride of unexpected twists and turns. They cannot rely on their guide with any degree of certainty and they cannot predict the outcome. In fact anything could happen; a healthy state for a thriller to be in.

Sometimes the narrator is unreliable by nature, so awful they cannot be objective about themselves even when behaving abominably; they continually self-justify the most terrible acts.

Sometimes they are damaged; an accident or psychological impairment has caused them, and by definition us, to see the world in a particular way others don’t.

Sometimes they are young or naive; the narrator of Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night’ is an autistic child seeking to explain their understanding of events. There is no trickery involved in these reports, at least on the teller’s part; they are telling us what they know. It is the miss-fitting framework around what they say that gives the lie to their words.

A further type of narrator is different from the above in that their misconceptions are due to a lack of, or incorrect, information. This is particularly effective in the thriller genre as having only half the picture can lead to some pretty spectacular leaps in the dark. Of course, in crime there are any number of unreliable narrators; they’re called witnesses and constantly contradict each other. The character of the investigator who will sift all this for the truth must be the one reliable factor. If we cannot trust their best efforts at enlightening us anarchy will quickly ensue. This would be problematic in a crime novel which is a carefully constructed and methodical machine with room for doubt and suspension of disbelief but never anarchy.

A final benefit of the unreliable narrator is that they can be used to cross genres. If their state of mind is in question we may start out with what appears to be fantasy and end up in psychological melodrama thus getting the best of both genre worlds; something I have attempted with my latest novel, ‘The Unseen’.

However the device of unreliable narrator is used though, it generally proves to be a reliable method of delivering the chilling psychodrama every thriller writer aspires to and every reader wants to read.

Big thanks to Dave Weaver for sharing his thoughts on the reliable ‘unreliable narrator’.

Dave’s latest book THE UNSEEN is out now. Here’s the blurb: Ex-advertising man John Mason is driving to the small town of Hambleford to view a cottage that is for sale, when he is caught in a sudden hailstorm. It brings back memories of the crash a year before in which he lost his wife Judith; a crash caused by a woman in white standing in the middle of the road – a woman who was nowhere to be found after the accident. As the hailstorm lashes his car he has a vision of her, with empty eyes and a silent screaming mouth. John had been having regular dreams about her ever since the crash, but lately they have been replaced by dreams of an idyllic cottage on a hillside like the one in which Judith had wanted them to live. John is special – he sees things that others can’t. Since childhood he’s had strange experiences but has tried to shut them out; now he thinks Judith is trying to contact him, that she’s been sending his mind images of the house where her spirit will join him again, and that Pine Cottage in Hambleford is literally the cottage of his dreams. But things aren’t all as they appear and John quickly becomes convinced that a spirit other than Judith is trying to manipulate him.”

You can buy THE UNSEEN from Amazon here

And find out more about Dave over on the Elsewhen Press website here

 

 

GUEST POST: Ankush Saikia talks about his Arjun Arora series

 

Today I’m handing the controls of CTG HQ over to Ankush Saikia who’s here to talk about his detective Arjun Arora series, including Dead Meat (2015) and Remember Death (2016), both published by Penguin Random House India.

Welcome Ankush Saikia! So how did the Delhi detective series comes about, and what is the social relevance of the books?

I was born in Assam in 1975, and grew up there and (along with a few years in the US, where my father was teaching) in Shillong, both in North East India. When I was 21 I left for Delhi, where I stayed for a long time (more than a decade), working first in journalism and then in publishing. Delhi was a city I grew to love and detest in equal measure, a tough, almost-violent place that taught one how to survive. I returned to North East India in 2011, and, after writing a noir thriller set in Shillong (The Girl From Nongrim Hills, Penguin India 2013), I began trying to write something which had been on my mind for a while: a dark novel set in Delhi that looked at the multiple layers of existence in that city.

The detective came about as a character who, by virtue of his profession, would be able to easily access different levels of society in the capital. Delhi is a city of outsiders, but to make Arjun Arora even more of an outsider, I made him the only child from a mixed marriage (a Punjabi father, a Nepali mother) who grew up in North East India, but was forced to move with his family in his teens to Delhi after his construction-supervisor father was shot in the knee by insurgents in remote Manipur. His memories of his time in North East India remain a source of nostalgia for Arjun Arora; he is someone with one foot permanently in the past. Then there is his time as a major in the Indian army, which he was asked to leave due to insubordination. A stint as a private security contractor in Iraq sees him narrowly escaping a beheading after being kidnapped. Back in Delhi he tries his hand and fails at various businesses, and starts drinking too much. His wife and teenage daughter leave him. Then he finds something which he is good at, being a detective, even as handling cases involving greed and deceit leads him further into the darkest corners of his soul.

Both the books so far have elements of true crime in them: the infamous Delhi “tandoor” murder and cricket match-fixing in the first book, a gruesome murder case of a woman in Bangalore (she was drugged and buried alive in a box) and the strange lives of Bollywood actresses from the 1960s in the second. The third book should see Arjun Arora travel to Nagaland and Manipur in North East India in connection with a case, where he gets mixed up in smuggling and insurgent activity.

As far as the social relevance of the books are concerned, I would like to think they shine a light on the varied lives and classes in India, from the high to low, from the innocent to corrupt, and reinterpret the traditional detective character in an Indian setting. Also, the country is undergoing social change on a vast scale, which means there are more and more people—especially in the cities—who are adrift, cut loose from traditional beliefs and a sense of rootedness. Arjun Arora can be taken as a representative of this change. India is a vast country with myriad problems—and so that can only mean more interesting cases for detective Arjun Arora in the future.

A big thank you to Ankush for joining us at CTG HQ today.

To find out more about Ankush Saikia over on his website: www.ankushsaikia.com

Follow him on Instagram & Twitter: @ankushsaikia

Publisher’s links …

Remember Death http://penguin.co.in/book/fiction/remember-death/

Dead Meat http://penguin.co.in/book/fiction/dead-meat/

The Girl from Nongrim Hills http://penguin.co.in/book/fiction/girl-nongrim-hills/

And check out some reviews here …

Remember Death

http://www.hindustantimes.com/books/review-of-ankush-saikia-s-remember-death/story-DxUn52QjxME4bvx677o7KM.html

Dead Meat

http://www.tripfiction.com/murder-thriller-set-in-delhi-best-indian-noir/

The Girl from Nongrim Hills

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/374577/northeast-noir.html

 

CTG EXCLUSIVE: Antti Tumainen talks Three Great Novels You Surely Haven’t Read But Might Enjoy If You Did

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Today I’m thrilled to welcome the critically acclaimed Finnish crime writer Antti Tuomainen to the CTG Blog. Antti’s latest novel – THE MINE (translated by David Hackston) is out now in paperback, and as part of his blog tour he’s talking about three books that he recommends …

Recently, on occasion of my third novel in the UK (The Mine) having been published, I have had the pleasure of doing many guest posts about topics such as favorite authors, favorite crime films and so forth. I have enjoyed this and am grateful for the chance. There is something I’d like to add, however. Below you’ll find books that I’ve enjoyed immensely but maybe haven’t crossed your path. Sometimes they have been marginal in the first place, sometimes it’s been a few years since their publication. The list is only three books long which is not fair to all the other brilliant books in my shelves. But if this list gives any of these fantastic novels even one more chance with a reader anywhere, it has served its purpose.

Norman Green: Shooting Dr. Jack

True-to-life characters and a great New York atmosphere drive this cross between a literary novel and a crime novel. The story takes place in un-gentrified Brooklyn and is really the story of one man coming to terms with life and getting straight. This following quote is from near the beginning where the main character Stoney is contemplating his current situation: “He’d never intended it to be this way. Who would choose this? Oh, yeah, I’m gonna go into the city, get blind fucking drunk, blow six hundred bucks that used to be in my wallet and ain’t there now, drive home blasted, already on the revoked list. Pass out on the floor. Really impress the old lady. Jesus.” And it only accelerates from there. Highly recommended.

Kenneth Fearing: The Big Clock

They’ve made two movies from this book. The first is from 1948 with Ray Milland, the second is from 1987 with Kevin Costner titled No Way Out. The book is better than both those movies combined. The set-up is simple and quite fantastic: a man is the main suspect in a murder case in which he is the leading investigator. Kenneth Fearing was also a poet and you can see that in the text. This compact novel is written with skill, finesse and precision. This is also a masterclass in building suspense. Read it.

Tom Kakonis: Michigan Roll

I had never heard of Tom Kakonis until one day I started looking for crime novels that took place in Michigan, USA. The reason for this was that I had been, a long time ago, an exchange student in Michigan, near the city of Grand Rapids, and I thought it would be cool to read something from that area again. I was already familiar with Elmore Leonard and his marvelous Detroit novels and Steve Hamilton’s wonderful Alex McKnight series. To my surprise, I found something new. Well, relatively new. Michigan Roll had been published in 1988. It was only one of three crime novels Tom Kakonis published, at least under his own name. (He wrote two more under a pen name, I think.)

Michigan Roll is filled with great dialogue, rough and real and quirky characters, brutal violence and wonderful settings. Speaking of settings, one of them is Traverse City in Northern Michigan. Which is again another coincidence: my American family had a weekend place, an old farm, near Traverse City. I was there in 1989. The events depicted in the novel take place presumably one year earlier. I never noticed anything. Anyway, a great writer and a great book. Read it if you can find it.

A massive thank you to Antti Tuomainen for chatting on the CTG blog today (and giving me three more books to add to my TBR pile!).

Antti’s latest novel THE MINE is out now – here’s the blurb: “A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. A mine spewing toxic secrets that threaten to poison them all … In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life. A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results … The Mine is a gripping, beautifully written, terrifying and explosive thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir.”

You can buy THE MINE from Amazon here

And find out more about Antti Tuomainen and his books pop over to his website here and be sure to follow him on Twitter @antti_tuomainen

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Guest Post: Mike Thomas talks the 10 phrases every cop hears in their career

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Today I’m delighted to be handing the controls of CTG HQ over to Mike Thomas. Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is out now and, having served in the police he’s just the right person to talk about the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career. So, over to Mike …

Thirty years is a long old time to be a copper. What makes that length of service feel even longer are the stock phrases you hear day in, day out. Some of them come from your ‘customers’ (or criminals, in old money). Some will drift from the mouths of your colleagues. And a few will be heard from normal MOPs (Members of the Public) who you interact with at incidents and general patrol – if you’re not sitting in the parade room filling in interminable forms for six hours, that is – during a shift. All of them are guaranteed to make you roll your eyes and curse inwardly, and wonder why on earth you ever signed up to be a plod.

  1. What’s your number, I’m going to have your badge

An old favourite of villains. Usually spouted by one of them after the police have had the temerity to arrest him for violently assaulting his girlfriend, his mother, and then several MOPs who intervened, before headbutting, kicking and spitting at the arresting officer, who was forced to wrestle him to the ground and handcuff him, all the while trying not to go overboard (reasonable force, y’see) or hurt him at all. This, of course, is police brutality in his tiny little mind, and now the man wants the arresting officer’s force number so that he can have them sacked and their warrant card –‘badge’ – taken away.

  1. Of course I loves him/her, I f*** him don’t I?

You go to a Domestic Dispute, and find the male and female have spent the day drinking litres of Spar super strength cider in their garden – it’s not raining that much, so of course it’s okay to sit in deck chairs amongst the weeds and those rusted car wheels – before deciding to spend the evening punching one another in the face really, really hard, while calling each other some rather choice names which people living three streets away could hear. Neither party wishes to make a complaint, arguing that they love each other, and when you question this that phrase above comes out. So you attempt to arrest the male, just to get him away from the house so the fighting stops and everyone within a two mile radius can get some sleep. Then, of course, they turn on you, and start punching you in the face really, really hard.

  1. If you weren’t in that uniform I’d fight you right here, right now

A strange one, this. Criminals or angry drunks seem to think that if you were to quickly change into a tee shirt and jeans it would a) suddenly make you weaker than if you were in uniform and b) mean you were no longer a police officer, just because you are out of ‘the cloth’. After a few years it had got to the point that I’d offer to strip naked to see if people still wanted to carry out their threat. Oddly, not one of them did.

  1. I’ve just got a quick call for you, it’s on the way back to the station

Ah, the control room. Sometimes called Ops Room, or if you’re feeling fancy, The Public Service Centre. Woo. Anyway, typically a windowless hive of workstations, staffed primarily by female civvy (civilian) controllers, who spend twelve hours a day/night handling endless calls from the public, liaising with other emergency services, and dishing out incidents to police officers via the radio system. Working there is a thankless, stressful nightmare, and they all deserve a medal. But this is the one phrase that gets those cop eyes rolling – thanks to GPS and other tech gubbins, the controllers know exactly where you are, all the time. And that incident they have on their list, the one that’s been hanging around for hours because nobody wants to do it, because it’s absolute rubbish? They’re now giving it to you, because it’s at a house on your route back to the station at the end of a tour of duty. Just a quick call. Just to pop in and see if elderly Mrs. Jones is okay. Just to clear that pesky incident from the computer screen. So you go, and you find Mrs. Jones dead, and she’s been dead for a month, and your first finish on time for two weeks goes south because now you’re the OIC (Officer in the Case) for a Sudden Death which sees you dealing with grieving relatives and mountains of paperwork and a trip to the mortuary and handling the putrid remains of a human being. Oh, and working an extra six hours on top of the ten you’ve already done. But hey, at least you’re still sucking air.

  1. There we are then

You’ve just heard that phrase from Number 4. You don’t want to do that ‘quick call’: you have seventeen incidents to update on the Niche computer system, your notebook to write up, the sergeant to liaise with, and it’s your daughter’s fifth birthday and you are not – under any circumstances – going to a call that has been sitting on a computer terminal in Ops Room since yesterday. You are going home on time for the first time in an age, dammit. So you touch the transmit button on your personal radio and explain, a tad grumpily, and ask them to pass it on to the next shift. The terse reply: ‘There we are then.’ And you sigh, and do you know why? Take a look at the first letter of each word she just transmitted across the airwaves. See what they spell? That’s what she’s just called you.

Thomas, Mike

  1. Can I wear your hat?

If I had a pound, et cetera. Friday night? Working the dreaded ‘After Dark’ shift, where you’re drafted into a city centre to police the thousands of revellers who have flooded into its pubs and clubs? You will hear this question every half an hour. You will, when new to the Job, let them wear your hat, even pose for photographs with smiley men and women – many of them drunker than you’ve ever been – while they laugh and giggle and try on your police helmet. Then, after a few years of it, and after that one time when a young whippersnapper ran off, laughing gleefully, with your ‘lid’, something inside you will snap. And you will refuse. You will ignore the drunk-yet-polite men and women, and come across as a right miserable old bugger. And you will walk away, ignoring their pleas for a picture while they wear your Custodian helmet, and you will find a dark, drizzly corner to stand in, and you will breathe a sigh of relief while contemplating your lot, and hope nobody ever finds you again, until five minutes later when, from beside you, you will hear: ‘Can I wear your hat?’ See also: ‘Are you the strippagram? A-hahahahahaha!’

  1. Why don’t you catch some real criminals?

Never understood this. What is a real criminal? The kingpin of a massive drugs importation gang? A murderer, or rapist? Someone who traffics children into sexual slavery? Or perhaps someone who repeatedly – and deliberately – kicks the wing mirror off their neighbour’s car due to a long-running and terribly petty dispute over parking spaces? It’s all crime. Kicking a wing mirror off is criminal damage. Hence, you are a criminal. The police are going to arrest you for it. There is no point whatsoever saying this phrase as they are placing you into the back of a prisoner van, hands cuffed to the base of your spine. It just sounds like you’re whining, so stop it. Nobody cares.

  1. What’s the problem? Is it going to take long?

See those bright yellow cones, and that fluttering police tape, and the half dozen police cars and two ambulances and a fire truck inside the cordon, plus that – look, up there! – crying man sitting on top of a twelve storey office block, legs over the ledge, face ashen and eyes on the ground all that way below as he mulls over whether to jump and end it all because he’s lost his job and his wife has left him and taken the kids and he has nothing whatsoever to live for? But anyway, we’re REALLY, REALLY SORRY for closing the road while our negotiator tries to save his life and it means you have to queue for ten minutes or – heaven forfend! – find an alternative route into work.

  1. This is harassment, bro

A close relative to number 7, and usually followed by Number 1. Frequently uttered by career criminals and recidivists, as if in astonishment that you have arrested them – again! – for burgling another house, or hitting their partner for the third time this week, or selling yet more dodgy E tabs that sent a clubber into a coma from which they will never awaken. The police are not harassing, you, for goodness’ sake. They are doing their jobs. If you don’t like getting lifted by the Old Bill, STOP DOING CRIMEY THINGS, THEN.

  1. I pay your wages

Wait, you personally go into my bank each and every month, fill out a deposit slip with my name and account details, write down the requisite amount, and hand it over to the cashier so they can give me all your money? THANK YOU SO MUCH, YOU ARE VERY KIND.

A big thank you to Mike Thomas for sharing the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career with us. As you can imagine, Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is a truly authentic police procedural, and the beginning of a new series featuring DC Will MacReady.

Here’s the blurb: “At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away. Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help – but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path …”

You can buy ASH AND BONES from Amazon here

And be sure to check out Mike’s website www.mikethomasauthor.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @ItDaFiveOh

 

Hot New Crime Blogger @SmDee13 talks about why she chose @citywriting for her creative writing MA

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Today I’m handing over the reins at CTG HQ to a fabulous new crime blogger and crime writer – Sam Dennis. I met Sam earlier this year when she was in her second term on the City University London Creative Writing MA, and about to start her own crime fiction blog.

Today Sam’s talking about why she picked City University for her MA …

I’ve always known I wanted to write books one day but I wasn’t very good at it. I have plenty of half-finished stories, characters begging to tell their stories and book ideas in various notepads, diaries, scrap pieces of paper, etc. but I kept on getting stuck. One day I decided to search for a course that could help me. I came across City University London’s course and immediately felt intimidated by the prestige and the amount of work I’d have to do – to write a full-length novel sounded terrifying but I knew it was something I had wanted from a young and so I applied.

Fast-forward to today and I’m a few weeks away from finishing my first year. It’s been very intense but extremely rewarding Creative Writing MA. (They haven’t paid me to say that.) It’s not your average course and although I had done my research about how much writing we’d have to do in the first year, it was a bit of a culture shock to have to write between 1,000 – 2,000 words a week. Before this course I had starting writing many stories but had never really planned a story from beginning to end – I didn’t think you needed to, I thought it ‘just came to you in a dream’. That’s where the course came in and turned my scribbles into fully fledged idea that could one day (I hope) be published.

What I love about City’s course is that we focus solely on crime fiction, our teachers are published crime novelists so they’re more than qualified to give advice and teach us how to write, but more than that, we have regular visits by some of the best crime writers also. In our bi-weekly workshops we don’t spend time searching for ‘meaning’ – although we do have some hilarious conversations about what was going through the authors head when they wrote a particular scene – instead we think about the immediate questions the author poses, how they create tension, whether we need to like the main character or not (we do), the twists and turns, and then we think about how we can do the same for our novels and actually do it. In the beginning I was so scared and nervous to share my work and had immediately dismissed it but then everyone’s feedback encouraged me and let me know we’re all a bunch of dark people who enjoy writing about and discussing gruesome things.

As we’re almost at the final hurdle of the first academic year I’m now at the stage where I’m writing my first novel – I never thought I’d get to this point. We had to spend a lot of time planning and plotting, working on the characters and throwing plenty of curveballs at them, and it’s been a great help. I’m very much a plotter so I absolutely loved that part of the course. But this is the bit that really counts and where everything I’ve learnt from September 2015 to today will see me through writing my novel from start to finish so that it’s completed by September 2017. It’s amazing to me that I will have written over 100,000 words.

I’m completely sold to crime thriller books and spend a lot of my time reading, reviewing, discussing, recommending them alongside studying and writing one of my own. It’s very surreal. What I’d say to anyone who’s toying with the idea of writing a crime thriller novel and would like a little guidance on how to do so, invest in yourself and do this course – you won’t be disappointed at all. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made so far and I’m excited to see where my book takes me one day.

A massive thank you to Sam Dennis for taking the helm of the CTG HQ today. 

You can catch Sam blogging about all things crime fiction over on her fabulous site www.thiscrimebook.com and be sure to follow her on Twitter @SmDee13

For more information about the brilliant Creative Writing MA offered by City University London (Twitter – @citywriting), hop over to their website here