After an extended Christmas break, First Monday Crime was back last night with a belter of a panel. We had Chris Carter, C.J. Tudor, Craig Robertson and Tammy Cohen. Joe Haddow from BBC Radio 2 chaired.
First up to answer Joe’s questions was international bestseller author, Chris Carter. Chris was born and raised in Brazil before moving to the US. He’s currently living in London so he’s definitely international! His latest Robert Hunter (criminal psychologist turned detective) book is Gallery of the Dead and is published this Thursday. Joe asked Chris why he set the series in LA. As a former criminal psychologist himself, Chris knows the US police procedure much better than the UK or anywhere else. LA also has great extremes. You can go from superstar homes to gang territory within a matter of miles so it allows you to write anything. More bank robberies take place in LA than anywhere else in the US. In his time as a criminal psychologist, Chris has seen and heard some terrible things. He’s spoken with criminals to look for patterns of behaviour to then help prevent crime. His latest Robert Hunter book starts with the gruesome murder of a model. When writing fiction, the crime has to make sense to the reader. Real life doesn’t work that way as Chris has discovered. He explained the difference between a serial killer and a mass murderer. A serial killer has to kill three or more people in three or more settings. A mass murderer kills three or more people in one setting. Chris then told us about a man who had an argument with another man in a bar. The first man followed the other home and killed him. But he didn’t stop there. He killed the wife, children and the family dog. When Chris asked him why he murdered everyone else, he answered, “They were in.” Real life really doesn’t make sense.
C.J. Tudor’s former jobs have been a little bit more mundane and she was actually a dog walker when she wrote The Chalk Man. Set in 1986 and 2016, the story starts in 1986 with 12 year old Eddie and his gang of friends hanging out, just doing normal things when they discover a body in the woods. C.J. wanted to explore her childhood days when there were no mobile phones or internet and if you wanted to speak to a friend you had to go and knock on their door. As a child, she moved from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie to Stephen King so it’s easy to see where the creepiness of The Chalk Man comes from. C.J. had written 3 or 4 other books first and had an agent for a brief time but things just weren’t working. The Chalk Man isn’t a traditional crime book but more of a mystery and a coming of age story. She didn’t show it to anyone else (not even her partner) before she got a new agent.
Craig Robertson’s latest book is The Photographer. Unusually for a crime book, there is no murder. Instead, DI Rachel Narey is investigating a serial rapist. She finds shoeboxes of photos in the suspect’s home. The photos are of women who don’t appear to know that they’re being photographed. The photos are ruled inadmissible in court and the suspect goes free. Given the current climate, Craig knew he had to tread carefully with a difficult subject. He said that it was a bit like walking through a minefield wearing clown shoes. So he made sure that he sought advice when writing and spoke to rape counsellors. Craig’s series is set in Glasgow and like Chris, the setting is almost a character in itself. As Craig said, Glasgow is a great place to set a crime series because the clichés are true!
They All Fall Down is Tammy Cohen’s latest book. The Meadows is a private psychiatric clinic for women who are at high risk of self-harm. Hannah is a patient there. Two residents have died and Hannah doesn’t believe the official reason given – suicide. But how can Hannah find out who the murderer is when everyone is a suspect? Like Craig, Tammy felt a real responsibility to get this book right. She didn’t want to trivialise mental health in any way. It can happen to anyone at anytime. Tammy also writes historical crime under the name of Rachel Rhys. She wanted a break from contemporary psych thrillers and despite what Amanda Jennings has suggested, she doesn’t dress differently when she writes as Rachel Rhys. But she does keep the two styles very separate and doesn’t write a Rachel Rhys book while editing a Tammy Cohen one.
I’ve got lots more scribbled notes in my little notebook but I’ll leave you with a question from the audience. Author Daniel Pembrey asked the panel what was the most unusual thing they had done for research.
C.J. said that she hadn’t done anything particularly special as most of her research for The Chalk Man involved chatting with her childhood friends in a pub.
Tammy took it up a notch and told us a story from her journalist days. She once had to go to a night club in Ipswich, dressed in an inflatable sumo wrestling suit.
In some ways Chris doesn’t have to do much research as he has his past work memories to fall back on but he uses the internet if he needs to look something up.
Craig wins the prize for his answer. His previous book Murderabilia, looked at people who collected items connected with murder. So Craig thought he should buy some things, including a lock of Charles Manson’s hair.
After the book signings and photographs, we all headed over to The Old Ivy House (but a new pub for us) where we all seemed to be served remarkably quickly. Next month is looking fabulous again and First Monday will soon reveal the panel. Don’t forget to reserve your seat here.
To find out more about the authors and buy their books –
For Chris Carter click here
For C.J. Tudor click here
For Craig Robertson click here
For Tammy Cohen click here