It was a warm, balmy April evening as we stepped out from Angel tube station… who am I kidding? We were lucky not to get rained on as we walked to City University. But at least we could get there. Poor Rachel Abbott was grounded in Alderney by fog so wasn’t able to fly over for First Monday Crime’s second birthday. Fortunately, the other panellists were able to make it – John Connolly, Leigh Russell and Stuart Turton with Barry Forshaw moderating.
First up – those all important books!
Leigh Russell’s new book is Class Murder. It’s the 10th novel in her Geraldine Steel police procedural series and in this story, Geraldine has moved to York from London. Leigh is aware that there are two sets of readers reading her books – those who have read the whole series and others who have just picked up a Geraldine Steel novel for the first time. So she aims to write a story that is part of a series but could easily work as a standalone. She has plans to write 20 books in the series altogether!
John Connolly’s The Woman in the Woods starts with a woman’s body being found after a thaw in Maine. She was buried with care but there are signs that she had given birth shortly before death. But where’s the baby? This is the 16th novel in the Charlie Parker series. John thinks of himself as more of a mystery writer than a crime writer. Everything begins with character. The patterns of a crime novel don’t change much – it’s the characters that hold it all together.
Stuart Turton’s debut is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. This book was ten years in the making and is Stuart’s attempt to out-Christie the great woman herself. At a swanky weekend party in a country house, Evelyn Hardcastle dies seven times in a sort of Groundhog Day scenario. Each day the narrator wakes up in the body of a different guest at the party and will continue to do so until he finds Evelyn’s killer.
Now, I think it’s fair to say that this crime panel did go off-piste at times with debates on children’s reading and also on Agatha Christie. But there were excellent comments on these subjects, so much so, I put my pen down and just listened. However, Barry did manage to get a few questions in there.
Do people still read books?
Stuart said, ‘Hopefully, yes, millions and millions of them.’
Leigh thought that there weren’t fewer people reading but they might be reading in different formats e.g. Kindles, phones, tablets etc. It’s still important though to promote books and keep reading, especially for children. They’re more likely to read books that have been recommended to them by other children.
John thinks that reading is a niche activity and always has been. If there are books in a house then children are more likely to pick up a book.
If the authors could get into a time machine, what would they tell their 20-year-old selves?
John would say, ‘Be a bit easier on yourself.’
Leigh didn’t think her 20-year-old self would want to listen but she would say, ‘It’s going to be a rough ride but keep on going.’
Stuart’s advice to his 20-year-old self was far more practical. ‘You know that two day bender to Blackpool that you’ve got planned – it’s really not a good idea.’
A question from the audience now. Do you write spontaneously [a pantser] or do you plot?
Stuart Turton covered two walls in post-it notes and had spreadsheets for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. So I think he’s a plotter!
John Connolly begins with an image and knows about the first two thousand words. He used the analogy of driving down a country lane at night where you can only see as far as your headlights allow until you see the lights of home. But there’s more room for doubt with this method of writing.
Leigh Russell would like to plot like Stuart but her style is closer to John’s. There’s almost terror though as her characters lead her down blind alleys.
To find out more about the authors and buy their books –
For Stuart Turton click here
For Leigh Russell click here
For John Connolly click here
And even though she couldn’t make it this time, for Rachel Abbott click here
So April First Monday Crime finished on a high – a sugar high – as cookies were handed round. If you weren’t able to make it this time, don’t worry because Mapril First Monday Crime is just around the corner. Yes, you did read that correctly. Since we have another one of those pesky Bank Holidays, May First Monday will be on 30th April. And the guest list has just been announced on the website! Robert Goddard, Simone Buchholz. G.J. Minett and Cathi Unsworth. Joe Haddow will be keeping order. Click here to reserve your seat.