It was a very muggy evening last night in old London Town. We might not have had a State Banquet to attend but we had a feast of books instead. Aside from our wonderful panel of Doug Johnstone, Angela Clarke, Tim Weaver and Peter Hanington, we also had Summer Blind Book Date, hosted by Marnie Riches with Elodie Harper, Howard Linskey, Steph Broadribb, Amer Anwar and Tom Wood! Just a few authors! Let’s start with the panel, moderated by Jake Kerridge.
Jake asked the authors to tell us about their books.
Tim Weaver’s new novel, No One Home, is the 10th book in the David Raker series. Raker is a private detective and is called in to investigate the disappearance of the inhabitants of a small (fictional) Yorkshire village. Tim realised he couldn’t have too many people going missing because of creating all their back stories. He originally had 15 but dropped it down to 9. As he’s written so many books now, he’s always having to think about how to make the story different from last time. He’s not a planner and prefers to have the story evolve as he writes. There’s a parallel plotline in the book set in the US in 1985. Tim was influenced by the Night Stalker (an American serial killer) for this aspect of the story.
Angela Clarke is the author of the Social Media trilogy (Follow Me, Watch Me and Trust Me). Her latest novel, On My Life, is a standalone. Jenna appears to have the perfect life with a wonderful fiancé and fabulous home but her life is shattered when her step-daughter is murdered and her partner is missing. The police believe Jenna’s responsible. She’s charged and found guilty. At her prison medical, she discovers she’s pregnant. Angela first visited a women’s prison with Helen Cadbury. She saw a woman with a young child but had no idea that some women could keep their babies with them. There are approximately 1k pregnant women in jail but only 64 mother and baby places. The women have to appear before a panel without any help or representation to ask to keep their babies. If they’re turned down, the babies are removed soon after birth and either go to a family member or to Social Services. If a woman is allowed to keep her baby, she only does so until the child is 18 months and then they’re separated. If a woman is released before the 18 months, then there’s no care package or clothes given for the baby. It’s a desperate situation and Angela was keen to highlight this in the book.
Jake introduced Doug Johnstone as ‘an overachiever’ since he has a PhD in Nuclear Physics. Doug is also the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers and will be playing Glastonbury! He also has a new book out called Breakers. It’s nothing to do with surfing but burglary or house-breaking. The story is set in one of the most deprived areas in Edinburgh and the main protagonist is Tyler, a 17 year old lad. He has a pretty dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and a drug-addict father, leaving him to care for his younger sister. As he’s quite small, he’s used by his older siblings to break into properties where a small window has been left open or is easy to open. He breaks into a large house in Morningside, which unfortunately for Tyler, belongs to a big criminal family. The inspiration for the story comes from when Doug’s house was burgled and he wondered how small someone would have to be to get in through a skylight. With Breakers, Doug has tried to merge Noir with domestic dramas. Like Angela, Doug has also done some work in prisons and young offenders institutions. He certainly hadn’t planned on writing a story that would brow-beat readers but he wanted to show how a funding collapse for support groups was affecting teenagers.
Peter Hanington’s second novel, A Single Source, is also based on real, desperate events. Set in Egypt, Eritrea and London in 2011, it looks at the Arab Spring and the refugee crisis. As a journalist, Peter would see (and still does) a whole stream of news stories. Depending on what the main stories are of the day, a lot of smaller items go unnoticed. The band width for news is small. And it’s those stories that Peter wanted to focus on. His main character, William Carver, is an old-fashioned journalist. Despite his flaws, he has a nose for a good story. Many of Peter’s colleagues like to think they’re the inspiration for Carver but the real role model is a journalist called Terry Messenger, who used to go out and look for stories if none were coming in. Although A Single Source is set in 2011, the issues raised are still very relevant, especially refugees. Peter thinks it’s the biggest challenge to our humanity and he’s tried to write it as sympathetically as he can.
As all the authors have been journalists, in one form or another, Jake asked how much has being a journalist helped with writing fiction?
Doug thought it had prepared him well for writing fiction. It’s good for deadlines and there’s no writer’s block as otherwise you get sacked! It’s also good for editing and that has helped him write books that are ‘stripped to the bone’.
Tim on the other hand, writes very long books that have to be edited down! But as a journalist he has formed good habits of sitting down, 9-5, and getting on with the writing and hitting his word count each day.
Angela wrote columns, not in-house, so she worked at home. She learnt that she could ‘make shit up’ and have an opinion on anything. Exactly what you need for fiction.
Peter agreed that the discipline of writing to a deadline is helpful. He also likes it when he sees his name as a by-line and having your own book is the ultimate by-line.
There were a few more questions from Jake and the audience but I’m going to leave it there for the panel as I also need to tell you about Summer Blind Book Date!
Marnie Riches was our hostess with the ‘mostess’ and she gave us a ‘lorra lorra’ laughs. Our contestants were:
Howard Linskey – Ungentlemanly Warfare
Elodie Harper – The Death Knock
Amer Anwar – Brothers in Blood
Steph Broadribb – Deep Dirty Truth
Tom Wood – Kill For Me
They had to convince Marnie to take their book on holiday as her summer read. Now I have to confess that I didn’t write notes for this as I wanted to sit back and enjoy our authors squirming a little as Marnie gave them tasks to do. So this is from memory (and might be slightly wrong)!
First up, they either had to give us a bad poem/limerick or mime of their book. I have to say that for me, Elodie Harper won this round as she gave us a superb limerick. Steph did an impressive mime. Tom clearly didn’t get the memo and told us about his book in ‘free verse’ i.e. prose.
Second task was to tell us an anecdote about their novels. I was impressed most by Amer Anwar who told us a little research story. He asked to see round a butcher’s shop and in particular, the back of the shop. (I know exactly what scene this relates to!) Whilst in the back, Amer spotted a bone saw and wondered if it could be used to cut up a body. He made the mistake of asking the shop workers this and was then ushered out quite quickly. Howard Linskey’s new novel is set during WW2 and he took inspiration from some people who were buying an old farmhouse in Scotland and discovered a huge wartime bunker under the house.
The last task for our authors was to think of a suitable summer drink or snack that summed up their books. Howard went for champagne as there’s some romance in his story. Elodie went for Sex on the Beach. There isn’t necessarily any sex in the book but sex always sells. Amer thought a cold beer would go well with the curries from his story. Steph went for an old-fashioned cocktail – the fiery smoothness of bourbon, the zesty tang of orange juice and the sweetness of a cherry on the side. Tom opted for a Margherita for his Guatemala based novel.
Well, Marnie was won over by Amer’s cold beer and Steph’s impressive mime so she chose them both to be her summer holiday reads. Personally, my vote went to Elodie Harper for her superb limerick!
But the best thing for us readers, is that we’re the real winners! We’ve got lots of books to choose from for our summer holidays!
So that’s it from First Monday Crime for a few months. We’re taking an extended summer break and will be back on Monday 7th October! We hope you have a wonderful summer full of rest, books, good weather, books, lots of fun and even more books!
If you want to find out more about our authors and buy any of their books then just click on the author’s name.