Thursday, 29 June 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Charles Harris

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 





Today I'm delighted to welcome 

CHARLES HARRIS

to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 




... AUTHORS
It’s got to be Tom Wolfe, if only for Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe showed us that you can write about a crime and show all sides of society, top to bottom, with acid wit, enthralling characters, dazzling language and compassion at the same time. I challenge anyone to read his descriptions of the justice system in New York, and not cry with rage. Sadly, I sat recently with a prosecuting barrister in Camberwell, South London, and the process there looked horribly familiar. 


... FILMS/MOVIES
Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a desperate, second-rate criminal who finds a career filming crimes and fatal accidents for TV. A brilliant but overlooked dark satirical noir it was the best film out in 2015 for me, and while it received many nominations, I still can’t believe it didn’t win any awards. 


... TV DRAMAS
The Shield, by a mile. From the opening, jaw-dropping, episode where (spoiler alert) one cop kills another who’s about to rat on him, you know that this series will have a tragic arc and at the same time keep you constantly surprised. Detective Vic Mackay is one of the great conflicted anti-heroes in crime drama and you just have to stay with him to find out how it all ends. 


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
I tend to be drawn to strong satirical anti-heroes, and they don’t come stronger than Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Like Wolfe, Bret Easton Ellis has a way of combining wit and insight to create character. Bateman, like many great villains, makes you feel he’d be a riveting dinner companion – as long as you didn’t end up as dinner. 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
I’d love to say my son’s wayward Hampstead DC, Nick Belsey, but that would be nepotism, so instead I’m going for The Saint – however not the sweetened Roger Moore TV version. Simon Templar, as originally written by Leslie Charteris, is a much more interesting character on the page - edgier and more street-wise, not averse to killing for justice. I’ve never told anyone before, but for many years in my teens, my secret aim was to grow up to do what he did. Well, I now deal out justice, and even kill people, albeit on the page, and even run a martial arts dojo on a Charteris Road. Who’d have thought it?


... MURDER WEAPONS
A very noir weapon this one – a woman’s body. If I remember right, it comes from a Simon Templar short story. A rich young man dies playing leapfrog over his fiancée on a diving board but instead of going into the water, he hits the side of the pool and breaks his neck. Templar investigates and works out that the woman, who is expert in judo, shifted subtly as he jumped over her, to redirect his dive, and inherit his money. Sex, money, Freudian imagery, it has everything.
    

... DEATH SCENES
The spontaneous combustion of Krook, a rag and bottle merchant in Dickens’ Bleak House. Just to show that even great writers can be playful and totally mad when they want to be.
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
There are parts of the Internet that many have never have heard of. I love Usenet, around thirty thousand discussion groups that you can get to through (though are not the same as) Google Groups. Everything from crime writing to zoology, and very lively. For example, I visited the transgendered groups to help research a story about a New York cop and a transsexual. Amazingly, this led me to a transitioning New York cop, who happened to be here in the UK on a visit. More on this and other ways to research on the Net on my FAQ: http://www.search-faq.com


... WRITING TIPS
  • Read massively
  • write a load so that you find out what kind of writer you are
  • plan like you plan a holiday – not so little that you get there and find the hotel hasn’t been finished but not so much that you don’t leave yourself time to have fun

... WRITING SNACKS

Miso soup and rice cakes.


About CHARLES HARRIS
Best-selling author and award-winning writer-director, Charles Harris is also one of Britain's most respected script consultants, having co-founded the first screenwriters workshop in the world, London Screenwriters Workshop. He is now moving into novels with his debut The Breaking of Liam Glass.
Charles has won international awards for his documentaries, dramatised documentaries and his debut feature film, Paradise Grove. He has had short stories nominated for awards and his non-fiction work includes the best-selling Teach Yourself: Complete Screenwriting Course (John Murray) and Jaws in Space (Creative Essentials). Both are recommended reading on MA screenwriting courses.
He is also a fifth Dan in Aikido. He lives in London with his wife and they have two cats, who live with them, and two sons who currently don’t. 

Find Charles Harris on his website and on Twitter - @chasharris


About THE BREAKING OF LIAM GLASS




Publisher's description
With London knife crime now on the rise, this is not so much a whodunnit as a blackly comic what-they-did-after-it satire, that resonates in a timely way.
Teenage footballer Liam Glass is stabbed on an estate next to London’s Regents Park and, with an eye to the main chance, journalist Jason Crowthorne sets out to make the most of the story and build a crusade against teenage knife-crime. 

In the following 24 hours, Jason creates his campaign, hiding a scoop from rival journalists and avoiding arrest. But other powerful figures are determined to exploit the boy’s story as much as they can, and they have fewer scruples! Liam Glass is a darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities, asking deep moral questions in a sympathetic and humorous way. 

The Breaking of Liam Glass was published by Marble City Publishing on 29 June 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Other Twin by Lucy V Hay

The Other Twin
By Lucy V Hay
Published by Orenda Books (3 July 2017)



Publisher's description
When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India's death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India's laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

My verdict
The Other Twin is a modern psychological thriller delving into the Brighton party scene and the hazards of social media.

Poppy returns to Brighton after her sister falls to her death off a railway bridge. She doesn't believe official reports, and decides to delve into her sister's life. Hacking into India's laptop and blog, Poppy uncovers secrets, lies and toxic friendships.

The Other Twin is filled with highly descriptive prose, an amazing sense of place and authentic dialogue. The characters are strong, believable, diverse and suitably flawed, as I would expect from a screenwriter. The multi-layered plot kept me engrossed all the way through. Each layer was gradually peeled away to reveal yet another surprise (I admit I did guess some but not all).

It was very hard to put this book down, and I devoured most of it in one sitting. The book continues at a cracking pace and could easily be transferred to the big (or small) screen. This is certainly a novel in keeping with the times, particularly in terms of subject matter. I don't want to give anything away, but it was exactly what I expected from the author, having followed her screenwriting blog for some time - diversity being the key.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher and have reviewed the book for Lovereading.

Monday, 26 June 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Amer Anwar

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 





Today I'm delighted to welcome 

AMER ANWAR


to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 



... AUTHORS
Sorry, I've tried… but simply can't pick just one. I'm going for the three I feel have had the most direct influence on me as a writer and whose books I regularly tend to re-read. They also happen to be three of my all-time favourite authors too. They are Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark and Joe R. Lansdale. All are American and feature characters that are sometimes, or always, on the wrong side of the law. Each of them has an easy, lean style and tells tales full of action with a side of dark humour. I can't get enough of them. 


... FILMS/MOVIES
I love movies and could list a whole host of them but will restrain myself as best I can and mention a few of my absolute favourite crime flicks. Heat, muscular and intense, and the robbery scenes are simply superb. Goodfellas, perhaps the best gangster movie ever and one of the most realistic, or so Eddie Bunker said, and he would've known. Seven, dark, devious and totally original. I went to a preview screening knowing absolutely nothing about the film – for some reason, I thought it was going to be a comedy – and I was totally gobsmacked by it. Then there's The Sting, an absolute classic caper movie. 


... TV DRAMAS
TV dramas have come a long way in recent years. There are so many great ones, I could rattle off another long list. But… I'm going to go for one that I feel kind of led the way for the sort of long-form storytelling we now expect from TV dramas – The Sopranos. I watched it when it was first broadcast in the UK, on Channel 4, 10 pm Monday nights. I watched every season like that – it was way before box set binges were a thing – and I absolutely loved it. The character development was great, the story arcs stretched across episodes, even seasons, it had the space and depth of a good book and felt like nothing else on TV at the time. Plus, it was unapologetically adult. The language and violence had never really been portrayed quite like that on TV before. It was groundbreaking and just a fabulous TV show. 


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
Hannibal Lecter  – a bit of an obvious choice perhaps, but I read the books way before the films made the character a household name and he was such a fascinating creation. And both Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs are excellent crime novels in their own right. I also really like Dexter. Making a serial killer into the "hero" and actually have you like him, is a very neat twist. While not an out-and-out killer, Richard Stark's Parker is a professional armed robber who has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way – as he does, numerous times, over the course of more than 20 novels. 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
You know, I didn't really realise it before now, but looking at my bookshelves in the hope of an obvious answer to this question, it strikes me that even though I've read a lot of crime novels, I've never really followed a detective series. I may have read one or two books of a series and meant to get back to them but for the most part, it seems my crime reading has focused on the shadier side of the street, characters who are either a little or very definitely, dodgy. The exception to that is Philip Marlowe, whose voice and wit really drew me in.
But in response to this question, my answer is going to be Raylan Givens, the modern day US Marshal, who likes to wear a cowboy hat and is quick on the draw. He's more of a supporting character in his first appearance in Elmore Leonard's Pronto but took a more central role in the follow-up, Riding the Rap. Then the character made the transition to TV in the hit show, Justified. The great thing was the creators of the show were huge Elmore Leonard fans and wanted to stay true to the feel of Leonard's writing, so much so that they had him as an executive producer and ran scripts by him, to get the feel right. The character just grew and grew. Leonard's own fondness for the character grew too, so much so, that his final book was about him and simply titled, Raylan.



... MURDER WEAPONS

OK, so, it's not from a crime novel but from a horror novel I read back in my teens – but it's stayed with me all this time, so that's what I've chosen it. There's a scene where a priest is confronted by a vampire in a church and he grabs up a heavy metal crucifix from to altar to ward it off, thinking the creature will shrink away in fear. The vampire just laughs and sneers and says something like, he never believed in that stuff when he was alive, why the hell's it going to have any effect now he's dead? The priest is stumped. The vampire attacks… and the priest uses the crucifix as a weapon and bludgeons the vampire to death. It wasn't at all what I expected to happen! I'd be really impressed if anyone can name the novel. I've only ever met one other person who's read it!
    

... DEATH SCENES
For once, a short answer. The end of Perfume by Patrick Süskind. If you've read it, you'll know and if you haven't, well… It's all of the above – horrific, bizarre, amusing and surprising. The whole book is a very unusual and wonderful sort of crime novel but not like anything else you might have read. One of my all-time favourite books. 
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES

For Western Fringes, I guess I'd have to say Google Maps and Street View. I know the areas that are depicted in the book and most of the time I could envisage where things were taking place, but had the ability to double-check details right from my computer, to figure out routes and locations. That said, nothing beats actually going to places and experiencing them for real, which I did do, armed with a notebook and camera. But when you need to refresh your memory or plan something out to do with location etc. it's a real help. And you can do it in your pyjamas without having to brave the sometimes awful weather outside. 


... WRITING TIPS
Get the first draft done! Just get your ideas down, on paper or on screen, however you write, but just do it. Don't worry about making it sound right or pretty, that all comes later when you get into the editing stage. Just get the whole thing down, from start to finish, so you have a completed manuscript (yay!) – no matter how rough. That's a great feeling in itself.
Then you can go back over it and edit and make it better. That's when you can make cuts and improvements. You'll have a greater understanding of the overall story and will be able to find better ways of conveying what you want, better words, better ideas. You'll be able to chop and change things, add new scenes, new characters – but all because you've got a complete story to work with.
A bit like being a sculptor or painter – you need to chisel out or paint the rough shape of a piece first then, then go over it to give it definition and form, before finally concentrating on the details. 


... WRITING SNACKS

I don't generally snack at the computer while working. I do drink either tea, coffee or water depending on what I'm in the mood for. At the moment, I tend to break for lunch and read for a little while, then get back to work. If I have to get up to do something and venture into the kitchen, I might grab a handful of mixed salted nuts or, if I happen to have any, a little bit of dark chocolate as a treat.



About AMER ANWAR
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. He has worked as a warehouse assistant, a comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and as a chalet rep in the French Alps, before finally landing a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and working in the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Western Fringes is his first novel. 

Find Amer Anwar on his website, FB page and on Twitter - @ameranwar


About WESTERN FRINGES




Publisher's description
A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London.
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders' yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he has to search for his boss's runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he's not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it's too late? And if he does, can he keep her - and himself - alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead? 

Western Fringes was published by Edurus Books on 30 March 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.