18th May2015

Crimefest: a festering crime

by Lloyd Paige


Crimefest 15 returned with a bang, lining up many anticipated events from Nordic Noir and Deadly Friendships, to Characters Who Disappear and Gritty or Gratuitous?

As you’d expect an impressive array of crime writers were in attendance such as Lee Child, Stav Sherez, Quentin Bates, Linda Stratmann, Leigh Russell, Sarah Hilary, Louise Voss, Fergus McNeill, Steve Mosby and Luca Veste, plus many, many more. It was a great chance for readers to meet their favourite authors but what about the new writers coming through?

The crime convention’s very first session this year, Debut Authors: An Infusion Of Fresh Blood, was moderated by Jake Kerridge with an exciting group participating. Tom Callaghan, Cal Moriarty, SJI Holliday, M.P. Wright, and Jason Hewitt discussed their novels to a full room.


Tom Callaghan is the author of A Killing Winter with Inspector Akyl Borubaev. He explained that he has Kurdish family and had been living and visiting Kurdistan for ten years and said, “It’s a great setting for a crime writer.” Now we know that the story location of any book is important so to choose somewhere that could be classed as being ‘too unique’ is a risk but that didn’t stop Callaghan and he added in reference to Kurdistan, “You can buy your way out of most things with a bottle of vodka.”


A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

‘The Kyrgyz winter reminds us that the past is never dead, simply waiting to ambush us around the next corner’.
When Inspector Akyl Borubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad arrives at the brutal murder scene of a young woman, all evidence hints at a sadistic serial killer on the hunt for more prey. But when the young woman’s father turns out to be a leading government minister, the pressure is on Borubaev to solve the case not only quickly but also quietly, by any means possible. Until more bodies are found…
Still in mourning after his wife’s recent death, Borubaev descends into Bishkek’s brutal underworld, a place where no-one and nothing is as it seems, where everyone is playing for the highest stakes, and where violence is the only solution.


Cal Moriaty’s book, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax is based in an American city and here’s an interesting fact: she used to be a private eye and she’s the first student from the Faber course to be published.
Giving an overview of the world that her detectives find themselves in she said, “It’s a controlled, religious world that they inhabit and I really wanted to make my cops outsiders to that world.”


The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty


Bobbi Lomax was the first to die, the bomb killed the prom queen on her own front lawn.
Just moments later one of the nails from the city’s second bomb forced its way into the brain of property investor Peter Gudsen, killing him almost instantly.
The third bomb didn’t quite kill Clark Houseman. Hovering on the brink, the rare books dealer turns out to be Detectives Sinclair and Alvarez’s best hope of finding out what linked these unlikely victims, and who wanted them dead and why. But can they find the bomber before he kills again?
Set deep in the religious heartlands of America, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax follows this troubled investigation as a narrative of deceit, corruption and forgery emerges, with an unlikely hero at its heart – a rare coins, books and manuscript dealer – who could either be a genius or the devil.


SJI Holliday’s book Black Wood (review here) is set in the fictional Banktoun and introduces us to Sergeant David Gray, a mod by the author’s own admission and she made one thing clear, “…he’s not really the main character, the main character is Jo.” Within this story we find that something terrible happened to Jo a long time ago and a chance meeting pushes her to finally confront the past. Holliday came from a community where, “everyone knew everyone,” and wanted to portray that in the book.


Black Wood by SJI Holliday

He spots the two girls through the cracked screen of beech, sycamore and leg-scratching gorse: a flash of red skirt and a unison of giggles . . . The smaller girl sees him first and she lets out a strange little squeak and jumps back, grabbing onto the other girl’s T-shirt, revealing a flash of milky white shoulder.
He grins.
Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.
Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man?
To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?


M.P. Wright worked in the music industry and also used to be a private eye. Set in sixties Bristol, his debut Heartman follows Joseph Tremaine Ellington, a Bajan detective. In his determination to get it spot on Wright spent three years researching for the book and it was drafted as a screenplay, originally set it in Leicester, and called Rock-A-Bye Blues. He said, “It didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to, and a lovely guy by the name of Damien Walter, a columnist with the Guardian, read the rough manuscript and said, “You need to restructure this and make a novel out of it. This has serious characters which you can develop,” which is what I did.”


Heartman by M.P. Wright

Bristol in the early 1960s: Joseph Tremaine Ellington is a Barbadian ex-policeman who, like many of his generation in the West Indies, has come to the UK to make a new life in the mother country. But the land of opportunity is not all it is cut out to be. It is not just the weather that is cold: so is the welcome. Facing hostility and prejudice at every turn, Ellington struggles to make ends meet. But then he meets community bigwig, Earl Linney, a man with a finger in every pie, who has made good in the white man’s world. Earl needs help in finding Stella Hopkins, a young West Indian woman who has disappeared. Earl does not want go to the police, so he asks Ellington to track her down. With few allies other than his not-so-honest cousin, Victor, Ellington has to keep his wits about him. This is an atmospheric, confident debut: Devil in a Blue Dress meets Chinatown set in the rough world of Bristol nightlife, in the pubs, shebeens and nightclubs that are the haunts of prostitutes and criminals, places where danger lurks around every corner.


Jason Hewitt introduced his book Dynamite Room. It’s set in July 1940 where upon her return to her Suffolk village a runaway 11 year-old girl finds it empty. Her family has gone, so she locks herself in the attic. But later a solider breaks in and the book focuses on their relationship. It’s told from the girl’s point of view and the soldiers’ point of view and Hewitt said, “As the story unfolds we learn what has happened to both of them, what has brought them to this situation and how they affect each other over the five days that they’re trapped together.” Hewitt has experience as an actor and used that to act out scenes that he had written.


The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt

July 1940. Eleven-year-old Lydia walks through a village in rural Suffolk on a baking hot day. She is wearing a gas mask. The shops and houses are empty, windows boarded up and sandbags green with mildew, the village seemingly deserted. Leaving it behind, she strikes off down a country lane through the salt marshes to a large Edwardian house the house she grew up in. Lydia finds it empty too, the windows covered in black-out blinds. Her family is gone. Late that night he comes, a soldier, gun in hand and heralding a full-blown German invasion. There are, he explains to her, certain rules she must now abide by. He won’t hurt Lydia, but she cannot leave the house.
Is he telling the truth? What is he looking for? Why is he so familiar? And how does he already know Lydia’s name?
Eerie, thrilling and piercingly sad, The Dynamite Room evokes the great tradition of war classics yet achieves a strikingly original and contemporary resonance. Hypnotically compelling, it explores, in the most extreme of circumstances, the bonds we share that make us human.

The one thing that became clear with this group of new writers was that they were clearly excited about ‘breaking through’ and having an audience for their work – also, the heavy drinking detective/investigator type might be on the way out! Whatever they come up with next it’ll be interesting and it’ll be fascinating to watch their careers grow.


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