DON’T MISS: Bestselling Crime Writers auctioned in CLIC Sargent Charity Auction!

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Over sixty authors are taking part in this year’s Get in Character eBay auction, an annual fundraiser organised by CLIC Sargent, which provides support for children and young people affected by cancer.

The auction started on Thursday 25th February and runs for ten days ending at 8pm on Sunday 6th March (so there’s still time to bid!) and lots of fab crime writers are taking part by donating meet-and-greet experiences, signed book bundles and the chance to have a character named after you (or a loved one) in their upcoming books.

Crime Writer Simon Kernick

Simon Kernick

You can bid to have afternoon tea with Mark Billingham, Amanda Jennings and Clare Mackintosh; or to have lunch at ROKA with Simon Kernick and Belinda Bauer.

Or, if you’d like to have a character named after you (or a loved one) you can bid to be part of upcoming books from the following authors: Alex Shaw, Ali McNamara, Anthony McGowan & Jo Nadin, Anouska Knight, Catherine Alliott, Clare Donoghue, Denise Mina, Elly Griffiths, Emma Donoghue, Emma Hannigan, Holly Martin, Jane Fallon, Jodi Taylor, Julie Cohen, Kate Ellis, Katie Fforde, Katy Regan, Lisa Jewell, Luca Veste, Lucy Clarke, Paula Hawkins, Renee Knight, Roger Ellory, Santa Montefiore, Sara Gruen, Sarah Hilary, Sarah Morgan, Simon Kernick, Stephen Edgar, Steve Robinson, Tim Weaver, Tammy Cohen.

Since it was launched in 2014 the auction has raised more than £18,000 for CLIC Sargent – the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families, who provide financial, practical, emotional and clinical support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. For more information visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

And to find out more about all the great things you can bid on, check out the auction at www.clicsargent.org.uk/getincharacter

What happened at the brilliant #BloodyScotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!

The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).

Scotland v England

Scotland v England

On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.

In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).

Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.

The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).

The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.

But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.

If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post. 

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

CTG Interviews: best-selling thriller writer Simon Kernick

The Final Minute cover image

Today I’m delighted to be joined on the CTG blog by thriller writer Simon Kernick. Known for his fast-paced, action-packed thrillers, Simon spills a few of his writing secrets as he tells us how he goes about creating his best-selling books …

Your latest novel THE FINAL MINUTE is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Final Minute, centres round Matt Barron, a man with severe amnesia who keeps have a recurring, and very vivid, dream in which he is in a house looking down at two dead women. This leads him to think that he may have killed them. As the book starts, he’s living with his sister in Wales but when a pair of menacing strangers turn up out of the blue with questions for Matt, he realizes that somewhere in his unconscious he possesses a piece of information that is extremely valuable for some very dangerous people. He’s soon on the run, being chased by people at every turn, including the police, and enlists the help of a hardnosed private detective Tina Boyd, to help him find out his true identity and what the information he possesses is before he’s either caught or killed.

You’re well known for writing super pacey thrillers like THE FINAL MINUTE. What’s your writing process – do you plan the stories first, or do you jump right in?

I’m very much a planner. I get my idea, then produce a chapter by chapter synopsis, and only when I’m absolutely sure I know where the book is going and how it’s going to end, do I finally start the writing process.

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You’ve also recently published a three-part novella ONE BY ONE about a group of school-friends coming together on a remote island twenty-one years after one of their friends was found dead. What attracted you about releasing a story in episodes and did the different format change your writing process?

I had a story idea two years ago that I really liked but wasn’t big enough to fit it in a book and so I used it as a novella. Since I’ve been a fan of serials since childhood I thought it would be an interesting idea to make the novella 3 parts, with parts 1 and 2 ending on real cliffhangers.

What was it that drew you to writing thrillers?

I’ve written stories of one sort or another right back from the age of 5, and I’ve always been a fan of reading thrillers so it seemed like a natural progression to try my hand at writing one.

For those aspiring to write a thriller, what’s your top tip for writing a great story?

Keep the story moving. Always. Let no word be wasted. People aren’t interested in padding when they’re reading a thriller.

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And finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

I’m writing a new thriller which needs to be finished by the end of September, then I’m going to have a nice holiday. Then it’ll be onto planning the next one. There’s no rest for the wicked.

A massive thank you to best-selling thriller writer Simon Kernick for dropping by the CTG blog today.

To find out more about Simon and his books you can hop on over to his website at www.simonkernick.com/books/

His latest book is THE FINAL MINUTE – here’s the blurb: “It’s night and I’m in a strange house. The lights are on, and I’m standing outside a half-open door. Feeling a terrible sense of foreboding, I walk slowly inside. And then I see her. A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed. She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere. And the most terrifying thing is that I think her killer might be me …

After a traumatic car accident wipes out his memory, Matt Barron retreats to his sister’s house in Wales to begin his slow recovery. But something’s wrong. He keeps having a recurring dream of being in a house with a group of dead bodies and a bloody knife in his hand, and he’s beginning to have real doubts that he is who his sister says he is. Then one night, the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable and Matt is forced to flee for his life. He needs to find out who he is, whatever the cost, and there’s only one person who can help: ex Met cop, turn private detective, Tina Boyd. But Matt’s a hunted man and, as Tina digs into his background, she suddenly finds herself in the firing line. She needs to find out the truth. And fast.”

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Also, be sure to check out his three-part novella ONE BY ONE – here’s the blurb: “Seven ex-school friends have been brought together on a remote island. They haven’t all been in contact since a fateful night twenty-one years ago, when their friend Rachel Skinner was found dead. The man arrested for her murder has now been acquitted, and the seven friends fear for their lives. But are they hiding from the right person? Or have they fallen into a deadly trap?”

CTG Reviews: Dead Man’s Gift (Parts 1 and 2) by Simon Kernick

Dead Man's Gift cover image

Dead Man’s Gift cover image

Part 1: Yesterday

What the blurb says: “MP Tim Horton arrives home to find his seven year old son has been abducted by a ruthless gang of kidnappers. All they have left behind is the brutally murdered body of the Horton’s nanny. The gang’s demands are simple: Tim must sacrifice his own life in order to save his son’s. It’s the ultimate dead man’s gift.”

Part 2: Last Night

And for the second part, the blurb continues: “MP Tim Horton is waiting to hear from his son’s kidnappers. Knowing he’s being watched, and too scared to go to the police, he contacts the only man who may be able to help him, his brother-in-law: an ex-soldier called Scope who has a reputation for sorting things out and getting things done.”

 

Released as a three-part series, Dead Man’s Gift hooked me from the first page of part one and pulled me at break-neck speed through the first installment, and on to the second. It left me breathless, and repeatedly pressing the right side of my Kindle to go to the next page even though it told me I’d reached the end of part two! I was horrified to learn that I’d have to wait until 5th June to download the final part.

As the story is still ‘live’ and in progress it doesn’t feel right to write a full review – you know I don’t do spoilers – and, after all, it’d be much more fun for you to download the first two parts and get caught up with the story for yourself.

But, what I will say, is that Simon Kernick has created a chillingly compelling scenario and a great cast of characters. MP Tim Horton has just hours to save his son, enlisting the help of the only person he knows who just might have the skills to do it. If they fail, Tim will be forced to do what his child’s abductors are demanding or his son will die. But the gang are smarter, and better connected, than Tim could ever have imagined. As the clock counts down, and the criminal’s demands are revealed in their horrifying entirety, it seems that Tim will have no choice but to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This is a pulse-pounding, high-action, gripping read, with the suspense made all the more heightened because of the wait until part three is released on 5th June.

If you like thrillers, this will be a real treat. Go download it. Now!

 

[I bought my Kindle copies of Dead Man’s Gift parts 1 and 2. I’m now waiting with anticipation for part 3 to be ready for download]

 

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part Two

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

I did indeed get up in time to make it to the first panel of the day, but I didn’t manage breakfast. Still, it was worth it. The Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood panel was great fun and all the panel members were surprisingly perky for a nine o’clock start. Moderator Jake Kerridge talked to panellists MJ Arlidge, Mason Cross, Jake Woodhouse, Kate Griffin and Colette McBeth about their debut novels and the route they’d taken to publication.

Next up, was the Death in High Heels: Women as Victims panel. MR Hall, Jessica Mann, Jessie Keane, and Martyn Waites (who also writes as Tanya Carver) debated the issue of how women are portrayed in crime fiction, especially when the victim of the crime is female. It was an interesting and thought provoking discussion covering everything from at what point violence becomes ‘torture porn’ through to the use of female images on book covers.

I then had time for a swift coffee (black, no sugar) before heading into The Modern Thriller panel. As thrillers are my absolute favourite of the genre, this was one of the panels I’d been most eager to see. Moderated by Doug Johnstone, the panel of Belinda Bauer, Helen Fitzgerald, Chris Ewan and Simon Kernick talked about what constitutes the modern thriller, and how it differs from a crime novel. Defining characteristics seemed to be agreed on as pace, and a sense of urgency. They spoke of their own favourite modern thrillers, with Harlan Coben’s Tell No One coming out as a popular choice.

I didn’t stop for lunch, instead going straight on to watch the Things That Go Bump In the Night: Magic, Paranormal & All Things Supernatural panel. Moderated by Kevin Wignall, with Ben Aaronovitch, AK Benedict, James Oswald, and Anne Zouroudi, this was a lively panel with some great discussion about mixing crime with the paranormal. I particularly enjoyed some of the more random questions poised by Kevin Wignall to the panel (which were questions he had been asked by children when doing author events) – these included: ‘Can you tell me a story about a hamster?’ And ‘What would be your X-Man name and superpower?’ Fabulous.

By that point in the day I was rather panelled-out, but managed to find the energy to head along to the drinks reception that evening to watch 2014 CWA Diamond Dagger Recipient Simon Brett in performance. Then it was off for a fabulous curry with the Icelandic crime writers before heading to the bar for a few last orders drinks (and beyond!).