First Monday Crime – May

(I couldn’t get any decent photos of the panel so here’s some pics of my prized possession from last night!)

Yes, it’s that time again! In fact, it’s a week late! The First Monday Crime team wisely worked out that no one would turn up on a Bank Holiday. Our authors this time were William Shaw, Sarah Hilary, Christopher Fowler and Jack Grimwood. The panel was chaired by Jake Kerridge.

Once more, I have written a silly amount of notes, so I will pick out my favourite parts.

Christopher Fowler writes the Bryant & May novels. Bryant and May are part of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Perhaps the most peculiar thing about them is their age – this is not a case of police officers getting younger. Bryant and May are in their 80s. As Fowler put it himself, they’re ‘Golden Age detectives in a modern world’. Book no. 13 in the series has recently been released and is called Strange Tide.

Sarah Hilary has created one of my most favourite female police officers – DI Marnie Rome. Her third book is Tastes Like Fear. This time, Marnie is investigating homeless people going missing.

William Shaw writes a detective series called Breen & Tozer but his latest book, The Birdwatcher, is a standalone novel. His new officer is William South and he’s slightly unusual. He doesn’t like investigating murder crimes at all. Well, it’s not a pleasant job at the best of times but when you’re a murderer yourself…

Jack Grimwood’s debut crime novel (he’s a very established sci-fi writer), is Moskva, set in Moscow in the mid 80s. His detective, Tom Fox, is not a police officer but an Army Intelligence Officer who’s been sent to Moscow so that he can’t speak the truth at a government committee.

Jake Kerridge asked, as the authors have such distinctive heroes, how do they create them?

Fowler is a huge fan of Golden Age crime books but doesn’t like the racist and sexist comments in them. So although he takes older characters and puts them in the modern world, he uses the classic constructs of the Golden Age. If he’s asked, do you write cosies? – then his response is, do you want a punch in the face? (Think the answer’s no). He likes having older characters confronting today’s issues.

Marnie Rome has been compared to Jane Tennison in terms of her tenacity but otherwise she’s quite different. Sarah Hilary deliberately wanted to move away from the idea of the depressive officer and has made Marnie more empathetic. Although she has demons, she has the courage to live in the world and face them.

William Shaw has the detective who doesn’t want to detect. As William South is a keen birdwatcher, Shaw knew it was important to get that aspect of the book right. As Shaw said, men often communicate through their hobbies. And calling his character, William, wasn’t a Freudian slip. As we learn through the book, William South grew up in Northern Ireland and William is a very popular Protestant NI name.

Jack Grimwood said that he still doesn’t know who Tom Fox really is or where he came from. He sounds to me like a bit of a maverick. He spends most of the book, drunk, although by Moscow standards, he’s teetotal.

Kerridge pointed out that  a sense of place united all four books.

For Christopher and Sarah, it’s London. Christopher said that London is not a static city – it’s always breaking down and renewing. Sarah also alluded to this as she spoke of London becoming more vertical – we can’t build out so we have to build up, making it less accessible for all (only the rich can go up).

William Shaw has Dungeness and Northern Ireland. As Dungeness is small, he had to be more careful. Readers are much more likely to pick him up on anything wrong.

Jack Grimwood spent some time in Russia in the 1980s so had some memories to draw on. However, as he’s more used to writing fantasy worlds, he did feel constrained writing the real world and had to be more disciplined.

I could write more but I won’t! First Monday Crime is back at City University at Angel on Monday 6th June – Peter James, Sharon Bolton, Chris Morgan Jones and Mark Hardie. Why don’t you join us? Go to for more details.

If you want to follow the authors on Twitter

Christopher Fowler @Peculiar

Sarah Hilary @sarah_hilary

William Shaw @william1shaw

Jack Grimwood @JonCG


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