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 


to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 

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. 

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 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. 

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. 

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.


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!

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. 


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. 

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. 


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.

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


Publisher's description
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.

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