Recent Events

Friday, 18 July 2014

J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith

18 July 2014
Robert Galbraith in Sell-out Exclusive UK Appearance
J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith appeared exclusively at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival tonight at 7.30pm (18 July) in Harrogate, in conversation with fellow crime writer, Val McDermid. 
The event marked J.K. Rowling’s first and only UK appearance this year as Robert Galbraith.  It was the fastest selling event in Harrogate International Festival’s 50-year history with a sell-out 978-strong audience.  Demand for tickets came from all over the world and sold out in just 90 minutes with some fans camping overnight for tickets.  A live streaming room was created at the Festival’s hotel partner, the Old Swan Hotel, to accommodate the unprecedented demand.
Rowling was on stage to talk about her second crime novel - The Silkworm - featuring the compelling detective, Cormoran Strike. Published last month, the book went straight to the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list and has received huge critical acclaim.  Val McDermid previously said of the first book, before the true identity of Robert Galbraith was revealed, “The Cuckoo's Calling reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place.”
J.K. Rowling said: “I'm thrilled to have appeared at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival for many reasons, foremost of which is to have shared a stage with a true master of the genre, Val McDermid.  It is a particularly fitting venue for Robert's first appearance because part of The Silkworm is set in Harrogate and its environs.” 
The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which was established in 2003 by Val McDermid and Harrogate International Festivals, has grown into the world’s biggest celebration of the crime genre.  It is ranked as one of the top three literary festivals in the UK by The Guardian, and featured in The Independent’s ‘The 50 Best Festivals’.
Val McDermid said: “It's always been part of our aim at the festival to bring new writers to the attention of the reading public -- even when they turn out to be not quite as new as we thought! It was a real treat to share the stage with Jo and I think the audience enjoyed the experience as much as I did.”
Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston, said: “It is a mark of the dedication and hard work of the Harrogate International Festivals and the constant support of several world renowned authors including Val McDermid and Mark Billingham that our crime writing festival has reached the status sufficient to attract world renowned authors such as J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith. We remain delighted to be the headline sponsor of the festival and to be associated with its growing success.”
Other Special Guests at the Festival include Lynda La Plante, Ann Cleeves, Mark Billingham, Sophie Hannah, SJ Watson, Belinda Bauer, Laura Lippman, John Harvey, Peter May and Denise Mina.

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2014 announced

Belinda Bauer has tonight (17 July 2014, 9pm) scooped the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for Rubbernecker.

Celebrating its tenth year, the Award is considered one of the most coveted crime writing prizes in the country.

The CWA 2010 Gold Dagger Award-winning author received glowing reviews for Rubbernecker featuring Patrick Fort, a medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Belinda was presented the award by title sponsor Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson at the opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The annual Festival, hosted in Harrogate, is the world’s biggest celebration of the genre.

She beat off stiff competition from the shortlist of six, whittled down from a longlist of 18 titles published by British and Irish authors over the last year.

Belinda said: “This is really unexpected; it feels like a very lucky accident to win this award when my fellow shortlisted authors seem so much smarter than me! I’m delighted. It’s a wonderful festival and such a prestigious prize. I’d like to thank the judges who read all the shortlisted books, and Simon Theakston for sponsoring the Festival. I’d particularly like to thank my publishers, Transworld, and my wonderful agent, Jane Gregory.”

The 2014 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and Radio Times. Belinda collected a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade oak cask provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.

Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston, said:

“It was a very tough decision as it is every year as all the books on the shortlist were outstanding but I’m delighted to hand the trophy to Belinda.”

A special presentation was made to Lynda La Plante - the winner of the fifth Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

Lynda said: “'I am delighted to be at the Festival this year and it is a great honour to be the recipient of such a prestigious award.  I've decided to dedicate my award to the late Verity Lambert, who had faith in me at the very start of my writing career when she commissioned Widows.  Also to the readers of my books and viewers of my television productions, they give me such enthusiastic and valuable feedback and without them I wouldn't have this wonderful career that I enjoy so much.”

La Plante joins Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill as recipients of the Award.

The Liverpool author began her career as an actress before turning to scriptwriting.  La Plante has written over 170 hours of award winning television drama including Widows, Prime Suspect and Above Suspicion.  She recently announced she has begun writing TENNSISON, based on her character Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect), which will follow the character from the age of 21 when she first joins the police force as a WPC.

La Plante’s new standalone novel, Twisted continues La Plante’s run of internationally acclaimed best sellers.

Simon Theakston added: “It’s also a great privilege to welcome Lynda La Plante to Harrogate to collect her Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. This award acknowledges her huge contribution not only to crime fiction, but to British culture as a whole with her iconic television oeuvre.”

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

An Appetite for Murder by Linda Stratmann

 Published by The Mystery Press.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-5444-0

Frances Doughty is a very unusual young woman. Alone in the world, apart from her redoubtable companion, Sarah, Frances has adopted a career as a private investigator, a remarkable move for a respectable, middle-class woman in Late-Victorian times. What is more, Frances' exploits have been fictionalised in the local newspaper by an unknown journalist and she is famous throughout Bayswater, where she and Sarah live.

In 1881, Thomas Whibley, a wealthy and very over-weight businessman dies suddenly at his home. His death sparks off acrimonious letters in the Bayswater newspapers from doctors and supporters of various diet regimes. This progresses to anonymous, libellous letters, and Frances is employed to discover the author of these libels.

At the same time, Frances is offered a more controversial case. Hubert Sweetman is a former colleague of Whibley, who has served fourteen years in prison for a violent robbery that he has always insisted he did not commit. Having served his time, he has been released from prison and asks Frances to help him find his estranged wife and children. Although Frances has her doubts; wondering why Sweetman's wife so determinedly turned from him before he was convicted, she likes Sweetman and agrees to try and locate his family. Before her investigation makes any progress, Mrs Sweetman is murdered and Sweetman is arrested for the crime. Against her better judgement, Frances agrees to investigate Mrs Sweetman's murder.

As her two cases progress, Frances finds herself embroiled in the complex world of middle-class business dealings and becomes convinced that the solution to present day crime lies in discovering the truth behind crimes and suspicious deaths in the past. As she draws nearer to the truth, Frances realises that her own life and reputation are in danger.

This is the fourth in the Frances Doughty series and the author shows great skill in inserting the back story into the current plot without becoming cumbersome or giving too much away. It is a meticulously researched and beautifully structured novel that takes the reader smoothly through an intricate plot, skilfully interweaving the strands of the investigations. Frances is an engaging heroine and life in Victorian Bayswater is convincingly portrayed. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in the city of Leicester on 4 April 1948. Linda attended Medway Street Infants and Junior School, in the days of the eleven plus, and from there went to Wyggeston Girls Grammar School. Her earliest ambition was to be an astronomer, and she read and wrote a great deal of science fiction. She also read biology, zoology and medicine, and seriously considered a medical career. But by her teens, she had developed an absorbing and life-long interest in true crime, probably taking after her mother who loved to read about famous trials.  After a period of rebellion Linda I took her A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971, graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. She then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes.  In 1987, unable to resist the pull of London she moved there, married her second husband, Gary in 1993. In 2001 she left the civil service, and started a new career as a freelance writer and sub-editor, and in 2002 was commissioned to write her first published book on the history of Chloroform.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

'Past Deception' by Barbara Fagan Speake

Published by Country Books
ISBN 978-1-906789-94-7

The story grips you from the first page when Andy Tremont wakes up in captivity.  He has no knowledge of what has happened to him and why he is held in a cage with his hands and feet shackled.  He is fortunate in that the police are alerted to his apparent kidnapping very quickly.  His twin sister, Laura, raises the alarm after he misses their joint birthday party and fails to send her a certain card that they had sent to and fro since childhood. 

This is a police procedural set in the USA where detective Annie Macpherson is on a placement with the Westford police in Connecticut.  She has been sent on the temporary assignment from the UK where she worked for the Greater Manchester police.  She has completed most of her 6 months in Connecticut during which she has participated in some important cases and has been invited to liaise with the regional squad specialising in child sex abuse since previous cases have dealt with that area.  Her relationships with other members of the force have developed well and her expertise is respected.

The intricate plot leads on from the immediate impact of the awakening of Andy Tremont in captivity.  From here on his experiences are contrasted with the efforts to find him.  Barbara handles all the different threads of the tale very well so that momentum is always maintained.  As a reader you care deeply about the imprisoned, the detectives and the characters who get embroiled in events.  The psychology of all involved is, as always, very successful - Barbara's own experience as a psychologist is of great value to her in producing credible characters.  Obviously she can deal with US situation since she was raised there - she did the opposite of Annie by coming to England from the USA to live and work.  The title does have significance and its development really enhances the tale as it winds its way to an exciting finale.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Previous books about Annie are Primed by the Past and Programmed to Kill. 

Barbara Fagan Speake was born and brought up in Connecticut. She has written 3 crime novels so far.  The first, Secrets Only Sleep, is a standalone mystery.  The second is this book and the third, Programmed to Kill, develops Annie’s adventures in the USA further

Jennifer S Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults

‘Theft of Life’ by Imogen Robertson

Published by Headline,
22 May 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-7553-9016-8

When I happen across a new author I enjoy, it’s not unusual for me to go looking for his or her backlist.. This book sent me in search of the source material listed in the bibliography or acknowledgements, and that’s not usual at all.

Theft of Life is the fifth in Imogen Robertson’s series of 18th century mysteries featuring forthright amateur sleuth Harriet Westerman and reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther, and if any of the others address a darker or more shameful facet of British history I would be very surprised.

To any right-thinking 21st century person, the concept of slavery is anathema. To many in the late 18th century, it was part of everyday life, and few people above the poverty line failed to benefit from it in some way, either directly through the wealth it generated, or more obliquely by enjoying the sugar, cotton, tobacco and other products it made affordable.

It isn’t always a comfortable read (though don’t let that put you off – it’s well worth the effort), and that is what sent me to the source material; I couldn’t quite believe the barbaric treatment of slaves which the author describes. Unfortunately the evidence is plain; if anything things were even worse than her account. A Georgette Heyer view of history this book is most emphatically not. Imogen Robertson has an extraordinary talent for bringing her background to vibrant, sometimes appalling life. Here is 18th century city life, from the gutter to the ducal mansion and many points between, full of telling detail and sensory evocation.

The plot is complex, and puts out tendrils as far afield as the West Indies; the solution, when it finally unravels, is simple and inevitable, but retains the element of surprise. The joy of the narrative lies in Harriet’s and Gabriel’s gradual unpicking of the various strands, crossing paths along the way with characters as vividly drawn as the setting, black, brown and white, some a little larger than life. Perhaps the non-white players are a little skewed towards goodness, but if Robertson feels she needs to make a point, it’s one which needs to be made.

The sum total is a rich, thought-provoking novel which is far more than a good mystery, though it’s definitely that. If it didn’t exactly leave me feeling proud to be British, it did make me glad I live more than two centuries later, when the world has moved on at least a little way.  Imogen Robertson is a force to be reckoned with, and a name to watch. I’ll certainly be looking for her backlist.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington in the North East of England, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and spent a year in Russia in a city called Voronezh during the early nineties. Before she started writing full-time she used to direct children's television, film and radio. She decided to try and make a career out of writing after winning the Telegraph's 'First thousand words of a novel' competition in 2007 with the opening scene of Instruments of Darkness, her first book.
She has now written six novels; five in the Georgian Westerman and Crowther series and a standalone, Paris Winter. Paris Winter, Island of Bones and  have all been shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Historical Dagger. She also plays the cello and lives in Bermondsey, South London.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

‘Sea of Stone’ by Michael Ridpath

Published by Corvus,
6 May 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-782-393917
This is the 4th book in the Fire & Ice series.  Ridpath has a real gift for describing the harsh realities of hard-scrabble farming in the remoter parts of Iceland.  Lava-fields, glaciers, isolation and cold are part of the everyday lives of those trying to scratch a living from the land.  Mix that in with tales from the Icelandic Sagas, plus family feuds, deadly secrets, anger and hatred and you have a gripping story guaranteed to keep you turning the pages.

A hateful old man is found dead in his house.  Who did it?  A whole slew of possible suspects stands up to be counted, including his grandson Magnus, Icelandic-born, American-bred policeman working in his own country.  Magnus is the protagonist in this series and early on, the reader knows he can't be the guilty party.  It's also obvious that he knows who is – or thinks he does. I thought I knew, too, and unlike Magnus, I was right!  Which does not in the least detract from this absorbing tale of murder and mystery.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Michael Ridpath was born in Devon in 1961, but brought up in Yorkshire. He was educated at Millfield, Merton College, Oxford. Before becoming a writer, Michael Ridpath used to work in the City of London as a bond trader.  He has written eight thrillers set in the worlds of business and finance, but is now trying his hand at something slightly different.  Where The Shadows Lie, the first in the Fire and Ice series featuring an Icelandic detective named Magnus Jonson, was published in 2010.  He has published two further books in the series.  He now lives in North London.

Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.