Monday 29 July 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Sherryl Clark

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 her BEST OF CRIME ...

I have a lot of favourites but currently it’s Tana French. I discovered her first book via  a review, and I love how each new novel takes a character from a previous one and they become the new main protagonist. They are all members of the Dublin Murder Squad, and the settings play a huge part, but mainly I enjoy the deep character development and great writing.

There is a Bruce Willis movie hardly anybody has heard of – 16 Blocks – that I think is one of his best. I also use it a lot in classes to show structure. It works perfectly for this, whether you are looking at 3-act or even hero’s journey, but Willis portrays dilemma and redemption in such an understated, powerful way that it’s one of the few movies I can watch again and again.

I can’t go past The Wire. It had me enthralled from start to finish, and there were so many multi-faceted characters doing good and bad at the same time! I had to pay attention in every episode and loved the way clues and hints were planted and then paid off later on. Such a great example of set up and pay off. But like my other ‘picks’ here, it was all about great characters as well as plot. I also loved Happy Valley and River.

So many fictional serial killers blend together for me that it’s hard to name any I think are best. The one I remember most is in Silence of the Lamb s– not so much Hannibal Lecter but the other guy, Buffalo Bill, and the skinning and the moths. The visuals have stayed with me!

Logan McRae in Stuart MacBride’s books set in Scotland. As well as having to put up with the constant rain in Aberdeen, McRae has the world’s most awful boss, DCI Roberta Steel. McRae is both dogged and determined, and sometimes hangdog, but underneath it all he’s clever and instinctive – just how we want our detectives!

Poisons interest me, although so far I haven’t used any in my novels. There is a certain poison dart frog that can kill humans. One variety apparently has a poison which has highly curative properties for humans, but the difference between what cures and what kills is so small that it’s too dangerous to use in medicine. In murder, however…

For some reason I find the most horrific death scenes are to do with wood chippers or industrial mincing machines! Perhaps because what comes out is in no way human any more. The death scenes I remember most vividly are in the movie, Seven, I think because they all have a meaning that ties in with the killer and the motive. The head in the box at the end is both bizarre and horrible.

The site I tend to use the most for research is Victoria Police. They also have free issues of their magazine, “Police Life”, which tell you all sorts of interesting things about latest developments and changes, as well as interviews with serving officers. For writing, I read Writer Unboxed and Steven Pressfield, among others. For in-depth research I have a growing collection of books, so I can have it all in one handy place, and I’ve recently completed a course on crime scene investigation and forensic pathology.

One of the best tips I’ve ever had was actually about motivation generally – to team up with someone as accountability partners. You agree to your writing goals (words per day usually) and at the end of each day you email each other to “check in”. 28 days at a time seems to work best. Every time I’ve done this with a writing friend, I’ve written far more than I aimed for. It’s really productive. (I wrote about it here -

My writing go-to is coffee. I don’t drink a lot of it but often it’s coffee that gets my brain into writing mode for some reason. Even more so when I am stuck – I take myself off to a café and have coffee and write. Works every time!

Sherryl Clark has had 40 children’s and YA books published in Australia, and several in the US and UK, plus collections of poetry and four verse novels. She has taught writing at Holmesglen TAFE and Victoria University. She recently completed a Master of Fine Arts program at Hamline University, Minnesota, and is now studying for a PhD in creative writing.

Find Sherryl Clark on her website and on Twitter - @sherrylwriter


Publisher's description
When Judi Westerholme finds out her estranged brother has been murdered, she assumes it's connected to his long term drug addiction. Returning home, she is shocked to discover he had been clean for years, had a wife – now missing –, a child and led a respectable life. But if he had turned his life around, why was he killed in a drug deal shooting? And where is his wife?

Desperate to know what really happened, Judi sets out to uncover the truth, even though it means confronting her own traumatic past. But she's not the only one looking for answers…

She turned her back on her brother in the past. Should she trust him now?

Trust Me, I'm Dead was published in ebook by Verve Books on 25 July 2019.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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