Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 3): Some New Blood, A Secret Garden and the Crime Writers Football Match

The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Here are a couple more of the highlights from the weekend …

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The New Blood Panel

Every year Val McDermid picks her four favourite debuts and showcases them on the New Blood panel. It’s a fab panel for readers to be introduced to some brilliant new authors, and always has a great vibe to it. This year was no exception, with the four debut authors – Martin Holmen (CLINCH), JS Law (TENACITY), Beth Lewis (THE WOLF ROAD) and Abir Mukherjee (A RISING MAN) – doing a fantastic job of enticing the audience to read their books.

I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front row for this panel. It was great to see the four debut authors having such a fun time with Val McDermid who expertly put them at their ease. As they talked about their books, it was fascinating to hear about their inspirations and research. It emerged that something they all had in common was the desire to explore what it is to be an outsider, and to have lead characters who recognised their own ‘otherness’.

Martin Holmen said that his inspiration for writing CLINCH was to create a book that combined Swedish expression with the great American thriller tradition. JS Law talked about coming to the realisation that a female naval officer’s experience of the armed forces was very different to his own as a male officer – Val McDermid referred to TENACITY as a feminist Submarine Thriller – and wanting to explore that difference with a female main character. Beth Lewis jumped into THE WOLF ROAD with the premise – what if the person you love is actually a monster? And Abir Mukherjee talked about creating his main character, who while being British in India doesn’t align himself to either culture. Add in Abir’s stories of researching in Indian, Beth’s survival skills course anecdotes (what ever did happen to that pigeon??) and JS Law’s talk of putting his arm into the waste tanks on-board a submarine – which had the whole audience recoiling at the grossness! And this panel had to be a top highlight of the festival.

All four debut authors are well worth checking out:

Click here to buy CLINCH by Martin Holmen

Click here to buy TENACITY by JS Law and follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

Click here to buy THE WOLF ROAD by Beth Lewis and follow her on Twitter @bethklewis

Click here to buy A RISING MAN by Abir Mukherjee and follow him on Twitter @radiomukhers

And, of course, be sure to pre-order Val McDermid’s latest book OUT OF BOUNDS here and follow her on Twitter @valmcdermid

 

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The Bonnier Zaffre Secret Garden Party

When you get a party invitation that promises ‘Prosecco, canapés and cake’ and is being held in a secret garden, you just have to go! And Bonnier Zaffre know how to throw a seriously good party. In a (relatively) secret location, the sun shone as I drank Prosecco and mingled with the fabulous stable of authors that Bonnier Zaffre have put together.

It was great to catch up with the Bonnier authors including the ever-bubbly Alex Caan (CUT TO THE BONE), my pal David Young (STASI CHILD) who I did the MA in Creative Writing at City University London with, the lovely David Jackson (A TAPPING AT MY DOOR) and criminal lawyer Neil White (FROM THE SHADOWS). I also got to have a good chat with bloggers Liz Barnsley, The Book Trail and Northern Lass, PR wonder Jamie-Lee Nardone, and crime writers Susi Holliday, Anya Lipska, Zoe Sharp, Martyn Waites, and Mark Hill.

 

The North vs South Crime Writers Football Match

The annual crime writers’ football match was held on Saturday afternoon in front of a large crowd, and as well as crime writers there were a few agents and publishers among the players.

Players for The North were: Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Howard Linskey, Col Bury, Nick Quantrill, Michael Fowler, Vincent Holland-Keen, Rob Sinclair, and Neil White

Players for The South were: Tim Weaver, James Law, Ian Ayris, Darren Laws, Ed Wood, Phil Patterson, Tom Witcomb, Steven Dunne, and Emad Akhtar.

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As always it was a fiercely fought battle, with the South scoring first (Emad Akhtar), and the North equalising shortly after (due to an own goal by Ian Ayris). Both sides had brought their A-games, but as the end of the match drew closer they started to tire. When referee Mark Billingham announced there would be a penalty shoot out, and the players started to take their shots, it looked for a while as if there’d be no goals. But Rob Sinclair came through for The North and won them the match when Phil Patterson missed the last kick.

So The North remained victorious and, unlike last year, there were no bones broken during the course of the match so all players from both sides were able to celebrate fully in the bar afterwards!

 

Be sure to stop by the CTG blog again tomorrow to see my photo galley from Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (including lots more action shots from the football)!

Sound like your kind of thing? Make sure you check out Harrogate Festivals and join the mailing list for the details of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2017

Confessions from Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (Part 2): The Football Special

The Ref and The Players - The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

The Ref and The Players – The North (in Red/Black) The South (in Yellow/Blue)

One of the great new additions to the festival programme this year was the football match. At 6.30pm on Saturday evening two teams of brave crime writers lined up to be counted in a passionate and thrilling match for the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup.

The teams, pictured here at the start of the match with Referee Mark Billingham, were:

  • For the North (sponsored by Fox Spirit): Luca Veste, Craig Robertson, Nick Quantrill, Col Bury, Howard Linskey, Vincent Holland-Keen, Dan Stewart and Graham Smith.
  • For the South (sponsored by Crime Files): Tim Weaver, Chris Ewan, James Law, Graeme Cameron, Tom Witcomb, Adam Hamdy, Ian Ayris and Darren Laws.

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With a large crowd of spectators assembled to watch them the match kicked off and right from the start the competition was fierce. The North, with great form from their convincing win at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match last year, started strong, but the South were determined to give them a challenge and at first possession seemed equally held.

Then the first goal came – from Luca Veste for the North – and from then on the goals from the North kept on coming.

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A short time later it seemed like the South might shorten the gap with Tim Weaver putting the ball in the back of the net. But the goal was disallowed because it occurred after Craig Robertson saved a goal from Tom Witcomb – whose momentum took him illegally (but accidentally) into the box where he illegally (accidentally) flattened Craig – both players were still on the ground when the ball went in the net). Despite some player protests, Referee Mark Billingham stood firm in his decision to disallow the illegal goal, and the teams played on.

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The action was fast and the teams were cheered on as they chased the ball up and down the field with vigor and determination right to the final whistle. Although the South played valiantly to the end, this match was all about the North – with the final score standing at 6-0 to the North. The goals scored by Luca Veste (1), Howard Linskey (2) and Col Bury (3). Craig Robertson saved two penalties.

The match was a real crowd pleaser, with the enthusiastic crowd cheering on the teams the whole way through. But this sporting event didn’t pass without the sheading of blood, sweat and (probably) tears. Confirmed injuries included a fractured wrist (Graeme Cameron) and a fractured ankle (Luca Veste) – and it’s worth noting the grit of these players as they played on with their injuries, Luca still managing to hit the bar and post after his.

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As the triumphant North held high the Harrogate Crime Writers North vs South Challenge Cup later that evening, talk was already turning to the 2016 rematch, and the rigorous training schedules that the players would be putting in place in preparation.

Massive kudos to all who played. It was a fabulous event and one that I’ll be super excited to see return in 2016!

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

Val McDermid presents the cup to The North (photo credit: Fenris Oswin)

[with thanks to Kat Miller and Luca Veste for the excellent action photos]

CTG Interviews: Paul Gadsby about his new book Chasing the Game

Chasing the Game cover image

Chasing the Game cover image

 

Today I’m delighted to welcome Paul Gadsby to the CTG blog to talk about his new book – Chasing the Game.

So, let’s get to it …

Chasing the Game is out now, and gathering rave reviews. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a crime thriller depicting one of the most fascinating real-life crimes in British history – the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966. Three months before the football World Cup tournament was due to begin, the trophy, on display in Westminster Central Hall, was stolen in an audacious daylight raid with the back doors of the building forced open. No one actually saw the trophy being taken but a ransom demand was made a few days later to the Football Association (FA), who were desperate to save face and reclaim the trophy, and a rendezvous organised where the trophy would be exchanged for cash. But the exchange never happened, one man was arrested for demanding the ransom but was never connected to the actual theft, so the identity of the thieves remains a mystery. Bizarrely, the trophy was discovered under a bush in a suburban street in Norwood a week after the theft by a dog named Pickles, who subsequently became a national hero.

I wanted Chasing the Game to be very much a fictional novel before anything else (not a documentary-style review of the crime etc), so the make-up of the gang of thieves and their particular characters and motivations were all driven by my imagination and I had a blank canvas to work on there. I used elements of the real-life tale (the ransom demand, the exchange set-up) and created extra conflict by having my FA chairman as a steely character who is determined to recover from the global humiliation the theft caused him and his organisation, and hell-bent on making the criminals pay. I had a theory early on about how I believed the trophy ended up under that bush, and basically worked back from there to create a gripping story.

In Chasing the Game, a real-life event – the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy (the football World Cup) in London in March 1966 – is integral to the story. What was it about this event that sparked your idea for the novel?

I was drawn in by the fact that the crime has so many unanswered questions to it. The actual theft appears to have been carried out with a fair degree of good planning and professional expertise, so it seems a group of people did it rather than someone alone snatching an opportunity. But then the trophy – their only asset in getting something out of their efforts – ends up under a hedge a week later. Something must have gone dramatically wrong between that group of people during those seven days, as the pressure mounted with the case attracting international publicity.

I’ve always been fascinated by the internal structure of organised criminal set-ups and the personality clashes that rise to the surface. I’d been toying with a theme for a crime novel about leadership – about how some people have the natural skillset to be an effective operations man in a number two role but not necessarily the abilities to handle the wider scale responsibilities that come with being number one – and thought it would be good fun to drop this theme into the midst of a dramatic story such as the 1966 theft.

How did you go about researching the time period and the real life events?

I’ve always been into 1960s-set gangster stuff such as the Krays and the Great Train Robbery, so I read a lot of books surrounding those characters and looked into the pressures they faced in their lives at that time; what kind of lifestyles they were living and what they were aspiring to. I also watched a number of television documentaries about everyday life in Britain in the 1960s (thank you BBC4 et al) because I was determined to make that period a character of its own in the book. I love the music of that era but have always felt the way the 1960s is often portrayed to people like me who were born after then (Swinging Sixties, everyone flocking to a vibrant Carnaby Street to spend a fortune on the latest fashions etc) is a little skewed from reality. I wanted people consumed with the grind of their jobs, their money problems, their marital problems, their parenting problems and so on – characters burdened by the harsh challenges that life always throws into people’s laps.

That’s where the ransom demand in Chasing the Game proved really handy as a motivation driver within the narrative. I deliberately placed my ‘firm’ of criminals in west London, a few miles away from the central Soho scene they ultimately want to get to and grab a stake in – and the ransom cash is their leg-up to this world, their ticket to a brighter future. The trophy theft is also a chance for my ageing, old-school FA chairman to hit back against the thieves he sees as a stark representation of an increasingly insurgent society, and leaves him questioning his place in the world.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

Chasing the Game is my first novel to be published but I’d written a few before that and with each one the process was slightly different. With this one I had the end of the story in place first, and worked back from there, carefully mapping out the characters and the various conflicts they would face, then drawing up a detailed chapter breakdown before getting into the actual writing. With other books I delved into the writing a lot quicker – happy with the overall concept and where things would finish, I went for it, adopting the ‘car headlights in the dark’ approach (writing away knowing what is immediately in front of you as well as the end destination, but never seeing what is a little further down the road). This approach allows the detail of each chapter to develop more organically and is an enjoyable way to write, but is probably more suited to character-driven work rather than plot-driven material. Either method (and many more besides) is fine and can be successful as far as I’m concerned, as long as the writer has a burning passion to explore the themes they want to unravel, and has created mesmerising characters who have plenty at stake within a tension-riddled story.

Author Paul Gadsby

Author Paul Gadsby

Who are your favourite crime writers – which books and authors have inspired you?

I have tended to prefer standalone books rather than mass-volume serials; I love it where the writer has the freedom to take his main character down any dark alley and the reader really doesn’t know how bad things will get. With the serials, we always know the main character is going to be fine and any injuries sustained will not be too serious because they’ll be back in another adventure next summer. That said, although I’m no great fan of those formats, there have been some tremendous writers who have gone down that path and deserve every credit – Ian Fleming for one, while Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham are delightful writers and I’ve enjoyed many of their books. Ray Banks’ mini-series following PI Cal Innes was fantastic and wrapped up with great humility, while David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet inspired me to explore mixing fact with fiction.

I love noir classics as well as slick contemporary thrillers. Elmore Leonard’s ear for dialogue is, in my opinion, unmatched. James Crumley is a big hero of mine as are the likes of Ken Bruen, James Sallis, Patricia Highsmith, Jake Arnott, Graham Greene, Jim Thompson, Adrian McKinty and James Ellroy. Eddie Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce is a glorious standalone book and one of my all-time favourites, as is The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I have written the first draft of another novel, a tale about a recently-retired boxer who is forced into a life of crime by his former manager, and look forward to editing and polishing that soon. But in the meantime I’m enjoying promoting Chasing the Game – reviews from crime fiction sites have been fantastic so far, while I’ve been asked to speak about the book at this summer’s Festival of Football Ideas in Bristol, a literary-music-art-themed event, which I’m really looking forward to.

A huge thank you to Paul for allowing us to grill him! 

If you’d like to find out more about Paul Gadsby and Chasing the Game pop on over to his website at http://www.paulgadsbyauthor.co.uk/