Glenda Young talks about what she’s been up to during lockdown – writing her debut crime novel, Murder at the Seaview Hotel.
You can find out more about Glenda and her books here.
Glenda Young talks about what she’s been up to during lockdown – writing her debut crime novel, Murder at the Seaview Hotel.
You can find out more about Glenda and her books here.
This week to celebrate National Crime Reading Month, Love Reading have put together a list of their favourite Crime Fiction in translation, including Antti Tuomainen’s Little Siberia that was shortlisted for the CWA’s Crime Fiction in Translation (CFIT) Dagger in 2020, and Roxanne Bouchard’s The Coral Bride which is on this year’s CFIT list, the winner of which will be announced on 1 July at Daggers Live! Also on their list is CWA member Ragnar Jonasson’s Winterkill, as well as a re-print of the classic The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Sebastien Japrisot, which won the CWA International Dagger all the way back in 1968!
Check out the rest of this juicy collection of new and classic books on the Love Reading website.
Book lovers and crime fiction fans have a unique opportunity to watch the famed Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers awards, live.
Tickets are free, but limited. To book a place, visit:
The oldest awards in the genre, the CWA Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.
The annual glittering award ceremony is normally held at an exclusive event in London. This year, due to COVID-19, it will be hosted virtually. The online awards ceremony Daggers Live! will be broadcast on 1 July, from 7.30pm.
The evening will be compered by book reviewer, author and journalist Barry Forshaw, who is one of the UK’s leading experts on crime fiction.
Guest speaker is Abir Mukherjee, The Times bestselling author of the Sam Wyndham series of crime novels set in Raj era India. Abir won last year’s CWA Sapere Books Historical Dagger for his novel Death in the East, as well as the 2017 Historical Dagger for his debut, A Rising Man.
Queen of crime Martina Cole will also feature in the Daggers Live! Event as the recipient of the 2021 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing.
Barry Forshaw said: “Crime books have provided escapism, solace, entertainment and enlightenment throughout the pandemic. As such, we are delighted to honour the talented and diverse authors at work in this enduring genre. The Daggers are an annual highlight in the literary world, and although virtual, we still promise an entertaining evening for these Oscars of the crime genre.”
Hotly contended shortlisted authors include Robert Galbraith, Elly Griffiths and Chris Whitaker for the CWA Gold Dagger, awarded to the best crime novel of the year.
Michael Robotham, Ruth Ware, and Stuart Turton are among the shortlist for the best thriller, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, which is supported by the family-owned Ian Fleming Publications Ltd that looks after the James Bond literary brand.
Other award highlights include the Sapere Books Historical Dagger, which features Booker prize winner John Banville on its shortlist, the ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and the Dagger in the Library, which is awarded to an author for their body of work and support of libraries. Shortlisted authors this year include Peter May, Lisa Jewell and L J Ross – the winner is voted for exclusively by librarians.
The awards take place at the end of National Crime Reading Month (NCRM) this June, a unique festival promoting the crime genre that’s held throughout the UK, promoted by the CWA. Readers and authors can follow #NCRM on Facebook and Twitter @The_CWA or find out more on the Crime Reading Month website www.ncrm.co.uk
One of the UK’s most prominent societies, the CWA was founded in 1953 by John Creasey; the awards started in 1955 with its first award going to Winston Graham, best known for Poldark. They are regarded by the publishing world as the foremost British awards for crime-writing.
Don’t forget, tickets are free, but limited. To book a place, visit:
Antony Johnston tells us about his hopes for emerging from lockdown, and reads from his latest Brigitte Sharp thriller The Tempus Project.
You can read more about Antony and his books here.
In an ideal world that should be ‘Escaping to Greece’, as like so many other Brits I’m just longing for some sunshine and warm sea. The closest I’ve come so far this pandemic is organising ‘Greek Nite’ for my family bubble, with kebabs, dips, pitta bread, Greek salad and bazouki music on CD. I have a longing to explore, and indeed I quit my day job at the end of 2019 to concentrate on my writing and to travel the world. Well, half the plan worked as I have a new 1930s thriller series accepted for publication from next year. As to the travel I only managed to visit Sri Lanka and Alderney before the curtain came down.
My first agent suggested that I use my background as an archaeologist when writing my first mystery series. Coupling this with my love of Greece and its history brought about Byron’s Shadow now republished as an e-book by Lume. My hero is young archaeologist Jeffrey Flint who discovers too much about the murder of an English professor and he is framed as a suspect. My memories of baking hot afternoons exploring sites covered with scattered ruins came back to me vividly as I wrote. When Greek police call at the taverna where Jeffrey is staying he makes an escape over the back of the toilet block and makes off on a bicycle, ‘an environmentally sound means of salvation’. He tears down the hill, making for the coast and a ruined church he can hide in.
‘Flint cast himself down the pothole-cratered road with reckless speed and was soon able to freewheel. No brake levers graced the handlebars, a fact Flint noticed whilst already passing twenty miles per hour. In four minutes he made a mile, his arms shaking with the strain of holding a steady course over endless ruts and stones. He began to guess how long the police would stay at the taverna and how wide their search would be.’
I’ve hired bikes in Greece and discovered as Flint does that the way to brake is to back pedal. It’s hot, it’s dusty and I miss it. So for now it’s the hills and waterfalls and castles of England that I’m exploring. In the sunshine, and yes in the rain too.
The Jeffrey Flint Archaeology Mysteries are now available as an ebook series. You can find out more about Jason Monaghan and his books here.
So wrote John Keats in his sonnet On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, which book took him to ‘goodly states and kingdoms.’ Reading took him to far-flung places where he would never go, and imagination took him to stand with Cortez staring at the Pacific Ocean from ‘a peak in Darien.’
Now South America is obviously out, and Darien – somewhere in Colombia, I think. I won’t be sailing the Pacific Ocean anytime soon, or the Atlantic, or the Channel. The Douro’s out after a brief glorious possibility, and the North Sea, and the South Seas; in fact any realms of golden sands and shores. There was a realm of golden daffodils in my garden a few weeks ago, and now the Welsh poppies glow gold – wherever they want to, and the roses are coming out, so I can escape into the air, or take a stroll by the river and watch the water flowing to the sea where I will be again, I hope, if only to Morecambe by the Irish Sea. Fleetwood’s very nice – in the sunshine.
But I have travelled in time and space, escaping to sixteenth century Stratford with Shakespeare’s dead son, Hamnet – a wonder of a book in which the lost boy is brought to vivid life, and his death and his loss to the poet poignantly realised. I have been Where the Crawdads Sing and felt the heat of the South Carolina Marsh, observed its creatures and its plant life, and felt the loneliness of the heroine. I have been reading the letters to Dear Mrs Bird, the agony aunt in A.J. Pearce’s novel, hilarious and moving by turns – an escape to the 1940s. I have been in Naples in 1633 with The Poison Keeper, following Giulia Tofana’s poisonous career – and finding out how to milk scorpions while wearing chicken skin gloves. Maybe hemlock would be easier. There’s monkshood in my neighbour’s garden – handier, should I be contemplating murder. And speaking of murder, I have trodden the corridors of Windsor Castle where Her Majesty investigates the mystery of The Windsor Knot, and a very canny detective she is. The murderer does not escape her regal eye.
And, of course, I have been in London, too – not along any of those fabled streets paved with gold. I have been following Charles Dickens down some very dark alleys, into some very dank courts, and into some very grim lodging houses into which the stench of the river reeks and foul vapours rise to choke the forty residents packed in one room, or cellar, or attic, like bad oysters in a barrel. They can’t escape the cholera, the typhus, the consumption, or the thousand natural shocks their wasted flesh is heir to. No gardens of daffodils in those mean streets.
It is winter in London in 1851 and there’s fog, of course, and figures appearing like phantoms in sickly gaslight and graveyards noxious with corrupted flesh. I’ve been reading Bleak House, too, and navigating the corkscrew twists of the law. Mr Dickens and Superintendent Jones are very interested in some murky goings-on at Middle Temple where murder has been done. In this new book, The Temple Murders, the Thames floods and Temple Gardens are awash. The murderer is afloat on a barge in the heaving water.
He’ll end up in Newgate if he doesn’t drown, and there’s no escape if it’s the latter, nor, very often if it’s the former, but it did happen. The most famous escapee was housebreaker, Jack Sheppard, who in 1724, got out of Newgate twice – by means of a knotted bed-sheet, after he had employed a smuggled file to loosen his shackles. Ah, the fabled file in the cake, perhaps.
In 1837, one Robert Wicker, a horse thief, escaped from Newgate by means of a rope and a handy wall. He was caught. Found cowering in a cupboard – with his trousers inside out, as the newspapers helpfully reported. Transported for life.
In 1848, Robert Dix escaped from police custody. Sergeant Daniel Reirdon was to take him to the railway station at Woolwich, but they detoured to the pub where ‘they partook of lunch’ and smoked cigars. When Reirdon returned from booking the tickets, his prisoner was gone. Reirdon asked for a refund on the tickets, but he was later fined £5.00 for ‘gross dereliction of duty’.
In his Medical Jurisprudence, Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor mentions the case of The Edgeware Road murderer, James Greenacre who tried to escape his Newgate cell:
‘The mode in which the notorious criminal, Greenacre, attempted to destroy himself by suicidal strangulation, presented some novelty … He was found lying on the floor, with a handkerchief drawn tightly around his neck by means of a loop, into which he had inserted his foot.’
Some novelty – Greenacre failed in his attempt to strangle himself. The hangman did it for him at Newgate on 2nd May, 1837.
But, it’s a grim business this murder lark, and the River Thames in flood is a hazardous place for my detectives. Stinking mud, and not a piece of water you’d want to swim in, but here’s our hero, almost taken at the flood, so to speak:
He felt the strong tug of the water at his thighs and something clutching at his legs. Looking down, he saw that someone was in the water beneath him, a sudden swell dragging the body away. He grasped a fistful of clothing and felt a thin pair of shoulders – a child. With as great a heave as he could manage against the sucking water, he pulled, felt himself sliding, the cloth slipping from his grip. A wave rolled over him. He was floundering under the filthy, freezing blackness, knocking against something hard, and a hand was grabbing…
Can Dickens save the child? Or must he save himself? I think he might have to save himself – the unfinished manuscript of Bleak House is on his desk.
As is mine. But, the sun is shining and the roses are golden, and so is that bottle of Pinot Bianco in the fridge – time for an escape, I think. The filthy alleys and the fog will still be there when I come back. And my murderer won’t escape. He will be caught – when I’ve worked out how to get Dickens out of that water.
And for reading under the trees? Why, Dickens’s Pictures from Italy, of course. I’m leaving for Venice in five minutes or so. Hold that gondola.
You can find our more about JC Briggs and her books here.
We’re not quite escaping lockdown yet here in Ireland where I live, we can’t travel outside of the country until 19th July and our hotels and restaurants have only opened to outdoor dining this week (2nd June), but I can’t WAIT to travel again. Escape is the perfect way to feed my creative mind, and I find travel is essential to help develop new ideas and come up with new plots – even if it’s only travelling up to the Wicklow Mountains (where I live) for a walk. I’ve written three police procedurals Little Bones, In Deep Water and No Turning Back based in Ireland, and two standalones Keep Your Eyes on Me and The Dark Room. We’ve just had to cancel our annual visit to Cornwall due to the travel restrictions, but the last time I was there in June 2019, the idea for The Dark Room arrived. When I wrote it, I transported the story idea to West Cork and a mysterious country house hotel called Hare’s Landing, but in reality, its heart is just a couple of hundred yards from Frenchman’s Creek.
I write a lot when I’m on holiday, and I was just finishing a book that I thought would follow Keep Your Eyes on Me – another standalone, but set in London rather than Ireland – when an image popped into my head that wouldn’t go away.
It was the height of summer, and I was in Helford Passage, Cornwall, where we’ve been going for every summer for three weeks for about fifteen years. I was sitting beside the river (only a few hundred yards from Frenchman’s Creek) when a picture arrived in my head of a dark-haired woman in green shorts, jogging down the beach, a German Shepherd lolloping along beside her. I could see her so clearly – her hair pulled up into a loose pony tail, her feet pounding the wet sand.
Directly across the river from where I was sitting is an old cottage and the ruin of what I discovered (with help from author Liz Fenwick who lives on that side of the river) was the original customs officer’s gaol. I felt sure the ruined building and the woman were somehow connected, but I had yet to find out how…
I didn’t know who the running woman was or what her story could be, but a few days later I visited Mel Chambers‘ ceramics studio in the nearby village, and I was struck by the hares on the tiles she makes. A print of running hares had recently lit a creative lightbulb in my head, and suddenly the story of a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing, with a ruin in the grounds, began to unfold – but it wasn’t in Cornwall, it was in Ireland, in West Cork.
In The Dark Room, Rachel Lambert is a film location scout based in London, who, trying to discover the story behind the death of a homeless man, Alfie Bows, is led to Hare’s Landing. In New York, crime journalist Caroline Kelly has been suspended – furious and needing a break, she books a holiday in West Cork. When the two meet, they discover that Hare’s Landing has a story of its own, one which someone doesn’t want them to uncover.
As I worked on the idea, getting closer and closer to what had actually happened at Hare’s Landing, I could hear violins and smell perfume – doors slammed mysteriously and it became clear that Alfie Bows, a violinist, and Honoria Smyth, the original owner of the house, were making their presence felt. I was almost at the end of the first draft when I discovered that in Irish mythology, hares are the messengers between worlds – and everything began to make sense.
While travel is limited at the moment, I hope The Dark Room will give you a glimpse of January in West Cork – and Hare’s Landing, a house full of secrets…it was an Eason No 1 for three weeks and in the Irish top ten for a month – read an extract here: https://www.samblakebooks.com/the-dark-room-extract-irelandreads/
You can read more about Sam Blake and her books here.
Fiona Veitch Smith tells us about her plans for emerging from lockdown, and reads from the forthcoming Poppy Denby Investigates mystery, ‘The Crystal Crypt’.
You can find out more about Fiona and her books here.
Escaping through a picture window…
My study has a sliding picture window opening onto a balcony. From my desk I can see the Sierra de Las Nieves in the Province of Málaga, Spain. This was where the Moors of al-Ándalus harvested snow for sherbet and to keep medicines cool. To the right, is the bandalero (bandit) country across which the heroine of my first novel, The Empress Emerald, escapes. To the left, out of sight beyond mauve-shaded mountains, lie the fishing villages that were once prey to the Barbary corsairs featured in The Chosen Man Trilogy. Nowadays the area is called the Costa del Sol. As you may imagine, this window is conducive to creative time travel. If I ignore a nearby road, I can escape the twenty-first century and be back in any epoch I choose.
As various of my novels are historical thrillers, I am fairly practised at getting out of difficult and life-threatening situations. So, even though we’ve had two rounds of Covid house arrest, then been unable to leave our local area for weeks on end, I’ve had a secret escape mechanism right here in my study.
Running away in my fictional experience, however, is rarely straightforward. Despite careful plotting, unexpected situations requiring my characters to literally think on their feet often crop up. In The Empress Emerald, for example, the naïve heroine Davina is forced to use a melon to kill a brigand. (I didn’t plan that to happen but I tested it out: Spanish toadskin melons are conveniently shaped like a rugby ball and seriously tough.) Here is another example from the novel, where what should have been a straightforward transitional scene is complicated by unforeseen circumstances.
As a small child, the anti-hero, Leo Kazan, was abandoned in a Bombay orphanage, where he was selected as an ‘intelligencer’ for the British due to his exceptional language and thieving skills. In 1920 he is sent to Russia. Like his 17th Century ancestor Ludo da Portovenere, The Chosen Man, Leo is a rogue with a heart of gold running a lucrative, private side line in precious gems. In this scene, he is trying to smuggle diamonds out of Moscow for an elderly jeweller. Leninist thugs have tracked Leo to the jeweller’s building. His only way out is across the rooftops, but some unexpected people get in his way.
Grabbing his attaché case, Leo bounded up an elegant, winding staircase two at a time and burst through the door to the attic flat. Ignoring a terrified woman clutching a shawl to her breasts, he danced around the compartmented room, looking for a sky light.
A chair, a table, and up on the roof. He shoved his leather case out first. The tiles were like a playground slide and it nearly hurtled to the street below. Catching it by the handle just in time, he set it more safely on its side. Then, a large man on an unhealthy diet, he clasped the window frame and struggled up after it. Grasping the freezing bricks of a long-cold chimney he cast about him, wondering how the hell he had ever found rooftops fun. It was ten years since his escapade over the roofs and fences of the houses on Malabar Hill – and all that for an emerald. But this was a very different game.
He laughed inwardly at his own absurdities and checked the pink diamond ring tucked into his inside jacket pocket. If he fell four storeys down to the street it might pierce his heart on impact. A suitable irony. If the case fell, they’d know exactly where to find him.
A shot rang out. If he couldn’t see them, surely they couldn’t see him, could they? Another shot pinged off stone. Leo was astonished. Uniforms on surveillance didn’t waste ammunition. Slowly, awkwardly, he rolled onto his stomach and tried to peer into the street below. A uniform was coming out of the building.
He waited. How long before they found the widow’s skylight? How long before he froze into a gargoyle? He looked at his watch, calculating how long before it was completely dark. His mind wandered back to Malabar Hill. That had been a hoot: up and over roofs and garden fences, staying out of reach of snarling, snapping dogs. No chance of getting from one building to another there, not with those huge gardens, but here, yes. He could probably get to the end of Goldman’s street if he moved from chimney to chimney. If he was careful. He had to be careful: the pink diamond would fetch more than a fortune. (…)
Leo peered down again. He couldn’t see anyone, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t see him. Hitching up his heavy overcoat, he tucked his wide trousers into his socks, double-knotting his shoe laces while he was at it. Little by little, on hands and knees, shuffling his case in front of him, he made his way across the steep, wet roof until he hoped he’d gained the next house. A few minutes later, he noted a flatter roof below. If he tied the case to his back with his belt and risked a drainpipe, he might be able to reach it. He pulled off his belt and fastened it through the handle of the leather case then round his doubled-up overcoat as best he could. If they got him now, they might shoot straight into the case. It was a minor comfort. And then, bingo! Shiva and Ganesh and all the sainted Christian saints had come to his rescue. There was another sky-light just a few yards on, and it was open!
Open – on a late September evening in Moscow – why? It was a trap. He edged back the way he’d come and tried to get behind a chimney stack, waited for any sounds, then crawled back to the sky-light and peered in. Four old women were sitting around an empty bottle of vodka and a mah-jong board in enough cigar smoke to fill a Marseilles brothel.
“Evening, ladies. Do excuse me.” Leo pushed the window frame up as far as he could and dropped inelegantly into their midst, up-ending an ashtray and disturbing various Chinese winds in the process.
The women goggled, speechless.
Then he was round the table, through the door and haring downstairs – attaché case banging the back of his legs black and blue – down to what had once been the mansion’s back yard.
“Yes!” A rickety old wheelbarrow, and sacks of coal and, oh, disgusting mouldy potatoes. “Wonderful!”
Half an hour later, a lumbering peasant robed in smelly sacks trundled a wheelbarrow down a busy city street, across the open square in front of the tall portals of Kazansky station, and into the ticket hall.
Apart from these international settings, I have recently been indulging in a certain nostalgia for pre-21st century England and escaping back to my West Country roots in the Bob Robbins Home Front Mysteries. Not that this is gentle cosy crime – if you have ever seen a derelict farm (Private Lives) or been on bleak moorland in a tearing wind, which is how Bob Robbins’ new murder enquiry begins in Courting Danger, you’ll understand that. Despite having lived in a number of different countries, and having developed a somewhat Latinised outlook (my husband was a Spanish naval officer), what I see when I escape through my picture window in Málaga is still mostly with an Englishwoman’s eyes.
You can read more about JG Harlond and her books here.
Leslie Scase tells us about his thoughts on emerging from lockdown, and reads from his debut ‘Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow’.
You can fine out more about Leslie Scase and his books here.