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

 

#BehindDeadEyes Blog Tour: Exclusive Sneak Peep at Chapter 1 of Howard Linskey’s new book

Behind Dead Eyes

Today I’m delighted to be able to bring you an exclusive sneak peep at the first chapter of Howard Linskey’s latest crime novel – BEHIND DEAD EYES.

Here’s what the blurb says: “A corpse is found: its identity extinguished in the most shocking manner imaginable. Detective Ian Bradshaw can’t catch the killer if no one can ID the victim. Out there, somewhere, a missing young woman may hold the answer. Journalist Helen Norton is about to uncover a massive criminal conspiracy. She just needs the final piece of the puzzle. Soon, she will learn the price of the truth.

True-crime writer Tom Carney receives letters from a convicted murderer who insists he is innocent. His argument is persuasive – but psychopaths are often said to be charming …”

So, to the extract …

 

Letter Number Three

Perhaps you think I’m a monster. Is that it?
Maybe that’s why you‘ve not been in touch. Have you read terrible things about me Tom? Heard stories that disturbed you? None of them are true.

I’ve done bad things of course, who hasn’t? None of us are saints. Let’s not bother to pretend we are. I know the one thing you truly understand is human frailty Tom. I’ve had to account for my actions and I’ve paid a very heavy penalty for my misdeeds but I can assure you I never killed anyone.

Did you believe the poison that drips from the pens of those so- called reporters? They’re not interested in the truth, none of them. They spend their lives wading through other people’s trash looking for dirt, turning over rocks to see what crawls out. And they have the nerve to call me names.

The Ladykiller.

What chance did they give me?

Please see me. I’d visit you but clearly they won’t allow that. If we were to meet face to face, I’m certain I could convince you I am not the man they say I am. If you can look me in the eye and actually believe I am capable of such savagery, then I promise I won’t blame you for leaving me here to rot, so what exactly have you got to lose?

I think you are a truth-seeker Tom but you don’t seem to be at all interested in my truth. That’s disappointing.

You are my last and only chance Tom Carney. Please DO NOT continue to ignore me.

Yours, in hope and expectation.

Richard Bell

1995

Chapter One

Tom Carney was having a very bad day. Maybe it was the new kitchen cupboard doors and the way they refused to hang straight or the boiler going on the blink again or perhaps it was the letter from a convicted murderer.

No, it was definitely the boiler. Bloody thing.

He hadn’t owned the house long but it seemed virtually every part of the offending boiler had failed and been replaced at great cost, only for another of its components to buckle under the strain soon afterwards and cease to function. He should have got a new boiler when he bought the creaking, old pile but funds were short then and virtually non-existent today, so he’d opted for the false economy of replacing it bit by bit instead of wholesale. How he regretted that now, as he stood tapping the pipes with a wrench in an attempt to knock the ancient thing back into life; a tactic that had, amazingly, actually worked once before but, unsurprisingly, failed to bear fruit this time. Tom exhaled, swore and surveyed the stone-cold water tank ruefully. It came to something when a personal letter from a man who had beaten someone to death with a hammer was the least of his concerns.

He went back downstairs and tried to phone the plumber again but the guy didn’t pick up. If events ran their usual course, Tom would have to leave several messages before the plumber eventually got back to him. He might then grudgingly offer to ‘fit him in’ towards the end of his working week. The plumber would do this while making it sound as if he was granting Tom an immense favour. If Tom was really lucky the bloke might even turn up on the actual day but he knew this was far from guaranteed.

Tom recorded a message then picked up the envelope from the hall table. The words ‘FAO TOM CARNEY’ were scrawled on it in large block capitals with a marker pen, above an address hand written in biro. It was disconcerting to realise one of the relatively few people who knew where Tom lived these days was a murderer.

For the attention of Tom Carney? Why not some other reporter? One who was actually still reporting perhaps and not so disillusioned he’d turned his back on the whole bloody profession, to plough what was left of his money into renovating a crumbling money pit? This was the third letter he’d received from Richard Bell. Tom had read then studiously ignored the previous two, hoping one of the north-east’s most notorious killers would eventually tire of contacting him but, just like his victim, Tom had clearly underestimated the killer’s resolve.

Bell was a determined man but was he a psychopath? He read the letter again, surveying the handwriting for evidence of derangement but there was none. This wasn’t some rambling, half-crazed diatribe, scrawled in crayon and inspired by demonic voices. It was angry and there was an undeniable level of frustration at Tom’s failure to engage with him but that was all. Having singled Tom out, Bell presumably felt the hurt of rejection. The handwriting was neat enough and it flowed evenly across the page. Tom couldn’t help wondering if this really was the same hand that brought a hammer crashing down repeatedly onto a defenceless woman’s skull until she lay dead in the front seat of her own car? A jury thought so and the judge had told Bell he was a monster. Tom remembered that much about a case that dominated the front pages for days a couple of years back. Was Richard Bell insane or was he really an innocent man; the latest in a long line of miscarriages of justice in a British legal system discredited by one scandal after another.

Tom took the letter into his living room, if he could still accurately call it that with the carpet ripped up and tools scattered everywhere. He sat in the room’s solitary arm chair and read it once more. Richard Bell’s message was consistent and clear. He wasn’t mad and he wasn’t bad. He hadn’t killed his lover. Someone else had done that and he was still out there.

BEHIND DEAD EYES is out now. You can buy it here from  Amazon here

Find out more about Howard Linskey at www.howardlinskey.com and follow him on Twitter @HowardLinksey

And be sure to check out all the other great stops along the tour …

BDE Blog Tour banner

#ChooseThePlot launches today!

Specsavers

Those experimental folks at Specsavers and Penguin are launching a new literary experiment today – #ChooseThePlot.

They’re inviting crime thriller fans to get involved in the creation of a new novella through the online crime community Dead Good Books.

#ChooseThePlot will use social media to get your views on the plot, steering the story for crime writers Christopher Fowler, James Oswald and Jane Casey to write. Each author will write a chapter following on from the last, shaping the story and adding their own unique take on the situations presented to them.

On 24th October, at the end of this experimental process, a digital only eBook of the novella will be available to download for free.

Penguin

To get involved with #ChooseThePlot hop on over to www.specsavers.co.uk/choosetheplot where you’ll find all the info on how to get involved and the details of how the stories are progressing.

Happy plotting!

Best Bookish Bank Holiday Ever with #PenguinJourneys #AskaPenguin

Penguin Journeys Logo

Penguin Journeys Logo

With the last bank holiday of the summer here, there’s still time to get bookish inspiration from the fabulous #PenguinJourneys team.

#PenguinJourneys strives to make boring travel-time a thing of the past by giving holiday reading recommendations from Penguin Random House UK and its wonderful authors.

If you’re looking for a recommended read, simply tweet your bookish question to the team using the hashtags #AskaPenguin and #PenguinJourneys this Friday lunchtime to receive a recommended read in book, eBook, audiobook or even perhaps a podcast format.

You can also check out the fabulous #PenguinJourneys blog pages at http://penguinblog.co.uk/ to see some of the great journeys and reading recommendations they’re talking about including some sneak previews like a fabulous extract of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.

If pinning is your thing, #PenguinJourneys has teamed up with authors including Clare Balding and Graeme Simsion to take you on a literary odyssey around the world. Find out more on Pinterest here: http://www.pinterest.com/penguinukbooks/pack-your-bags-for-a-literary-odyssey-with-penguin/ and explore famous literary journeys, listen to extracts from the audiobooks mapped to each voyage, and be inspired by stories from their holiday destinations.

Let’s make this the best bookish bank holiday of 2014.

Happy Reading!