CrimeFest 2012: Debut Authors Panel – An Infusion of Fresh Blood

From classic crime to newly published authors. The first panel of Saturday morning at CrimeFest featured five debut writers discussing their novels. Moderated by’s Chris Simmons, the eclectic panel provided a glimpse of some of the issues and themes featured in the latest crime books.

The first speaker was Thomas Enger whose first book Burned was published in July last year. The novel features Henning Juul, a journalist back at work after a traumatic incident who becomes involved in investigating a murder. Burned is the first in a planned series of six books, most of which have already been plotted. Enger spoke about the importance of mapping out the structure of his books after his previous writing attempts which were more spontaneous, but in his eyes less successful.

Next to speak was Penny Hancock, whose book Tideline is about a woman who abducts a teenage boy and keeps him prisoner in her home. The author explained that inspiration came partly from the guilt most mothers feel at failing their children in some way. The book focuses on the dangers that can emanate from within the home, usually considered to be a place of safety.

The third panelist was Damien Seamen whose book The Killing of Emma Gross is available on Kindle. The book was inspired the true story of a victim of Peter Kürten, the Dusseldorf Ripper in 1929. A number of serial murders took place during the Weimar Republic and the author explained his fascination with the period and the influence of the films of Fritz Lang.

Michael J Malone’s Blood Tears will be released on the 6th June. His view was that the Catholic experience in Scotland hadn’t been properly addressed in crime fiction and his book, in part, addresses the abuses that took place in Catholic orphanages in the 1970s. Michael is a published poet but he explained that to maintain momentum in a crime book he needed to change the way he approached his writing.

The Fall by Claire McGowan is the story of three characters involved in the case of a man accused of a murder in a London nightclub. Claire explained that she had been influenced by the social divisions that exist in modern day London and wanted to reflect this in her book. Written with three narrative voices the book addresses, through the medium of a crime, the class and race divisions that polarise under pressure.

It was an excellent panel with the authors explaining the process that saw them reach publication. Most writers had written at least one manuscript that remained unpublished but the authors were divided on the extent to which the acquisition of a publishing contract had influenced their writing.

The uniting force between the books seemed to be the location of the novels, which for the most were essential elements of the narrative, and in the case of Penny Hancock was almost a character in the book. I have both Blood Tears and Burned on my reading list after the panel and hope to read all of the books in the near future.

Thanks to Pam McIlroy for the top photo.

CrimeFest 2012 – Forgotten Authors Panel Recommendations

CrimeFest 2012 is taking place in Bristol this weekend, and I just know that my reading list is going to have expanded massively by the end of the week-end. There are some great panels taking place featuring established writers such as PD James and Sue Grafton, alongside début novelists including Michael J Malone, a fellow reviewer whose first crime novel Blood Tears is being published next week.

Yesterday afternoon, there was a wonderful session entitled Forgotten Authors where the panel recommended crime writers whose books have fallen out of favour. Chaired by Martin Edwards, his nomination was JJ Connington, the pseudonym of British chemist Alfred Walter Stewart. Martin described him as a ‘fair play writer’ who wrote books where all the clues were present for the reader to find. His suggested reading was Murder in the Maze. 

Peter Gutteridge’s recommendations were CS Forester and Ira Levin. Forrester is, of course, famous for his Hornblower series but Payment Deferred, an early crime novel by the writer was recommended for its ‘suburban noir’ theme. Ira Levin is now chiefly remembered for the film adaptations of his books including Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil and The Stepford Wives. A Kiss Before Dying, also adapted twice for the screen, was recommended for the bombshell that awaits the reader early on in the book.

Dolores Gordon-Smith’s recommendation was Austin Freeman. Julian Symons once described reading Freeman’s books as ‘like chewing dry straw’ which the panel considered to be a little harsh. Freeman is considered to have invented the inverted detective story, where the perpetrator of a crime is revealed early on and the narrative then charts a detectives attempt to solve the mystery. Mr Polton Explains was one recommended book from this author, written in 1940 in a London air-raid shelter.

John Curran’s first suggestion was Andrew Garve who also wrote as Roger Bax and Paul Somers. His books were set all over the world and he excelled in constructing innovative plots. Particularly recommended was A Touch of Larceny, later made into a film starring James Mason. Curran’s second recommendation was Helen McCloy who also wrote intriguing plots, many involving psychoanalyst Dr Basil Willing. She Walks Alone was commended as an Agatha Christie style thriller.

Caroline Todd, one half of the writing duo Charles Todd, recommended two authors. The first, Evelyn Anthony, had a varied career switching from historical fiction to Cold War stories and then thrillers. Her famous book The Tamarind Seed was made into a film starring Julie Andrews and Omar Shariff. The second recommendation was Raphael Sabatini, once famed for his adventures such as Scaramouche and Captain Blood but who has now slipped into obscurity.

So some great recommendations from an interesting panel discussion. During the question and answer session it was asked why these writers, most of whom were once immensely popular, have dropped into obscurity. The consensus was that there is a random element as to which writers survive to become classics although some styles of writing did go out of fashion.

An excellent panel and Abe Books should be doing some some trade with me in the near future. Have you read any of these authors and do you think their obscurity is undeserved?