Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Dougie Brimson

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Dougie Brimson

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

My name is Dougie Brimson and I’m a former serviceman who fell into writing largely by accident. As a full time author and screenwriter, I’ve produced all kinds of books and movies from non-fiction through to comedy. However, having enjoyed a great deal of success with my previous two thrillers, and with the third book in that trilogy heading for publication, I thought the time was right to join the CWA.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

Working! I write full time from home.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

In truth, my routine has been little different as my working day veers from promoting In The Know and working on my next novel to developing various film and TV projects.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.

In The Know is the third in a trilogy that began with the publication of the first book in 2000. In all honesty, there was only going to be the one but readers kept asking what happened to my central character and so it led up to this point. Much of the thinking behind this book was driven by current events and especially the increasing lack of faith in the law. It was exactly the kind of thing my central character would exploit and so once I had the time, I let him off the leash. It was actually quite an exciting process.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

That’s not for me to say although the previous two books have sold almost 400,000 between them so I must be doing something right. What I will say is that whilst In The Know works as a standalone book in its own right -and I was very careful to make sure of that- it works better if you read the other two first. However, be prepared to enter a very grubby world. My central character isn’t your average villain. Far from it.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

I’m ashamed to say that the only things I’m reading at the moment are technical aviation books as I’m busily researching a new thriller about the RAF. However, I do have a copy of Lockdown by Peter May shouting at me for attention. It looks awesome.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

Predicable, but visit my daughter and grandchildren in Lincolnshire.

You can find out more about Dougie Brimson and his books on the CRA website.

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with PJ Quinn

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with PJ Quinn

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

As half of PJ Quinn I (Pauline Kirk) write the DI Ambrose mysteries with my daughter, Jo Summers. To date, we’ve collaborated on four novels: Foul Play, Poison Pen, Close Disharmony and Poetic Justice. All are set in the late 1950’s, a fascinating period, and though they feature the same central characters, stand alone. The setting is a fictional small town, Chalk Heath, which is still recovering from the war but changing rapidly. We like to create intriguing plots and believable characters, and readers tell us they can’t put the books down! Jo is a solicitor, who writes for the legal press. I have had three novels and eleven poetry collections published under my own name. People sometimes ask how we avoid arguments, but we have great fun writing together.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

We’re beginning research for our next novel. As Editor of Fighting Cock Press I’ve also been editing an autobiography by a York writer and going on walks near my home – I think best when I’m walking! Jo is a key worker, so she has been working from home while schooling her children, walking the dogs, feeding the hens and ducks and squeezing writing into her occasional free time.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

Jo lives in Surrey and I live in York, so we’re used to collaborating by email and telephone, with occasional intensive periods together. The lock-down hasn’t stopped us being PJ Quinn. We’re looking forward to working together again however. And we enjoy each other’s company.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.

Foul Play was the first DI Ambrose Mystery and shorter than the others. After the first edition sold out, our publishers suggested we extend it before republication. We’ve explored existing themes, added new material and provided ‘back stories’ for the central characters. In particular we’ve developed the role of the young WPC, Pauline Meadows, as she aroused a lot of interest among our readers.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

Foul Play begins during a rehearsal in the partly rebuilt Chalk Heath Theatre, when one of the leading actors is attacked. It develops an intriguing plot revealing the tensions that could have driven one of the cast to commit the crime. DI Ambrose and his colleague, DS Winters, must uncover these before suspects are allowed to disperse, then follow up their leads in the town. They are also coping with their own wartime memories and family demands. Two newcomers to their team: PC Sutton and WPC Meadows, are trying to prove themselves while encountering prejudice from older officers.

Jo and I write from experience of the theatre. I’ve taken part in many amateur productions and Jo’s husband is a professional musician with stories of life ‘in the pit’. We have also inherited photos and mementos which help recreate the atmosphere of the late 1950’s.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

Ann Cleeves, Raven Black.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

To get together and enjoy planning our next DI Ambrose mystery.

For more information about Pauline Kirk, Jo Summers and their books, visit the PJ Quinn page on the CRA website.

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with John Dean

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with John Dean

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

A journalist by trade, I worked as a crime reporter on newspapers for part of my career, which gave me ample material for my crime novels. I ran my own business for 21 years, specialising in magazine journalism, and branched out into creative writing courses. The business closed in March 2020 and I now focus on my writing and writing-related projects.

I have had 19 novels published and am with The Book Folks. I am the creator of the DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris series and, as John Stanley, wrote two books in the DCI Danny Radford series. They are all police procedurals, with the Harris books set in a rural location and the other two series taking place in fictional northern cities.

I have been a Crime Writers’ Association member for sixteen years and am the CWA Libraries Champion in Scotland, speaking up for our libraries and putting writers in touch with them where required.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

I live on a hillside in south-west Scotland and the nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away so social distancing and lockdown has been relatively easy for myself and the family. However, as someone with underlying health issues which make me vulnerable to the coronavirus, all of us have been exceptionally careful. My thoughts go out to all those who have been afflicted by the disease and to all those who have been working so hard to support our society.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

I would still be writing (four hours a day on average) but the lockdown means that we only leave our hillside for essential activities, which has had the effect of wiping out our social contact, other than via phone and digitally.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent book.

The Killing Line (The Book Folks) came out in March 2020. A schoolgirl is found dead from a drugs overdose, the second in a few weeks. DCI Jack Harris suspects there is more to the tragedy in the small Pennine town of Levton Bridge. The locals are campaigning for a young offender centre to be closed down and there may be links to the death of the girls. With the townsfolk putting increasing pressure on the authorities, Harris must get results. This is the seventh book in the series but can be enjoyed entirely on its own.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

The Harris books are set in a remote North Pennines valley which creates a strong sense of claustrophobia, which makes for good crime fiction, I think.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

Peter May – a master when it comes to creating sense of place. I appreciate that because, as a writer, I am inspired by a sense of place. Whether it be a gloomy city or a stunning hillside, a glass-strewn council estate or a majestic waterfall, something about my surroundings repeatedly triggers ideas.

I always contend that despite the many elements of fiction, it comes down to a triangle, three things that come together to make the story work right from the off – plot, people and place. Get them right and pace, economy of words, themes, emotions, the lot, fall into line. I know writers who would say it all starts with the story. Others would put characters at the top, but I usually start with the place.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

Go to our local café for a cheese scone!

For more information about John Dean and his books, visit the CRA website.

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Helen Sedgwick

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Helen Sedgwick

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write. 

I am a research physicist turned author and I live in the Scottish highlands. I’ve recently moved to crime writing after publishing two novels that could be called literary speculative fiction with elements of ghosts stories and sci-fi thriller (The Comet Seekers and The Growing Season). My first crime book, When The Dead Come Calling, is characteristically genre-bending with elements of police procedural, folk horror, history, and supernatural crime.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing? 

At the moment I am doing a lot of childcare due to nursery closures (!) and juggling that with moving a couple of my cancelled live events online and editing my second crime book, Where The Missing Gather. I also grow my own vegetables, keep rescue chickens, and spend as much time as I can out in the garden.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

In normal circumstances my daughter is at nursery and I would spend several hours a day writing, which is simply not possible at the moment. I also do a lot of live events, and I’m missing the buzz of meeting audiences and chatting about my books face to face. It’s been devastating watching book festival after book festival cancel this year – I was so looking forward to them all! And then there’s the need for headspace that comes with writing. With all the anxiety around a global pandemic it is very hard to find the mental peace to just sit and think.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book. 

My most recent book is When The Dead Come Calling, in which a series of murders in a small, isolated coastal village seem inexplicable until the police, led by DI Georgie Strachan, look to the distant past. Meanwhile, someone – or something – is hiding in the haunted cave beneath the cliffs…

It is a book that looks at the urban rural divide, at class inequalities, internalised racism and sexism, and at how our past is never truly buried.

My forthcoming book is the next in my Burrowhead Mysteries series, Where The Missing Gather, and will continue to explore how this isolated rural community is fracturing. A skeleton is uncovered in a local field from decades ago, and DI Strachan has to piece together a terrible scandal in the village while those still alive to remember it close ranks.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction? 

When The Dead Come Calling is full of hidden secrets and festering suspicions, in an isolated village where no one is really who they seem. It is a police investigation full of unexpected twists and hidden histories, with an atmosphere that will chill you to the bone.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM? 

My to-be-read pile includes Chris Whitaker, Margaret Kirk, Susi Holliday, Will Dean and Syd Moore.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

I’m going to go to my local café, order a coffee and my favourite brunch of avocado and poached egg on sourdough, and write without interruption!

To find out more about Helen Sedgwick and her books, visit the CRA website.