Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Oklahama Vietnamese and St Louis cockroaches: an interview with Lou Berney

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 32nd instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 204th overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome award-winning American crime writer Lou Berney to Crime Watch. I met Lou at Bouchercon in Toronto last year. He is one of those writers who I hadn't yet met or interviewed but had heard amazing things about. His novel THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE had achieved the extremely rare feat of sweeping the prestigious Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Awards in the United States. He's a stylish writer that other top crime writers rave about.

That praise has ratcheted up even further notches ahead of the upcoming release of NOVEMBER ROAD. Set against the assassination of President John F Kennedy, it's described as a "poignant and evocative crime tale that centres on a desperate chase across 1960s America - a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities and the hope of second chances".

Early reviews are glowing, and some crime writers who I've met and hold in the absolute highest regard are really raving about how special this book is. Given the high bar Lou set with THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, that's some praise. The great Don Winslow has called it "a staggeringly brilliant book", while Laura Lippman says Lou has become one of the genres stand-outs.

NOVEMBER ROAD is a must-add to your TBR pile if you love really terrific crime writing. I've been saving it for after Bloody Scotland and other recent judging and features commitments, and am really, really looking forward to the read. When he's not putting out sublime crime tales, Lou teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University.

But for now, Lou Berney becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH LOU BERNEY

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
That’s a tough question, but if forced to pick I’d probably go with Kate Atkinson’s detective, Jackson Brodie. I also love Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, though I understand I’m stretching the definition of hero a bit.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
My two older sisters were very influential when it came to my early reading – ie, they told me what to read or else. I remember being fascinated by The Happy Hollisters series, novels about a crime-solving family of kids who went to a different exotic location each book. I think my love of crime-writing and travel both started there.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote and published several short stories when I was in graduate school, but discovered I’m too long-winded for that form. Before I turned to novels, I worked as a professional screenwriter. That was challenging but rewarding. I learned a lot of stuff about plot and structure that comes in handy with my novels.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
My wife and I love to travel. I’ve become something of an expert with airline miles and credit card points, so that allows us to visit places we wouldn’t normally be able to: Egypt, Cambodia, Australia, etc. (We’re dying to go to New Zealand, but since we can usually only travel in the US summer, that’s a problem.)

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?
My hometown, Oklahoma City, has some of the best Vietnamese food in the country, believe it or not.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My life would make a pretty dull movie, thank goodness, and I have no idea who would play me. Someone told me once that I kind of look like Guy Pierce, which is not true but I’m going with it.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
The one I just finished is always my favorite. The one I’m just starting is always my least favorite.

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 bookseller’s shelf?
Booze.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At Bouchercon in St. Louis, I was on a panel with my friend (and superb thriller novelist) Chris Holm. He was talking about his fear of bugs when, suddenly, a GIGANTIC cockroach fell from the ceiling and landed on the table right in front of me. I reacted calmly by freaking out and slapping the cockroach away from me and into the audience. I still feel bad about that. I should have fallen on the grenade.


Thank you Lou, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

You can read more about Lou Berney and his books at his website, and follow him on Twitter

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: TRAP

TRAP by Lilja Sigurdardottir, tr: Quentin Bates (Orenda Books, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

There's plenty of talk about the 'Scandi Crime Wave' and 'Nordic Noir' as if it's some kind of homogeneous offering from the crime writers of that multinational region, when in truth there are plenty of differences in settings, styles, and stories told.

Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardottir certainly underlines that: TRAP is the second in her Reykjavik Noir series and is an edgy tale of international drug running and financial shenanigans centred on a host of rather unlikable but fascinating characters with nary a pensive alcoholic copper in sight.

In a way, it's noir in its truer sense (rather than the mere synonym for crime & mystery storytelling which it's become in recent years) - many of the characters are a bit cynical or fatalistic, and there's plenty of moral ambiguity on offer all across the board. This draws the reader in with a sense of freshness and fascination, while at the same time creating a little buffer: at times I found myself admiring the storytelling more than being totally enveloped by it. Perhaps because I wasn't really rooting for any of the characters, rather just witnessing the traps set and all the carnage unfold.

But it is delicious carnage.

This is a pretty fast, slim read, but has lots going on. Slick, but with substance. It's really interesting to see a crime writer take on the high-level financial mismanagement and white collar crime that can infest nations and have huge effects but isn't paid as much heed as violent crime. Sigurdardottir delivers an interesting tale with great pace and plenty of tension, and some really memorable moments and characters. I closed the book thinking it would make for a great screen tale too.

While none of the characters are particularly heroic, there is a sense of understanding and some empathy with some of them: we can see how they got themselves into bad situations, and even if things began for selfish or less-than-honourable reasons, and much of the harm is self-inflicted, there's also a strong sense of humanity and the messiness of life, both professionally and personally.

A really interesting read from a talented storyteller. One that sticks with you.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Review: RETRIBUTION

RETRIBUTION by Richard Anderson (Scribe Publications, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A rural-crime novel about finding out how to survive and surviving what you find.

In a small country town, an act of revenge causes five lives to collide. Early one Christmas morning, Graeme Sweetapple, a man down on his luck, is heading home with a truck full of stolen steers when he comes across an upended ute that has hit a tree. He is about to get involved with Luke, an environmental protestor who isn’t what he seems; a washed-up local politician, Caroline Statham, who is searching for a sense of purpose, but whose businessman husband seems to be sliding into corruption; and Carson, who is wild, bound to no one, and determined to escape her circumstances.

Into their midst comes Retribution, a legendary horse worth a fortune. Her disappearance triggers a cycle of violence and retaliation that threatens the whole community. As tensions build, they must answer one question: is true retribution ever possible — or even desirable?

Given the location, it's probably more of a dusty gust than a big wave, but there's certainly a fair few really terrific crime novels set in rural Australia that have come out in recent years. This recent release was mentioned to me by one of the best antipodean reviewers in the business, Karen Chisholm, when we were chatting about the rise of Southern Cross Crime (Australian and New Zealand crime writing) and the fresh blood that was coming through and bolstering the ranks.

Unsurprisingly, given he's a second-generation cattle farmer himself, Anderson brings a real sense of authenticity to the small-town characters and setting of RETRIBUTION. There are some really interesting characters, a good mix of personalities and viewpoints on various farmland and rural issues, and just little touches here and there which add texture. Whether it be about crops or horsemanship other things, Anderson weaves information in without overwhelming with details.

RETRIBUTION is also interesting in that it's not centred on a murder mystery (sorry, belated spoiler alert) but kicked into gear by a variety of other tensions and nefarious deeds. All very fitting for the characters and place. The quartet of characters at the heart of the tale are an interesting grouping: a farming thief with close ties to the land, a protestor-for-hire who enjoys creating chaos, a middle-aged woman who's gone from political powerhouse to pariah, and a young woman who wants more - though she's just not quite sure what. Each feels very real and rounded, growing in depth over the course of the novel, and the interactions between them and others aren't typical or cliched.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anderson's take on a rural crime tale. RETRIBUTION is full of interesting texture, fresh characters, authentic rural issues, and an absorbing storyline.

Well worth a look.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Review: BROKEN GROUND

BROKEN GROUND by Val McDermid (Little, Brown, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Alice Somerville's inheritance lies six feet under in a Highland peat bog - a pair of valuable vintage motorbikes buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally organises their recovery, she finds an unwelcome surprise -a body with a pair of bullet holes . . . and Nike trainers. DCI Karen Pirie of Police Scotland's Historic Cases Unit is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems.

Meanwhile an overheard conversation in a cafe draws Karen to the heart of a murder she thought she'd already prevented.

As Karen gets closer to the several truths, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.

Back in the 'Golden Age' of Detective Fiction, from the interwar period and running for a while afterwards, four woman were tabbed as the 'Queens of Crime': Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy Sayers. They weren't the only terrific crime writers from that era, but they are renowned globally as legends of the popular mystery genre. Choosing modern-day equivalents would provoke plenty of debate, but one name is an automatic choice: Val McDermid.

The legendary Scottish crime writer has been entertaining readers for three decades, and even more impressively, continues to push boundaries and raise the bar, rather than resting on her laurels or slipping into obvious formula. Her most recent books, OUT OF BOUNDS and INSIDIOUS INTENT, were shortlisted for major crime awards (the latter was among my very my top reads of 2017).

Her fifth Karen Pirie novel sees the head of the Historic Cases Unit challenged on several fronts. Her and her cold case offsider 'the Mint' are both still adjusting to the absence of their colleague, Pirie's lover, who came to a violent end. A new team member who seems far too close to Pirie's new boss is thrust upon them as they chase down a new lead in a string of historic rapes. When a body emerges from a Highlands peat bog thanks to a couple digging for wartime loot, Pirie and her team are called into action. At the same time an overhead cafe conversation creates all sorts of further problems.

This is a smooth, engaging read. I really enjoyed the way McDermid took readers into the Highlands landscapes, and brought in some of the wartime history. The narrative dips into the past at times, adding tension and delivering fascinating tales rather than any jarring that can occur in lesser hands.

Pirie may have begun as a secondary character in the earliest books (a little like Tito Ihaka in Paul Thomas' award-winning tales, who likewise was never meant to be the star), but she's now front and centre, and a terrific character who's easy to follow. Someone who doesn't see the cold cases unit as a dead-end role; instead Pirie genuinely cares for the families and forgotten victims, working diligently even in the face of problematic office politics and a variety of challenging people. There's an authenticity to the characters, and touches of freshness in the choices McDermid makes - not overt or over-the-top in a 'look at me, being unique and different' way, instead really genuine and fitting.

Deftly drawn characters populate an absorbing tale with plenty of humanity among the dark deeds. Overall BROKEN GROUND is a really good read, and another jewel in the Queen’s crown.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Review: FOOLS' RIVER

FOOLS' RIVER by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime, 2017)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

The two most difficult days in Bangkok writer Poke Rafferty's life begin with an emergency visit from Edward Dell, the almost-boyfriend of his teenage daughter, Miaow. The boy's father, Buddy, a late-middle-aged womanizer who has moved to Bangkok for happy hunting, has disappeared, and money is being siphoned out of his bank and credit card accounts. It soon becomes apparent that Buddy is in the hands of a pair of killers who prey on Bangkok's -sexpats-; when the accounts are empty, he'll be found, like a dozen others, floating facedown in a Bangkok canal with a weighted cast on his unbroken leg. His money is already almost gone. Over forty-eight frantic hours, Poke does everything he can to work the case before it's too late for him to do any good.

Bangkok is a city unlike any other, and Hallinan's excellent Poke Rafferty series brings it to vivid, messy life for mystery lovers. Over the course of several books, Hallinan does a great job invigorating readers' senses, provoking thought with his plotlines and underlying issues, and engaging the emotions through the characters and their relationships.

It's a well-rounded, multi-layered series that offers plenty within its pages.

This eighth instalment sees travel writer turned sleuth Poke Rafferty on an interesting precipice, personally. His wife and love of his life, former Patpong bar queen Rose, is heavily pregnant. Their 'modern family', which includes streetgirl-turned-adopted daughter Miaow, is about to grow. But Rose is worried due to her history that she hasn't shared with Poke. Meanwhile a friend of Miaow's is worried about his wayward father vanishing; Rose is keen to get Poke investigating, out of the way.

Reading a Timothy Hallinan book is a delight. There's a wee zing to his writing that combined with the vibrancy and complexity of the setting brings something little fresh to his crime tales. There's plenty going on away from the main mystery plot, and interesting character arcs or progressions for long-time fans of the series. I'm not sure if this would be the best first introduction to the Poke Rafferty series for new readers, as you'll get even more out of the book if you already understand some of the character relationships and background. It could be read as a standalone, and is a very good read regardless, but for me personally I'd advise going back and sampling a few of the earlier tales first. You may well find yourself devouring them all, book after book.

Another very good read from a very good writer. 

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Childhood travels and snipers in the bottom drawer: an interview with KJ Howe

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 31st instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 203rd overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Canadian thriller writer KJ Howe to Crime Watch. KJ was born in Toronto but had a peripatetic childhood, living in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean - sparking a lifelong interest in travel and other cultures.

She has worked in the business world and as a medical, health, and fitness writer. Her debut thriller, THE FREEDOM BROKER, was released in 2016 and introduced elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris, a kickass heroine whose creation saw KJ spending time with former hostages, negotiators, hostage reintegration experts, special forces operatives, and K&R insurance executives as part of her research. KJ's second Thea Paris novel, SKYJACK, was released earlier this year.

Said Linwood Barclay:
“The Freedom Broker was no fluke. With Skyjack, Howe shows she is the real deal. An honest-to-God, first class thriller writer who will have your knuckles turning white as you flip the pages.”
KJ has been Executive Director of ThrillerFest, the annual New York City conference of the International Thriller Writers organisation. Her tales have been nominated for the Thriller and Barry Awards, and she has won three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellent in Mystery and Suspense.

But for now, KJ Howe becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH KJ HOWE

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
That’s a tough question, as we live in a golden age of brilliant series characters. If I had to pick just one, I’d say Nelson DeMille’s John Corey, as he has the most delightfully distinctive and irreverent voice of any protagonist out there. Nelson is also genius at giving John Corey unforgettable dialogue.  I love it when you can read a few lines of a book and even if the names were blocked out, you’d know immediately which character was talking. Now that’s a lesson in voice.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE by David Morrell.  I moved often while growing up, as my father worked in telecommunications, so we lived in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and many other places. Sometimes it was lonely being the new kid, but books were always loyal friends. When I read David’s spy trilogy, I was transported to another world, a fascinating one with spies!  I knew that if I could ever offer readers that kind of escapism, I would be a happy, happy person. 

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’m a former medical writer, so I have written countless articles about health issues. But I yearned to tell stories so I attended classes, retreats, and then returned to university to complete my Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction. My thesis was a thriller novel about a female sniper. The book had structural issues, so it will forever remain in a drawer, but the character I created will appear in an upcoming Thea Paris adventure. Nothing is ever wasted. You learn something valuable from every word you write.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I’m an avid tennis player, so you’ll often catch me with racquet in hand. I also love adventure travel, and I’ve been known to dive with Great Whites in South Africa, zip-line in the Costa Rican jungle, ride a racing camel in Jordan, scuba dive in the Red Sea, and more. I enjoy being outdoors, especially near the ocean. And I also love to learn—and that’s why I’m immersive in my research. Whether it’s about hot-wiring a car, the kinds of food the Maasai eat, or the inner workings of a kidnapping, I’m fascinated by the smallest details that can bring verisimilitude to the world I’m creating.

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?
For a large and bustling metropolis, Toronto has an incredible array of green space with endless trails and forested areas.  I’d be delighted to take my visitors on a hike or bike ride down to Center Island then hop on a ferry for a cruise around Lake Ontario while enjoying a decadent dinner. 

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Jack Black—hey, if he was good enough for RL Stine, he’s good enough for me. Charlize Theron or Uma Thurman would also work, because those superstars can kick some serious butt. 

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
This would be an ever-evolving answer, as I tend to be wildly enthusiastic about whatever I’m working on at that moment. If it’s fresh, I’m passionate. Right now, I’m working on book three of THE FREEDOM BROKER series, and Thea Paris is negotiating for the release of a news team kidnapped on the Jordan/Syria border, so I’m deep into research about war correspondents. My friend Ken Perry is helping, as he works as a hostile environment consultant, guarding journalists in war zones. It’s absolutely fascinating to absorb what goes on behind the camera in foreign locales. 

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 bookseller’s shelf?
After years of hard work on my craft and storytelling skills, it was almost surreal to hold my first hardcover, THE FREEDOM BROKER. On publication day, I was in NYC for the launch to kick off my tour, and I visited my first child at the Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue. Wow, what a moment.  But the day ended even better with Lee Child interviewing me about my kidnapping research at the Mysterious Bookshop, and we recorded the interview; a day I will always treasure.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I’ve been fortunate that most of my interactions have been lovely and fun.  Fans have used my luggage tag giveaways as earrings, asked for dedications to their dads, and requested posing for playful photos.  No one has asked to be kidnapped—yet!


Thank you KJ, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about KJ Howe and her action-packed thrillers at her website, and follow her on Twitter. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lobster boats and postmodern mysteries: an interview with Paul Doiron

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 30th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 202nd overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Maine author Paul Doiron to Crime Watch, who is the author of the Mike Bowditch series. Bowditch is a Maine game warden who gets involved in investigations in the rural and wilderness areas of the state. I read STAY HIDDEN recently, the ninth in the series, and loved it. As I said in a review, "Among a seemingly skyrocketing trend of domestic noir, unreliable narrators, and unlikable characters ... Doiron offers something rather timeless: an engaging series centred on an honourable and interesting detective operating in a distinct and well-evoked setting."

Paul certainly has the pedigree for his great touch for the Maine outdoors settings. Paul is a Maine native and Editor Emeritus of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, having served as Editor in Chief from 2005 to 2013, before leaving to write full time. He's served on the Maine Arts Commission and Maine Humanities Council, and is a Registered Maine Guide (specialising in fly fishing). He lives by a trout stream in coastal Maine. His Mike Bowditch series has won and been shortlisted for many major crime writing awards, and is available in a dozen different languages.

But for now, Paul Doiron becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL DOIRON

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
An early influence and enduring favorite is Dave Robicheaux, the protagonist of James Lee Burke’s signature series set in the Louisiana bayous. Dave is a recovering alcoholic with anger issues and a willingness to stand up for his peculiar old-timey values. He’s the sort of hard-ass who will see a father slap a child in a grocery store and, instead of looking the other way, will go and confront the son-of-a-bitch.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I can cite two: one from childhood, and one I read as a young adult. THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien is the book that made me want to be a writer. I was swept away by the story-telling, the attention to nature, and the world-building. The second book was A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I can still read the opening paragraphs and be transported back to the young man I was when I first encountered them, trying to find my own voice, learning how to live with pain. I am an unapologetic defender of Ernest Hemingway - the early Hemingway, at least - whose flawed and wounded protagonists are far from macho stereotypes.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had a career as a magazine journalist at “Down East: The Magazine of Maine." It was the perfect preparation for writing my books in that I got to know every corner of the state. Being a journalist was also helpful in three other ways for life as a novelist. It trained me to sit down and write on command. It made me unafraid to call experts with stupid research questions. And it thickened my skin against criticism.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
When we met, my wife-to-be made it a condition of our dating that I take up birdwatching. At the time I knew nothing about birds, but over the past twenty-two years I’ve become a yeoman birder. It’s hard for some people to reconcile that gentle pastime with my enthusiasm for bird hunting. I enjoy shooting quite a bit. My real passion is fly-fishing, but I’m not a trout snob. My favorite fish to catch is probably striped bass, especially when taken off a beach or in a tidal river.

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?
The town where I currently live, Camden, Maine, is almost the stereotype of a New England tourism destination. It’s a ridiculously picturesque village with a harbor filled with windjammers and lobster boats and a lighthouse winking on an island offshore. Most of the local secrets have been spilled. I always encourage travelers to Maine to take a ride on a ferry out to one of the coastal island communities — preferably off-season when there are only islanders onboard. STAY HIDDEN paints a scary portrait of one of these places, but do not be daunted!

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Oh, boy. Recently, someone saw a picture of me and said, “You look like Stellan Skarsgard!” He is a great actor…but not a young man. I hope I look as good as Stellan, fourteen years from now, when I am sixty-seven.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
That’s always a tough question. I have a lot of fondness for THE POACHER’S SON because it was my first published novel. Lately I’ve been thinking about my third book. When I was writing BAD LITTLE FALLS, I tried to subvert a lot of the expectations we all have about mysteries. I took plenty of chances, some of which paid off. Years later, I stumbled across the critic Ted Gioia’s essay “The Eight Memes of The Postmodern Mystery,” and I think I said aloud, “Huh! Seven of those describe BAD LITTLE FALLS.”

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 bookseller’s shelf?
I was at work at the magazine when my agent called to tell me that St. Martin’s Press had put in a preemptive bid on THE POACHER’S SON and two additional novels. I hadn’t even known she was sending the book out to editors yet, and here I was with a three-book contract. It took a lot of self-restraint to keep from shouting for joy in my busy workplace. Later, I treated myself to my first nice watch, an Omega Seamaster, and that seems to have become a personal tradition (of which my wife disapproves).

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

Nevada Barr sat in my lap fifteen minutes after meeting me at a book festival in Florida. I don’t remember how that happened or what she was doing there, but I have the photograph to prove it. Nevada is great.


Thanks for taking the time to chat to Crime Watch Paul, we appreciate it!

You can read more about Paul Doiron and his mysteries at his website, and can follow him on Twitter

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bloody in Scotland: 2018 McIlvanney Prize shortlist revealed











Two past winners, the author of a 12-book series, and a Scottish author based half a world away have this morning been revealed as the finalists for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize. 

Now named after legendary Scottish author William McIlvanney, the Scottish Crime Book of the Year has been given out at the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling since 2012.

McIlvanney, the 'godfather of Tartan Noir' who passed away in 2015, said after attending the festival that first year, "I went to Bloody Scotland and I was just knocked out… I’ve been at literary events where a lot of people have knives sticking out their back that they don’t know are there and this event was so friendly, so supportive I was honestly overwhelmed."

Charles Cumming, who won the very first Scottish Crime Book of the Year award for A FOREIGN COUNTRY in 2012, has this morning been named as one of four finalists for the 2018 prize, alongside 2016 winner Chris Brookmyre, Bloody Scotland founder Lin Anderson, and New Zealand based author Liam McIlvanney, the son of the man after whom the prize is named.

The winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will be awarded The McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney at the opening reception of Bloody Scotland at the The Church of the Holy Rude in historic Stirling on Friday 21 September (for which tickets are already sold out) and at 7.15pm will lead a torchlight procession – open to the public – with Val McDermid and Denise Mina on their way down to their event. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

The judges shared why each book made the final four from a strong 12-book longlist:

Lin Anderson, Follow the Dead (Macmillan): One of Scotland’s long running series raises the bar even higher, a series which is constantly re-inventing itself without being formulaic. The judges praised the novel’s evocative atmospheric setting.

Chris Brookmyre, Places in the Darkness (Little, Brown): Chris Brookmyre is creating his own genre of cosmic noir in a fully realised world.  A superlative off world thriller about real world issues

Charles Cumming, The Man Between (Harper Collins): A fresh twist on the spy novel, taking the genre to a different dimension, deftly weaving political events into the story. A superb page turner in the best possible way.

Liam McIlvanney, The Quaker (Harper Collins): In a crowded market, McIlvanney has created a protagonist who is fresh and distinctive.  He takes the familiar tropes and makes them extraordinary.

The judging panel for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize consisted of comedian and crime fan Susan Calman, features writer Craig Sisterson, and Guardian books writer Alison Flood. "I am absolutely delighted to be on the judging panel for the McIlvanney Prize this year," said Calman in June. "I’m an avid fan of Scottish Crime fiction and this is less a chore and more a dream come true."

Sisterson, the Chair of Judge in 2018, spoke of the influence of William McIlvanney when the longlist was announced: “Forty-one years ago, William McIlvanney rocked the British literary world with Laidlaw, a gritty and socially conscious crime novel that brought Glasgow to life more vividly than anything before. This year’s longlistees for the McIlvanney Prize demonstrate how modern Scottish crime writing has flourished from those seeds. From debutants to authors with more than 20 books, spy thrillers to long-running detective series, nineteenth-century mysteries to futuristic space station noir, there’s an amazing range of talent on show.”

On 21 September we will find out which of those amazing talents will be named this year's winner.

Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012. The festival uses a number of atmospheric, historic venues in Stirling’s Old Town setting it apart from other literary festivals. Full information here.

If you would like to talk to any of the finalists or the Director of Bloody Scotland Bob McDevitt please contact fiona@brownleedonald.com 07767 431846.