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 


to share his BEST OF CRIME ... 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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?

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.

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.

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:

  • 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


Miso soup and rice cakes.

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


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.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for having me, Victoria, and good luck with your own novel. Your readers might like to know that the publishers of THE BREAKING OF LIAM GLASS - have kindly put on a special launch day offer just for today - including a reduction of the paperback price and free short stories. Details at