When the Music’s Over

Once again the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is over for another year. The whirlwind of books, authors, crime and intrigue has finished. The dead bodies have been scraped off the pavements, the books have been transported back inside bricks and mortar buildings and us readers have gone back to our mundane office life hankering after a world where we could get paid to read.

As always this was another great weekend, created by the fantastic team at Harrogate International Festival’s, with a wonderful programme committee lead by the excellent Peter James. The programme was jam packed to the point that it was difficult to find a session that could be missed. Missed, some had to be though, as this isn’t just about listening to talks, there are free books to be collected, passports to be stamped thanks to Crime files on tour, people to chat to and even fingerprints to be taken and crimes to be solved.

Unfortunately one of the biggest crimes this year at the festival was  the signing queues. For some reason WHSmiths decided to ditch the age old Harrogate tradition of one queue for all, instead opting to have separate queues for each author. This meant that if you had more than one author you wanted to meet you had to queue numerous times and it was never certain which queue was for who. However this lack of management did probably lead to one of the biggest shocks of the whole weekend – an unlikely friendship was struck up between me and my arch rival, the bookseller.

Every year the same two booksellers turn up with their big pile of books, they go into no sessions, have little interest in the authors and just want to get the books signed to sell them on. Every year, because I’m known for my calm and tolerant persona, this really winds me up as they are always at the front of the queue. However this year, in the face of adversity me and the Bookseller drew on our great british spirit and joined forces sorting some of the queues ourselves. See there is always a silver lining and its amazing how suddenly having a common aim can unite enemies.

Every year there are some fantastic sessions and this year was no exception. Julia Crouch chaired an interesting discussion about domestic suspense which included Paula Hawkins and the award winning Claire Mackintosh, whereas Tess Gerritsen took to the stage alone and was absolutely amazing. The discussion between Val McDermid and Susan Calman was definitely a highlight for me. Both have a great sense of humour and it’s clear there was a real friendship there which always makes the panels more entertaining. 

Surprise of the weekend was the ‘Out of Africa’ panel. It was informative and entertaining and I came away with another new author to try.That being said though, it does mean that technically I didn’t get to complete the TOPCWFC2016 as I hadn’t been aware Leye Adenle was attending. Yet I’ve created another rule for my challenge which is, if I didn’t know in advance they would be there it doesn’t count. Therefore I have officially ticked off another one on my list of 40 things to do.

The festival is not just all books either, there is beer, wine, football, and even music. I was lucky enough to meet the excellent Mark Billingham, who whilst signing my book asked if I’d ever heard a song called Candi’s Room by Bruce Springsteen. Mark, as well as his main character Thorne, are well known lovers of music, so this would have been a great opportunity to impress him with my expertise. But no, instead of saying something witty  I stuttered that I thought Brotherhood of Man had done something too. Well the look of disappointment on his face was just embarrassing, why couldn’t I have picked something cooler?? That surprisingly was the end of our conversation.

From the Thursday evening awards, through the final session with Yorkshire chap Peter Robinson it has once again been a fantastic weekend. I’ve come away with tons of book, including lots of new authors to try, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

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Nemesis

So with one week and two days left to go until the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival I thought I’d have a bit of a check where I am with the TOPCWFC 2016. I had high hopes this year. Looking through the list there were a lot of authors that I’ve seen before and therefore there was a high chance that I had read something of theirs already. However it does look like sadly I may have taken on more than I can chew yet again. This challenge is beginning to be my nemesis.

On the positive side, I’ve realised I’d counted wrong in my initial plan. I had counted two authors separately although they write as a team, and I’ve also excluded one author on the grounds he only writes true crime and this is a fiction challenge (my challenge my rules!) However with only nine days before the festival I still have 4 authors to go. Now admittedly as I write this I’m about to finish an audio book of one, and I’m halfway through another in hard copy, yet I still suspect it’s going to be a case of so near yet so far.

Out of interest though I’ve listed all those books I have read below. Obviously with some authors I’ve read most of their novels and so I’ve just listed the most recent one. It was actually quite an interesting exercise going through the authors and seeing what I’d read. Although it has made me realise how many new books there are out there that I really want to read. If only I could find a job that would pay me to read books all day, fingers crossed for next year.

The TOPCWFC 2016

  1. Linwood Barclay – Broken Promise
  2. Mark Billingham – Time of Death (audiobook)
  3. Peter James – A Twist of the Knife
  4. Sharon Bolton – Little Black Lies
  5. Mari Hannah – The Murder Wall
  6. Ysra Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea
  7. Julia Crouch – The Long Fall
  8. Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry
  9. Paula Hawkins – Girl on a Train
  10. Clare Mackintosh – I let you go
  11. Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
  12. Simon Brett – The Hanging in the Hotel
  13. Frances Brody – A Death in the Dales
  14. Ann Granger – Dead In the Water (audio)
  15. Catriona McPherson – Quiet Neighbours
  16. Ruth Ware – In a Dark Dark Wood
  17. Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places
  18. Brooke Magnanti – The Turning Tide
  19. Kate Medina – Fire Damage
  20. Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence
  21. Sophie Hannah – A Game for all the Family (audio)
  22. Simon Kernick – The Murder Exchange
  23. Laura Lippman – After I’m Gone
  24. Martyn Waites – The Dolls House (Yes technically its Tania Carver but its my rules!)
  25. Laura Wilson – The Wrong Girl
  26. Jeffrey Deaver – The Skin Collector
  27. Mark Lawson – The Deaths
  28. Gerald Seymour
  29. Martin Holmen – Clinch
  30. J S Law – Tenacity (audiobook)
  31. Beth Lewis
  32. Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
  33. NJ Cooper – Vengence in Mind
  34. Paul Mendleson – The serpentine road
  35. Deon Meyer – Devil’s Peak
  36. Margie Orford – Daddy’s Girl
  37. Michael Stanley –
  38. (Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollop one author above)
  39. Pierre Lemaitre – Blood Wedding
  40. Bernard Minier – The Frozen Dead
  41. SJ Parris – 
  42. Martina Cole – The Life
  43. Tess Gerritsen – Last to Die
  44. Charles Cumming – A Divided Spy
  45. Frank Gardner (True Crime so not in the challenge)
  46. Kate Rhodes – River of Souls
  47. Gillian Slovo – Ten Days
  48. Neil Cross – Captured

 

 

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Mud, Muck and Dead Things

So this weekend was finally the dawning of Mr F’s big challenge. As you may know in his wisdom he had decided that he wanted to raise money for a charity he is involved with. Mr F thought that cycling the length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal and back in two days would be a good way to do this. Of course this meant that being the selfless kind of partner I am, I jumped at the chance to drive the support van. Apparently I’d find lots of lovely café stops along the way, have loads of time to enjoy reading in the sunshine and generally find it a thoroughly relaxing couple of days for me. Well Mr F talks utter nonsense. 

After months of planning and training (Obviously Mr F concentrated on the cycling side of things, my contribution was to make sure I had enough books packed to keep me entertained) things started well. 4.30am the sun was almost shining, the van was full of energy drinks and sandwiches and I had a pre-programmed satnav telling me where to go. Skipton was the first stop for me and an early morning Costa Coffee plus the magic toilet key from the Canal Trust meant it was a nice leisurely start in the sun with a new book (Death in the Dales in case you are interested)20160630_185455

If I now tell you that 4 days later I am reading that same book and some of its pages are still damp, you might guess that it wasn’t the leisurely couple of days I was hoping for.  The weather was horrendous, rain was heavier than I’ve seen it for ages, there was thick mud everywhere, journeys took much longer than they should have done, there were mechanical failures, a crash and at no point were feet dry.  I don’t think Mr F had much fun either!

muppetsThe first day was definitely the worst. The weather meant that everything was running behind. Even when the sun came out there was so much mud that it was dangerous to ride it. Two hours I stood with Mr F Sr. on a bridge waiting for the cyclist to appear, we looked like we were auditioning for the parts of Statler and Waldorf. At least on this stretch Mr F did learn that sometimes it’s best to go round puddles not through them, and flying over the handlebars headfirst into them is definitely not a good plan.

Some of the parts I visited were very pretty, there were some lovely canal moorings and if you managed to see through all the rain it was probably very beautiful. There were some lovely people we met on the way and the fried egg sandwich that Janet and her baps provided on the Friday morning was possibly the best one I’ve had for years. However all in all this was quite possibly one of the most stupid ideas that Mr F has ever had. It does just prove how stubborn he is though as he did the whole 255 mile journey and finally got back to Leeds very wet, very cold, very muddy, but having raised over £2500 for Africa’s Gift which made it all worth while (probably!)

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Soho Honey – AW Rock Q and Q – Blogival Tour

For my second act of the Blogival festival I’m delighted to welcome A.W. Rock to the ‘stage’ author of the gripping Soho Honey.

Hi and thanks for joining me. I believe you spent a while working in Soho, are the characters in your novel inspired by real people?

I have spent both my working and social life in Soho. I have worked in the film industry shooting, editing and dubbing tv commercials, pop promos and short films. Then at the end of the day socialising with with a wide variety of people that I have met in the bars and clubs. Some of these people have influenced the characters I have created in Soho Honey. No character is based on any one person but I have taken a variety of characteristics from people and distilled them into the characters in the book. A couple of the characters are a combination of only two people I have known e.g. Snowman and Mikey. Whereas others are a mixture of people I have known.

There was a lot of characters within your first novel, do you have any kind of system for keeping track of them?

I know them all so well that they are like real people to me and so I  don’t have a problem keeping them in mind. Also when they appear in the story they are relevant to that particular scene and since I know them so well I don’t have to give their characteristics a second thought.

What is your typical working day like, are you still involved in directing?

When it’s a day that I am going to spend writing I break the ice by taking an empty foolscap pad and writing my first thoughts down without trying to make any particular sense or being grammatically correct. I speed write one or two pages and then I’m ready to start the day on my latest project. It is a free thought process that allows me to open up my mind to work on the book or the screenplay. I then find it much easier to get involved in to the world that I’m writing about. I’m not making as many films as I used to but we had great fun shooting, editing, creating the music and dubbing the one and a half minute film trailer for Soho Honey which appears on the website sohohoney.com .

What is your ideal afternoon off work?

To go into Chinatown for a dim sum lunch. Then to Bar Italia for an espresso and one of their custard tarts. Then to watch a film in the cinema on Shaftsbury Avenue. Then go to one or two of my favourite bars in Soho and see who I bump into.

Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

Ross Macdonald – for his strong storytelling and strong dialogue. He comes from a crime writing period in the USA that for me is story-telling at its best. Raymond Chandler – for his wry observations of human behaviour and his dry ironic dialogue.  Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books – because of the sense of foreboding that saturates her stories and her insight into the strange character of Ripley. Gogol – although not exactly a crime writer I love his engaging short stories that contain elements of crime, in an existential way.

What are you working on next?

I am writing a 60 minute pilot episode for a new tv series called Lying Low in Soho. It incorporates some of the characters from Soho Honey but with a totally new story. I have not shown it to anybody yet so it is as yet uncommissioned but I’m looking for a tv production company who would be interested in producing it. I have also got the skeleton of the story for Soho Honey, Book Two and will be writing it ASAP.

Thanks very much for joining me and I look forward to reading the next installment of Soho Honey.

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Addicted to death – Matthew Redford Q and A – Blogival Tour

I love the idea of a good festival, Glastonbury is kicking off this weekend with some great bands and I do like the idea of going for a few days. Until that is, I realise it involves camping, mud, portaloos and lots of other people. Therefore as an alternative I’m taking part in a much more civilized festival, Blogival!

For the first of two acts appearing on the ‘acrimereadersblog stage’ I’m delighted to welcome author Matthew Redford. You may remember I read his book Addicted to Death last year (my review is here) and it was one of the funniest books I’d read in a long time!

So thanks for joining me Matthew. I loved your novel, what inspired you to write about Food-sapiens?

I want to be the champion for the Food-Sapiens community who, in my eyes, are under-represented in the crime fiction world. After all, little old ladies have Miss Marple and Hetty Wainthropp, even the nation of Belgium has two notable crime exports in Poirot and TinTin, and the poor Food-Sapiens have been once again overlooked. So I wanted to raise their profile and make people realise that Food-Sapiens play an important part in today’s society.  Just ask yourself whether the world we live in would be diminished without the likes of the Eurovision stars of the past such as Brotherhood of Yam and Sandwich Shaw? I think we know the answer…

What is your typical working day like?

The dreaded morning alarm erupts at 5:30am and after some early morning cursing and a few uses of the snooze button, I am up and about just after 6am. A quick coffee and a bite to eat at home before I hotfoot it to the train station. I’m in work for 9am where I work my fingers to the bone (naturally) before the evening train calls. Home just after 7pm, prep dinner, stick some music on (type depends on the mood) and either catch-up with friends, read or just slump on the sofa…And then it all begins again in the morning. Roll on the weekend!

What is your ideal afternoon off work?

So many things to do, such little time. I would start off by having a nice light lunch, supplemented by a glass of rose (just one of course). I would like to have planned the afternoon so that I was either meeting friends or catching up with my parents perhaps, and we would find a nice quiet corner of a coffee shop and spend a good few hours gossiping. Afterwards we would go for a walk through one of London’s parks or maybe along the embankment, before heading into town and picking up tickets for a night at the theatre (something musical). 

Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

I do try to read as much as possible and I find few train journey home a good way of fitting in some reading. I’m currently reading the British Library Classic range – a real treat for how crime mysteries were once written. 

Do you have a ‘day job’ or are you a full time writer?

I have a full time job working for a healthcare regulator which I genuinely love. I work with a great group of people and that makes such a difference. Would I like to be a full time writer? If it paid the bills and kept a roof over my head, then yes, I would love to give it a try. 

And so finally, what are you working on next?

Ah, the follow up novel – “Know your onions” is the working title. And just for you a little spoiler. DI Wortel is going to have delve into the world of vinegar fracking, which you might not know, is one of the UK’s biggest exports and a fundamental factor underpinning our economic success… 

I can’t wait to read that, and to catch up with the food-sapiens again.

Addicted to Death is currently available on amazon

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River of Souls by Kate Rhodes – a review

This is apparently Kate Rhodes’ 4th novel to feature psychologist Alice, however its the first one I’ve read. She is appearing at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in a session on the Sunday called ‘Political corruption’

River of Souls is set in London along the banks of the river Thames. Jude Shelley is the daughter of a government minister. She was found in the river having been brutally attacked and missing half her face. She has survived in hospital for nearly a year when Alice is asked to reinvestigate the case. As she does other bodies start turning up and Alice soon realises that someone has a dangerous fascination with the river and with Jude.

This was a book that hooked me right from the beginning. It was a really good balance between the crimes and investigation, a bit of history of the Thames and also a bit of the background life of Alice. Often with crime novels I can be impatient to skip over details of family life and get on with the murders but in this case I thought the back story of Alice’s mother, brother and best friend was interesting. It gave a good insight into the pressures that Alice was under and why she made some of the decisions she did. The characters also provided a nice contrast to the darker side of the book.

The writing was good and I enjoyed the style of it. There were some chapters from the killer’s point of view which I always like. They also served to throw me off the real perpetrator – I spent the whole book convinced it was one person only to be completely wrong. The descriptions were vivid and the scenes between Alice and Jude in the hospital really stood out. If I was to have any slight negatives it is that the novel did seem a little dragged out at the end and there were a few elements where it seemed to be a little repetitive. However on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed River of Souls and will definitely be reading the series from the beginning. I’m looking forward to hearing her talk alongside Gillian Slovo and Mark Lawson among others.

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The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier – a review

As I mentioned previously in a review, I am not usually a big fan of translated novels, and probably wouldn’t normally pick them out of choice. However the recent books I’ve read haven’t really blown me away, the last really good book I read was by Pierre Lemaitre and translated from French. Therefore when picking a book off of my rather large ‘to be read’ pile for a trip to Liverpool, I decided to go with another translated novel, this time Bernard Minier. There is a session entitled France Noir – Le Roman Policier at the festival and both these authors are speaking in that.

The story starts with the discovery of a horse that has been killed and hung off a cliff alongside a cable car track that leads up to a remote power plant. When policeman Servaz is asked to investigate he is understandably rather annoyed that he has been asked to look into the murder of an animal. However, then a body turns up and with it the DNA of a notorious serial killer who is an inmate at a nearby asylum. The asylum has a new member of staff, psychologist Diane who is sent up to study the inmates. However she soon succumbs to the cold and isolation of being up the frozen Pyrenees and finds the job is more difficult than she imagined.

The Frozen Dead was Bernard Minier’s first crime novel, and was superb. The story is set in the Pyrenees, and the novel is a great one to read on a hot day as the descriptions of the mountains, the snow and the avalanches really do make the chills come alive. The characters themselves were quite interesting, if perhaps a little clichéd with the divorced detective, the wayward daughter, the lesbian sidekick and the happy family man whose good with computers. However none of this detracts from the story and things throughout the book are never quite what they seem.

The story itself is very intriguing and the way that the strands all fit together towards the end was very clever. I really liked the style of writing, despite a couple of bits where the translation was a bit confusing. The descriptions were pleasingly graphic, and although it wasn’t a huge stretch to guess some of the outcomes there were still enough red-herrings to make it interesting. Although it is a bit of a long book, it seemed to me to be very fast paced and kept my attention right to the end. There were a few loose ends so it was clearly setting up the start of a next novel but I for one for will definitely be looking out for that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can honestly say that I will no longer shy away from translated novels in the future.

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