Friday, August 29, 2014

9mm: An interview with Ann Cleeves

As we roll through August, the 9mm series is well and truly humming again after a long hiatus. It's an absolute pleasure to bring you these regular (now back to weekly, again) interviews with some of the world's very best crime writers.

Today it's my privilege to share with you my recent interview with British crime writer Ann Cleeves, who is the Programme Director for the 2015 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Cleeves is famous for several series of crime tales, including her George and Molly series (which began with her debut A BIRD IN THE HAND in 1986), the Inspector Ramsay series, the Vera Stanhope series, and the Shetland Islands series.

Twenty years after her debut, Cleeves won the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the richest crime writing prize in the world, for RAVEN BLACK, the first in her Jimmy Perez/Shetland Island series. That series has been adapted for the television series Shetland, and the Vera Stanhope series has also been adapted for screen.

Cleeves' books have been translated into 20 languages, received strong reviews worldwide, and been shortlisted for several crime writing awards in Britain and abroad. She was inducted into the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame in 2012, and last month was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland "in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a crime writer".

But for now, Ann Cleeves becomes the 80th crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
This is really difficult and like being asked to choose a very best friend, but today I'll go with Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski. The books are well-written and thought-provoking and it was great to have a strong central female character.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I was an Enid Blyton child - she gave me my first taste of crime fiction. I remember going to my local library and the librarian pulled The Island of Adventure from behind the counter like a magician with a rabbit from a hat.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
A Bird in the Hand was my first published novel and the first piece of writing I ever completed. Other than that I kept a diary. And when I was working on Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the UK, I wrote lots of letters.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I enjoy travelling and spending time in Shetland. But I have six grandchildren now so there's not much spare time...

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I live in Whitley Bay, on England's north east coast.  It's a slightly faded sea-side town now, but I love being an easy walk to the beach. On New Year's Day there's an annual swim in the sea. Completely crazy because the water's freezing but great fun.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Brenda Blethyn, who plays VERA in the ITV adaptation of my books. She doesn't look like me but she's become a friend and I think she'd do me proud.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
Raven Black, the first Shetland novel changed my career so I'm very fond of that. But I'm proud of Harbour Street, the most recent Vera book.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
My initial reaction was relief.  Our car had broken down and we didn't have the money to fix it. I knew that the advance for the novel would pay to get it back on the road.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
Recently I did a signing on a train between London and York to celebrate the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival - I'm programme chair next year. That was good fun.

Thank you Ann Cleeves. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Ann Cleeves and her books here:

Comments welcome. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Preview of David Fincher's take on GONE GIRL

Directed by David Fincher and based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, GONE GIRL unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

GONE GIRL lands in theaters on October 3rd.

Okay, I'm excited...

I know the Emmy went to Breaking Bad (terrific show), lots of people are enamoured by the likes of Game of Thrones (also very good) or True Detective (really looking forward to watching that), but for me, personally, this is my number one MUST-WATCH television drama, filled with superb writing and acting.

The seventh and final season kicks off in the United States next Tuesday night. I'm excited, curious, and perhaps mildly terrified as to where Kurt Sutter is going to take us, on this final ride...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Elmore Leonard's LIFE OF CRIME in cinemas this week

There have been plenty of crime stories turned into films or television series, but I'm particularly excited on multiple levels about this week's general cinematic release in the United States of Life of Crime, which is based on a novel by the great Elmore Leonard (THE SWITCH). Starring Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, and Tim Robbins, the film centres on the kidnapping of Aniston's character, the wife of Robbins' character, a crooked real estate developer. However the two kidnappers, looking to extort the husband with information about his corrupt business and offshore accounts, find their plan up in smoke when the developer decides he'd rather enjoy his time with his mistress (Fisher) and not pay the ransom to get his wife back.

Double-crosses and plot twists ensue, as the wife decides to join the criminals and turn the tables on her husband. From all accounts, it's classic stuff from the master Elmore Leonard. Looking at the trailer earlier this month (watch above), it certainly looks like a fun crime farce, with a great cast, also including Mos Def, and Mark Boone Jr (Bobby Munson from terrific TV show Sons of Anarchy). So I'm very hopeful about this film adaptation of a top notch crime novel by a man many consider the greatest crime writer of the last generation (I'd maybe moot James Lee Burke, but Leonard's right at the summit too). 

I'll certainly be heading along to the big screen to watch with some anticipation. 

THE SWITCH was originally published back in 1978. The Dallas Morning News said Leonard wrote the way Hammett and Chandler might today, "if they sharpened their senses of ironic humor and grew better ears for dialogue". That energy and zest has been transferred to the screen by the film-makers, with a review in The Guardian of the film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival calling it "an unexpectedly winning take from one of the less splashy directors to have attempted Leonard". The review particularly praised the "neat plot flips, its nips and tucks and flies in the ointment", the dialogue - "neatly filleted and served up a treat", and "top notch" acting performances. From outside opinion, it certainly sounds like a very good adaptation. 

On a personal note, I'm also really looking forward to this film as its producer is an old law school buddy of mine, the marvellous Wendy Benge. I visited with Wendy while travelling in the United States last year, but didn't realise her "Jennifer Aniston film" she told me about at the time was based upon an Elmore Leonard book! Wendy has been working incredibly hard for many years carving out a great career as an entertainment lawyer and film producer in LA, and its terrific to see all her hard work and great efforts coming to fruition more and more in recent years (her credits include The Butler, Life After Beth, the George W. Bush biopic W, and the upcoming psychological thriller Broken Vows, starring Wes Bentley, which finished shooting earlier this month). Her career seems to be taking off, and I'm really proud to have such a talented and inspirational friend. She's a pretty exceptional human being too. So go watch her movie! I will be, because it looks great.

What have been some of your favourite crime novel film or television adaptations? Comments welcome.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

But wait, there's more: good news for Luther fans

While it was disappointing to see the excellent Neil Cross-penned British TV drama Luther miss out on some further recognition at today's Emmy Awards (in what was a big night for high quality crime dramas, with Breaking Bad, Fargo, and Sherlock scooping awards), there is some good news for Luther fans.

In an interview on the red carpet, Luther star Idris Elba, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries, talked about his desire to definitely bring Luther back to the screen - not only in the rumoured film, but also potentially more television episodes. You can watch the interview below: