A Day in the Life of British Crime Writer @JimNally #BritCrime

Dance with the Dead by James Nally
 by James Nally

They say life imitates art. Far be it from me to describe my gritty literary offerings as ‘art’, but I did make a welcome discovery while writing my second novel, Dance with the Dead, which certainly apes the book’s plot.

I started to dream up plotlines!

Just as my lead character Donal Lynch is visited by the ‘spirits’ of the recently murdered in the middle of the night, so I began to dream up fresh plotlines and character arcs while asleep. I know it sounds barking but I suspect it’s a product of an over-active sub-conscious and a rather unhealthy obsession with writing as riveting a book as possible.

So, first thing I do in the morning is grab my bedside notebook (yes, tragically I do keep one right there) and jot down everything that swirled around my plot-addled mind during the night. Some of it makes no sense, but I get it all down anyway, just in case…

Sure enough, over the course of the six months I spent writing Dance with the Dead, some of these dream-based plot developments became real. So, this book is actually brought to you by a bunch of mysterious story elves who live under my bed.

I’d like to say I wake early, Truth is, I get woken early… by Emma, my 15-month old insomniac. Happily, her nocturnal and early-morning antics have instilled in me and my partner Bridget a pretty rigid routine of tucking in early.

So whereas my working day writing book one would start at about 11am, inevitably following a wine-fuelled night, I now find myself sitting at my desk at 8am.

I’m easily distracted, which is why my desk faces a wall, plain save for plot-related post-it notes. By the end of a book, the room becomes so plastered with multi-coloured paper rectangles that it begins to resemble Robin Williams’ creepy lair in the movie One Hour Photo.

Generally, I rise only for coffee, lunch and Countdown – oh and horse racing if it’s on TV. I’m usually spent by 4pm, at which point my 12-year-old James gets back from school and helps to haul me out of whatever homicidal plotline I’m entrenched.

Of course, this leisurely routine goes out the window when a deadline looms. It must be human nature to always leave too much until the end, but that deadline infuses me with a sort of ‘dread energy’ that can power me through 18 hour days.

While completing ‘Dance with the Dead’, the family scarpered for a few days to give me a chance to complete the manuscript. Sometime during day three, I walked to the local shop to buy some essentials. I opened my mouth but no words came out, just a series of half-swallowed gurgles. Sadly, this line of work can sometimes mean not conversing with another human for days.

Thankfully, writing my books doesn’t just involve, well, writing. Back in the 1990s, I worked as a crime reporter for a Fleet Street news agency which covered the Old Bailey and all major trials in the south of England. So much of what I gathered back then never made it into the newspapers, which were turning away from crime in favour of celebrity-based ‘news’. I kept the material anyway, convinced that, one day, these blood-curdling cases and the characters I encountered while investigating them would come in useful. And so it has come to pass…

The cases and characters in Dance with the Dead and my debut, Alone with the Dead, are based on real murders and people I encountered as a crime reporter and, subsequently, a documentary maker. I hope this gives the books an authenticity that I found wanting in others. And, I can gleefully confirm that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

So, if I’m not sat before a computer screen, you’ll find me scraping the dust off a 20-odd year-old notebook, salivating quietly at the contents.

As if my days aren’t already steeped in homicidal chaos, James and Bridget are massive fans of classic TV detectives like Marple and Poirot. I spend my evenings marvelling at their uncanny ability to spot the killer way before I can.

When I do get out these days, I like to meet up with old friends from those early days of crime reporting, like Ian Gallagher of the Mail on Sunday and freelancer Dennis Rice. Their anecdotes alone could fill a small library.


Alone with the Dead by James Nally
Meet PC Donal Lynch.
Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.

Get Alone with the Dead for 99p from Amazon

Dance with the Dead by James Nally
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago...

Get Dance with the Dead for £1.99 from Amazon

New: Writer in Residence British Crime Writer Rebecca Bradley

Our Writer in Residence at BritCrime is Rebecca Bradley.

From Thursday she will be sharing news and updates from Theakston's Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, the UK's largest crime writing festival.

Please make sure you're follow @BritCrime on Twitter so you don't miss out on photos, videos and snippets of news.

Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective who lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and two cockapoo's Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis.

Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley  Made to be Broken by Rebecca Bradley

#BritCrime Festival 2016: Links to all the material

You can find links below to print, audio and video interviews with bestselling, award-winning British crime writers (and two Americans!) as well as nine UK book bloggers as part of the BritCrime Festival 2016. Thank you for joining us!

Author interviews
Author interviews and discussions, audio and print

Alan McDermott + Russell Blake | Nick Quantrill + Barry Forshaw | The Joined Up Writing podcast + Sarah Hilary | Anya Lipska + Fergus McNeill | John Martin + MP Wright + Tony Cox

Ms Marsh Investigates
Ms Marsh Investigates... Author Ava Marsh interviews book bloggers and reviewers:
Liz Loves Books | Lucy V Hay | Grab This Book | Bibliophile Book Club | Neal James | Damp Pebbles | Crime Book Junkie | By the Letter Book Reviews | The Book Trail

Chelmorton Festival
Watch Chelmorton Festival: The Movie
Daniel Pembrey, Bill Rogers, Zoe Sharp and Sarah Ward say hello from the Chelmorton Festival in Derbyshire

The Art of Suspense
Watch The Art of Suspense
A guide to creating suspense in your writing by Angela Clarke, Claire McGowan and Jake Kerridge

Visit The Booktrail for links to maps, locations and behind-the-scenes insights for books featured in the BritCrime Festival.

This is a really wonderful site. Search by destination, book title, author, or type of setting to explore the books available.

Day in the Life posts from British crime writers

Find out how writers really spend their days...

Angela Clarke | Azma Dar | Derek Farrell | Scott Hunter | Tim Lebbon | Ava Marsh | Thomas Mogford | Claire Seeber | William Shaw 

Replays of live panel discussions with authors

Derek Farrell, Amanda Jennings, Douglas Skelton, Helen Smith, Jay Stringer, Cally Taylor
Tammy Cohen, Fergus McNeill, Michael J Malone, Marnie Riches, Luca Veste, William Shaw
Mason Cross, Julia Crouch, Cass Green, Elizabeth Haynes, Tom Mogford, Sarah Ward
Quentin Bates, Nick Quantrill, Alex Shaw, Simon Toyne
Graeme Cameron, Steven Dunne, JM Hewitt, Matt Johnson, Faith Mortimer, Alex Sokoloff
Lucy Atkins, Jenny Blackhurst, Rebecca Bradley, Tim Lebbon, Caroline Mitchell

Read articles by BritCrime Authors on Crime Time

#BritCrime Festival: Sunday Afternoon Panel: The Replay

Lucy Atkins, Jenny Blackhurst, Rebecca Bradley, Tim Lebbon and Caroline Mitchell talk about writing, plotting, research, how to get published, top tips for aspiring writers... and more.

Don't miss this inspiring discussion between bestselling writers about their craft, prompted by questions from readers watching the panel live.

You can watch the replay here:

#BritCrime Festival: Sunday Morning Panel: The Replay

Graeme Cameron, Steven Dunne, Jeanette (JM) Hewitt, Matt Johnson, Faith Mortimer, Alexandra Sokoloff talking about writing, plotting, research, inspiration, trips to the Caribbean and Chernobyl, the definition of a serial killer... and more.

An inspiring, wide-ranging, fascinating discussion that continued for two hours, prompted by questions from readers.

Thanks for joining us!

You can watch the replay here:

#BritCrime Festival: Saturday evening panel: The Replay

Quentin Bates, Nick Quantrill​, Alex Shaw​ and Simon Toyne​ talking about plotting, playlists, settings, the skills required to be a modern writer and more...

We had a great introduction from Helen Cadbury and then suffered technical difficulties, so we've started the replay from where we got back on track again. Apologies to Helen as this means you can't see her in this video.

You can watch the replay here:

#BritCrime Festival Saturday afternoon panel: The Replay

Julia Crouch, Mason Cross, Cass Green, Elizabeth Haynes, Thomas Mogford and Sarah Ward talked about plotting, playlists, politics, writing rituals and research... and more.

Another fascinating discussion between six highly-regarded, bestselling British crime writers. You will get an exclusive preview of what each author is working on now. An inspiring talk. You won't want to miss this one!

You can watch the replay here:

#BritCrime Festival Saturday Morning Panel: The Replay

Plotting, crime fiction festivals, how to get that first draft done... and Marnie's mustard dralon sofa.

Featuring Tammy Cohen, Fergus McNeill, Michael J Malone, Marnie Riches, William Shaw and Luca Veste.

This is a really interesting conversation between six successful crime fiction novelists. Take a look.

♠ Watch the replay here:  Apologies for cutting off the very beginning of the discussion. Please watch this! You will be glad you did.

Ms Marsh Investigates... The BookTrail #bookblog

It’s the turn of The Book Trail ( to come under the Marsh microscope – a fabulous blog where you can read your way around the world.

Hi Susan, Welcome to BritCrime. Can I kick off by asking you why you love crime as a genre? What about crime novels appeals to you?

There’s something very fascinating about getting inside the mind of someone devious and getting to follow the police as they track down the killer. People fascinate me and to get so close to someone like a killer or a murder detective via a novel is endlessly fascinating.

I also have to say that from a booktrailing point of view, it’s interesting to visit fictional crime scenes and see the setting through the eyes of the characters and indeed the author who’s brought me here.
I love meeting new authors and getting inside their heads - it never stops to fascinate me when I read about a gruesome crime scene and then meet the loveliest, sweetest author who’s created it all!

So what gave you the impetus to start blogging?

Around the World in 80 Days
I had too many notebooks with scribbled booktrails in them that I wanted to develop. I’ve travelled to literary locations for years and thought why not put a blog up so I can explore it more and talk to people who like the same things. I think when you start a blog it’s for yourself, but then as you start to make friends, you see that other people read and comment on it so you become part of a community.

It was the book Around the World in 80 Days which got me in to booktrailing. And a certain French character by the name of Passepartout. Reading about such a great adventure in a book made me want to do it for real. And learn French. From there, I’ve always travelled to literary locations and discovered new places thanks to authors.

Do you have a particular favourite sub-genre, such as psychological thrillers or police procedurals?

Police procedurals fascinate me as when books are set in different countries, they give an insight into the cultural nuances and police methods different to ours. The Italian - Sicily set series by Andrea Camilleri shows how Montalbano gets the job done as well as showcasing all the food he manages to consume in the meantime! It’s very different to the workings of the police force in Martina Cole’s London or in Barbara Nadel’s Istanbul where Inspector Ikem works.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I do love a psychological thriller though - Ruth Ware’s new book The Woman in Cabin 10 is a recent favourite as you always think how you yourself would act in these situations or what you would do if something similar happened to you. And it’s always the quiet ones who you really do have to watch!
Anywhere with a strong sense of location draws me right in for a booktrail!

Who’s on your Must Read list? 

Translated fiction is always on the top of my TBR pile but I try to read in the original language wherever possible. Scandi Noir is always a pull - I learned Swedish because of Camilla Lackberg so you can see I love a good Scandi thriller!
There are so many authors I love - off the top of my head - Ragnar Jónasson who writes the Dark Iceland series writes with such precise skill, about a remote Icelandic village that it chills me to the core. Oh and let’s not forget Gunnar Staalesen.

Outside of Scandinavia - Ruth Ware writes some chillers as does Mari Hannah, Ann Cleeves and I just love the humour of Nick Quantrill and the swift strokes of the scalpel unleashed by Stephen Dunne.

Err… bit impressed you learned Swedish so easily. Kudos! So, do you have any pet peeves – overused tropes, clichéd characters, etc?

I really think the detective with a drink problem has been done just too many times. He/she can be a maverick and go against the grain but why do they have to drink too much? This really puts me off and I do roll my eyes and skim text when this happens. It just seems to be used as a bit of a cliche/trend in novels now I think.

Who is your favourite character from a crime novel, and why?

Oh that’s a good question. If I say a killer will you judge me?


Main Characters? One I really like is Ruth Galloway from the Elly Griffiths novels. She lives alone on the moors and discovers bodies and bones on archaeological digs. Then there’s Vera of course from Ann Cleeves novels. I’d love to meet her - she’s got a brilliant wit and sense of humour.

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary
Killers? Those in The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds, and ‘Harm’ - the aptly named character in the latest Sarah Hilary novel Tastes Like Fear. He’s chilling in many ways as he thinks what he is doing is right - someone with such a warped mind fascinates me in many ways. He’s also very creepily drawn.
What does that say about me? I shudder to think.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

I have so many thoughts, ideas, words in my head at any one time that it’s a release to get them out! Haha no, I really love the blogger community and the fact that I’ve met such lovely people since I started blogging both online and for real. The book community and in particular the crime fiction one is just one of the strongest and most welcoming ever. It’s really interesting to find new books, get recommendations and just share thoughts about the latest crime thriller. There’s always something new to learn and someone to share it with.

Have you ever thought of turning your own hand to crime writing?

Oh no, I’d be terrible at crime fiction as I’d scare myself. I have to read a lot with the lights on for a start so if the killer stays inside my head for x amount of months - the length it would take for me to write a novel - I’d be a nervous wreck.

Any advice for anyone thinking of starting a crime fiction blog?

Write what you love. Don’t be afraid of having a different opinion to everyone else and read other crime blogs and join in chats etc. Blog because you love it and because you’re passionate about books. Do your own thing and just enjoy every second of it.

Lastly, you’re hosting a fantasy crime fiction dinner party – who would you invite? Can be writers, other bloggers, whoever. Alive or dead!

Ayo Onatade from Shotsblog
After much consideration I’ve narrowed it down to two bloggers, four writers and two characters.

Bloggers - Ayo from Shotsblog and Cleo from Cleopatra loves books. I’ve met Ayo and she’s such a good laugh and knows everything crime related! Works in a court so if things gets rowdy, she’d step in and keep the peace I would hope. Cleo as she loves crime fiction too and lives in Jersey where Bergerac is from, so I’d like to pick her brains on those books!

Writers - I am slightly scared of some crime writers, ha ha - but I would love to have Nick Quantrill as he’s made Hull one of my favourite crime settings in recent times and Steven Dunne for making one of the most beautiful parts of the UK chock full of crime scenes galore. I would just have to invite Camilla Lackberg and Louise Penny to as these are such lovely women who write such intricate mysteries, I would just really love to meet these two.

Characters - Detectives Zigic and Ferreira from Eva Dolan’s Peterborough hate crimes novels. I would also add Spike Sanguinetti from Thomas Mogford as I imagine him to be a bit of a heartthrob and a gritty character who would eat all the leftovers.

Have I thought about this too much perhaps? Possibly.

I’m very glad that you did. Fascinating answers! Thank you so much, Susan, and good luck with your future blogging.

Ava Marsh

Ava Marsh is the author of psychological thriller, Untouchable. Her second book, Exposure, is out now with Transworld.

More interviews with book bloggers and reviewers

Ms Marsh Investigates... Emma at Damp Pebbles #bookblog

Under the spotlight now, the lovely Emma who runs the Damp Pebbles book blog ( covering crime thrillers, psychological thrillers and police procedurals.

Hi, Emma, welcome to BritCrime.

Thank you very much for having me Ms Marsh. I’m excited to be here.

So tell me, why crime as a genre? What about crime novels appeals to you?

I spent my teens reading sci-fi and fantasy, my early twenties reading chick lit and romantic comedies and THEN I discovered the crime genre. Now crime and thrillers are the only genres I tend to read (with a smidge of horror thrown in for good measure). I’m not interested in Sarah’s search to find a boyfriend or an army of aliens heading to earth with the sole aim of destroying life as we know it! I want to read about detectives solving tricky cases. I want the twists and turns of a whodunit, or an edge of your seat cat and mouse.

I live a very lovely but normal life; gorgeous husband (who buys me books!) and two wonderful children. I love my life, please don’t get me wrong! But by reading crime novels I get to live another life, a life where there is danger, a life where I mix where with some pretty shady characters and I love it. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being arrested (I hope!).

What gave you the impetus to start blogging?

I was looking for a new hobby, something creative, so my husband suggested I give it a go. I was already following a very popular blog and that person, without knowing it, gave me the confidence and inspired me to try. I’m glad I did as my blog is such a big part of my life and I can’t imagine life without damppebbles (and the blogger community) now.

Do you have a particular favourite sub-genre, such as psychological thrillers or police procedurals?

I do love a psychological thriller. Saying that I haven’t found a sub-genre that I haven’t enjoyed!

Who’s on your Must Read list? 

One by One by Chris Carter
Oh wow, what a question! There are so many. I’ll try and keep this relatively short.
My favourite author is Chris Carter with his Robert Hunter series. There is something about that character and the way Carter writes that seems to appeal to everyone, not just crime fans. I adore Angela Marson’s DI Kim Stone series and Robert Bryndza’s DCI Erika Foster. If you haven’t read either of these series, then you must. M J Arlidge who writes the DI Helen Grace series, and what a series it is! I’m going to stop there otherwise I’ll be going for a while…

That’s a great list! So do you have any pet peeves – overused tropes, clichéd characters, etc?

I tend to feel quite let down if a police procedural doesn’t have a grumpy, troubled, addiction riddled DCI at the helm! It seems I am the only one to feel this way. I pointed out how strange and unusual a ‘happy’ lead detective is in a recent review on my blog. The comments I received all welcomed the idea and said how refreshing it was!

Who is your favourite character from a crime novel, and why?

Cuckoos Calling by Robert GalbraithAnother hard question! It changes so often. I do love Cormoran Strike from the Robert Galbraith novels. Life keeps knocking him down but he still (somehow) manages to get up and get the job done. I love his character (see my earlier comment about damaged detectives, even though he’s a PI) and I especially love his relationship with his PA/partner, Robin. Actually, he’s another one to add to my ‘Must Read’ list!

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

The camaraderie. The support and encouragement the blogging community gives is quite special. I’ve met some amazing people since starting my blog. I’ve also read some incredible books which I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Have you ever thought of turning your own hand to crime writing?

Ha ha! Yes, I have. I would love to write a crime novel. In fact, it’s a dream of mine and I hope one day that I’ll have the time, the idea and the dedication to write it.

Any advice for anyone thinking of starting a crime fiction blog?

Do it! Simple as that really. I love blogging and I can’t imagine not doing it now. There are so many reasons to just dive in. The other thing I would say is join NetGalley, which is a site many of the publishers use to send out review e-copies of their books before publication date. It’s a great place to start.

Lastly, you’re hosting a fantasy crime fiction dinner party – who would you invite? Can be writers, other bloggers, whoever. Alive or dead!

I would invite Agatha Christie (everyone would invite AC, wouldn’t they?), J K Rowling and Mark Billingham.

Nice choices. Thank you so much for submitting to my snooping, Emma – it’s been delightful!
♠ @damppebbles

Ava Marsh

Ava Marsh is the author of psychological thriller, Untouchable. Her second book, Exposure, is out now with Transworld.

More interviews with book bloggers and reviewers

Ms Marsh Investigates... Noelle at Crime Book Junkie #bookblog

Today I’m interrogating the lovely Noelle who blogs via Crime Book Junkie. (

Hi, Noelle, welcome to BritCrime. Can I ask you first why you like crime as a genre? What about crime novels appeals to you?

The name of my blog sort of hints at my reason for crime as a genre—I am totally addicted to it! I work in the Criminal Justice system, all my University degrees (I have 1 Diploma, 3 Hons BA’s and Master’s degree) are related to crime in one form or another and when I was younger I had (still have) a weird fascination for serial killers. I am obsessed!

Crime novels appeal to me because you get drawn in to solving the crime, into the killers head, into the victims need for survival or justice –everything! And I absolutely love it when I figure things out before the “big reveal”. The twists excite me and the resolution makes it all worthwhile.

What gave you the impetus to start blogging?

I was given an amazing opportunity by Katherine Everett of Best Crime Books and More to Guest review on her blog. Before then, I had started reviewing on Amazon and Goodreads and following Victoria Wilkinson of I love reading/Kat on Facebook. When Kat asked me if I wanted to guest review, I jumped at the chance. One of my reviews caught the eye of a Publicist and I was asked to do an author interview – I nearly died with excitement and it was then I caught the bug. Kat encouraged me after a few months to start up my own blog and CrimeBookJunkie was born!

Do you have a particular favourite sub-genre, such as psychological thrillers or police procedurals?

I have a few favourite sub-genres: True Crime, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, legal thrillers and action thrillers too! I also have a slight obsession with Jack The Ripper and have quite a collection of the various theories on his crimes/ identity.

Who’s on your Must Read list? 

Michael J Malone
I have a soft spot for my #CaffeineNightsCrimeGuys: Graham Smith, Mike Craven and Col Bury. I have read most if not all of their books and will always shout out about them! Graham and Col will be reading at Noir At The Bar in Harrogate on 21st July –EEEK! Both Mike and Graham have books coming out soon—Body Breaker for Mr Craven and it is superb! And Matching The Evidence (novella)—out Sept 9th + I Know Your Secret (novel) out October 6th for Mr Smith. Mr Bury…you need to catch up!!

Michael J Malone is also on my Must Read list—LOVE the McBain books and looking forward to his next book from Orenda in September!

Douglas Skelton has become a fave too, thanks to my #Twinnie- Sharon Bairden.

AJ Waines: No Longer Safe – What… A ….Book!

Paul Grzegorzek: But For The Grace of God is one of my all-time faves. He has a few fab books and I am a huge fan. Same goes for Stephen Edger.

Mel Sherratt: love the Estate series – in fact, all her books—even the girly ones!

Mel Comley: I am a huge Justice series fan.

Bookouture have some great authors: Caroline Mitchell, Angie Marsons, Robert Bryndza and eeeeek—Casey Kelleher!!

Ok—I had better stop—but all of those are on my Must Read list and when contacted by any one of them – everything gets dropped as they are the “chosen ones”

Snatched From Home by Graham Smith
Who is your favourite character from a crime novel, and why?

Wow…tough question. I have a few but will try to keep it short - my Top 3 :
I adore DI Harry Evans from Graham Smith’s books. He is a cop you hate to love. He is brash, uses unconventional methods to get his way/solve a crime – but despite all his negative qualities, he has a heart of gold.

Mark Baines from Stephen Edger’s books. My fictional crush – or one of them. He is just an average guy but finds himself in extraordinary situations. He has a great sense of humour, a desire of justice and can get himself out of difficult situations.

John Cooper from Paul Grzegorzek’s But for The Grace of God - *swoon* - I may love him even more than Mark Baines!! This guy has troubles - serious troubles, fighting an addiction, wronged by the job he loved, trouble follows him – but he has a determination to overcome and I picture him as really, really hot! HA HA HA

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Everything! The friendships I have made with authors, fellow bloggers and readers. Coming across new authors. Being able to shout from the rooftops and promote the less known but super talented authors. Sharing my thoughts with other bookish folks who just “get” me! I love everything about it!

Have you ever thought of turning your own hand to crime (writing, I mean!)

I have…and I am! I need to get cracking but have a load of ideas, words and chaos in some notebooks and the laptop. I will be attending Crime & Publishment in Gretna Green, March 2017 to learn from some of the masters too! It may be the only book I ever write – but I am determined to do it!

Good for you! So, any advice for anyone thinking of starting a crime fiction blog?

Just enjoy it! I have been blogging for one year and although it can be quite busy, it never feels like a chore. I have had to learn how to say ‘No’ – you just cannot read everything – even if you want too! Speak to other Bloggers, they are so supportive. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else—do what you want and how you want it. Love every minute of it – I do – I wish I could do it all day/every day!

That’s wonderful to hear. As a writer, I know I speak for all my peers when I say we’re hugely grateful for the work you do – unpaid – and so it’s good to hear you really enjoy it. 

Thanks so much Ava! Sorry if I rambled a bit! I just LOVE crime fiction and sometimes can’t help myself!

No need to apologise. Your enthusiasm is infectious and heartwarming. Thanks so much for joining me today, and the best of luck with your own book!
♠ @NHolten40

Ava Marsh

Ava Marsh is the author of psychological thriller, Untouchable. Her second book, Exposure, is out now with Transworld.

More interviews with book bloggers and reviewers

Ms Marsh Investigates... By The Letter Book Reviews #bookblog

Next under the Marsh microscope is Sarah, who blogs crime fiction at

Hi, Sarah, and welcome to Britcrime.

Many thanks for inviting me.

So, tell me, why crime as a genre? What about crime novels appeals to you?

Crime is something that has always fascinated me, murders in particular. In my teens I used to have a subscription to a crime series that would look into the more famous murders and murderers. Even though what these murderers did would horrify me, there was a part of me that had to know why they had done what they had and how they were caught. From my fascination into true crimes, I think that rolled into my love of crime novels.

What gave you the impetus to start blogging?

Blogging came about thanks to THE Book Club on Facebook. In the group I came across lots of new authors as well as Bloggers and I wanted to be able to help get the word out about these great books and authors I was now reading and I thought blogging was the ideal way to do that. I have to say to start with I nearly threw the towel in many a time as I’m not technical minded at all, but I stuck with it and I have to say the whole blogging community are just brilliant and are so supportive. I’ve been doing it just over a year now and I absolutely love doing it.

That’s great to hear! So, do you have a favourite sub-genre?

I am a huge fan of psychological thrillers. I try not to read to many in one go though as they tend to fail to shock me otherwise. I have to admit that I love to have my head messed with.

Who’s on your Must Read list? 

In my teens it used to be James Patterson and even though I do enjoy his books I very rarely read them nowadays. More recently it has to be authors like David Jackson, Doug Johnstone, Robert Bryndza, Steven Dunne, Casey Kelleher, Caroline Mitchell, Mel Sherratt, Angela Marsons, Jack Jordan, Mark Edwards, John Marr… I could go on and on as have come across some great authors in the last couple of years so apologies to others I haven’t mentioned.

Do you have any pet peeves – overused tropes, clichéd characters, etc?

I have to admit every time I see the phrase ‘No shit Sherlock’ I roll my eyes. I have come across it in sooo many books that it does irk me slightly every time I see it being used.

My main pet peeve is books being compared to others. There is nothing worse than picking up a book because it’s been compared to another one I loved only to find that in actual fact it’s nothing like it all and I didn’t like it. Also I worry that if a book I didn’t enjoy has been compared to another one that I will dismiss it and miss out on a great read.

Yes, I think that’s a danger, and one that peeves authors as well as readers. So who is your favourite character from a crime novel, and why?
This is such a hard question as there are a lot of detectives that I love in quite a few crime series but I am actually going to go with DI Damen Brook, who is Steven Dunne’s creation. He is a character that has always got under my skin slightly and I’ve always worried about his well-being. Poor Mr Dunne is no doubt fed up with me asking him if he can add a bit of happiness into poor Brook’s life.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

It has to be discovering new authors as well as being able to spread the word about these fantastic writers and their books.

Have you ever thought of turning your own hand to crime writing?

I would absolutely love to but unfortunately I am a much better reader than writer. There is no way I could ever write anything as good as the books that I read. I did go through a phase when I was younger of wanting to be a writer but could never get past the first paragraph so gave up.

Do you have any useful advice for someone thinking of starting a crime fiction blog?

Blogging can be a very rewarding hobby. It will open you to so many new authors and books. It can be very time consuming though. As much as I would love to say yes to every publisher and author, it would just be impossible to do, so it’s all about getting the right balance of books and not being afraid to say no.

Lastly, you’re hosting a fantasy crime fiction dinner party – who would you invite? Can be writers, other bloggers, whoever. Alive or dead!

It would have to be my fellow #BlogSquad members. There are a group of bloggers who I have become great friends with and we gave ourselves the nickname of #BlogSquad, some of them I have been lucky enough to meet in person but the others I hope to meet in person one day so this would be ideal. There are too many writers that I would invite so it would end up being some sort of party somewhere as doubt they would all fit round the table!

Yes, I think I’d have the same problem. Thanks, Sarah, for joining me today – it’s really most appreciated!


Ava Marsh♠ Ava Marsh is the author of psychological thriller, Untouchable. Her second book, Exposure, is out now with Transworld.

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BritCrime Festival Friday Evening Panel: The Replay

Thanks to everyone who joined us live for our first panel, Friday 15th July. Derek Farrell, Amanda Jennings, Helen Smith, Douglas Skelton, Jay Stringer and Cally Taylor were joined by Jeanette Hewitt, Caroline Mitchell, Quentin Bates, Thomas Mogford, Rachel Davidson, a cat, a mysterious stranger who stole a kiss, and a husband celebrating a tenth wedding anniversary.

We talked about outlining novels and showed our planning boards. We listened to an Icelandic lullaby. We were heckled and encouraged by Tammy Cohen, Marnie Riches, Sarah Ward, Anne Cater, Gordon McGhie, Marina Sophia, Sophie, Glynis and Rachel Emms. We were watched by publishers, readers, writers, bloggers and friends. Thank you all for joining us and sorry if I have forgotten to give you a name-check here.

We talked for three hours, two of them recorded, one off-the record as we polished off the prosecco.

We talked about the books we wished we'd written and our favourite endings, whether to switch genre, whether you need to have a gimmick and why you should tune into the next Blab, Saturday morning, 10:30 am UK time.

Here is the replay:

#BritCrime Festival: Day One

We're delighted that the BritCrime Festival is now underway. Please take a look at for the programme.

Live Panel Discussions
Friday 15th July evening
6:30pm UK time: Join Derek Farrell, Amanda Jennings, Douglas Skelton, Jay Stringer, Cally Taylor and me for a live-streamed panel.
More authors will be dropping in to say hello from about 7:15pm
Click here to visit the link

Saturday 16th July
Saturday morning, 10.30am UK time: Click here to visit the link
Saturday afternoon, 2:00pm UK time: Click here to visit the link
Saturday evening, 6:30pm UK time: Click here to visit the link

Sunday 17th July
Sunday morning, 10:30pm UK time: Click here to visit the link
Sunday afternoon, 2:00pm UK time: Click here to visit the link

You will need to use Chrome or Firefox if you want to watch live. Safari doesn't work. For the best experience, make sure you don't have have other applications open on your computer. Ideally make sure there's no one watching Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Prime video while you're trying to watch us - all these applications use a lot of internet bandwidth.

Treasure Hunt and Book Bundle Giveaway
Thanks to everyone who participated in these giveaways. We had some great feedback about what a wonderful site The Booktrail is and how much fun it was to follow the clues for the Treasure Hunt. It's always nice to hear lovely comments like that and makes all the hard work behind the scenes worthwhile. Thank you! The winners' names have been drawn and will be contacted via email. Their names will be announced tonight.

These links are now live:
The Art of Suspense with Angela Clarke, Jake Kerridge and Claire McGowan
Hello from the Chelmorton Festival with Daniel Pembrey, Zoe Sharp, Bill Rogers and Sarah Ward
Author interviews and discussions in print and audio
Ms Marsh investigates: Author Ava Marsh talks to UK bloggers and reviewers
Articles by BritCrime Authors on Crime Time
Day in the Life posts

Free and bargain books
For a selection of free & bargain Kindle books by British mystery and thriller writers, please visit this page:

#BritCrime Festival: The Art of Suspense by Angela Clarke, Claire McGowan, Jake Kerridge

Writers Angela Clarke, Claire McGowan and Jake Kerridge discuss The Art of Suspense

Angela Clarke is the author of psychological thriller Follow Me

A Savage Hunter
Claire McGowan is the author of  The Paula McGuire series
 and a senior lecturer in crime writing at City University

Jake Kerridge is a journalist and crime fiction critic for The Telegraph

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Exclusive Interview with Sarah Hilary by Joined Up Writing Podcast for #BritCrime Festival

Joined Up Writing Podcast

Sarah Hilary has recorded an exclusive interview with authors Leah Osbourne and Wayne Kelly over at the Joined Up Writing Podcast as part of the BritCrime Festival.

Visit the Joined Up Writing Podcast to learn more
Listen to the Sarah Hilary interview now

Sarah writes crime thrillers that have been described as ‘superbly disturbing’, ‘stunning’ and ‘meaty, dark and terrifying’. They all feature the central character of DI Marnie Rome. Sarah’s debut novel, ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ won the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of The Year Award and she already has three books in the series with a fourth due in 2017.

Sarah Hilary's books at Amazon

♠ Find other BritCrime author interviews with the Joined Up Writing Podcast

♠ Find other BritCrime Festival author interviews on this site.

#BritCrime Festival Special: John Martin, MP Wright and Tony R Cox talk about writing

BritCrime Festival Special: John Martin, MP Wright and Tony R Cox in discussion about their writing: their literary heroes, whether their former careers helped or hindered their writing, how it felt to see their books in a bookshop for the first time, why reading reviews is not like going to the dentist... and more! Read on:

Crime Scene Britain and Ireland
John Martin is a retired librarian. He was a judge for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award for 3 years, and is a regular speaker on crime fiction, most recently at the Penzance Literary Festival 2016. He lives in Leicester. He is the author of Crime Scene Britain and Ireland
John Martin's book on Amazon

First Dead Body
Tony R. Cox is a retired journalist and public relations consultant. He lives near Leicester. He is the author of First Dead Body (available now) and A Fatal Drug (due out later this year with Farenheit Press.)
Tony R. Cox's books on Amazon

All Through the Night
Mark Wright worked in the music industry before spending some time as a private investigator. He then retrained and worked for 20 years in mental health and the probation service. He lives in Leicester. He is the author of the Heartman series and other books.
MP Wright's books on Amazon

Did you always want to be a writer?

John Martin
John Martin: I have always loved books, but never thought of myself as a writer. I did quite enjoy writing stories while at school, and I wrote some concert reviews of Pink Floyd in the late seventies, but never did anything with them (though one of them is now on a Pink Floyd fan site!). In 2001 I started writing talks on crime fiction for library audiences, and it was one of those that led to the opportunity to write the book.

Tony R Cox: From Biggles to editing the school magazine; then 15 years in newspapers (including writing reviews of the great 70s bands – marrying my two loves, writing and rock); and 25 years in the writing-heavy PR industry. It was eventually great to get out and indulge my wish to write crime fiction.

M P Wright: I’ve always written; lyrics for punk bands back in my long lost youth, Short stories, plays, poetry and screenplays... the road to become a Novelist was a long journey, which I kept hidden from family and friends for over 20 years. Now, there is nothing else I’d rather do.

Did your original career help or hinder you in your writing?

JM: As a librarian I had access to a huge number of crime novels across many different libraries, which was great. As the Fiction Specialist for Leicestershire Libraries I saw all new novels, so that kept me up to date with new authors, publishing trends etc, so when I was given the opportunity to turn a one hour talk into a book I had plenty of knowledge to base it on.

Tony R Cox
TRC: A massive help in that I was disciplined and guided, then was able to discipline and guide others. The leap between journalism and then the public relations commercial world, into fiction was a massive chasm, but unbelievably exciting. The encouragement of friends was, and is, a vital factor.

MPW: In a single word... No. The kind of work I used to be involved in (Probation Service, Offender Risk Assessment, Criminal Mental Health for over 25 Years) defies a literary voice. I’d find no personal pleasure in writing about such life experiences and detailing or chronicling incidents or individuals in fiction. Most of the offenders I worked with had committed heinous crimes. I’d struggle to put those offences into words. One thing that smacks to me as totally inaccurate in modern crime writing is how little the present day crime writer knows about the true criminal mind. What actually makes them tick. That fact always rings true on the page for me, the prattling on about the brilliance of the criminal mind. Utter tosh. Most serial offenders are not Hannibal Lector. Rather they are socially timid, ignorant of world events and the people in it and deeply, emotionally and mentally complex. If a book blurb mentions a serial killer on the back page... that’s it, I’m offski!

Who are your literary heroes/ who would you like to be compared to?

JM: As a child my hero was Biggles. Then I discovered Christie and Doyle, and never looked back. Amongst contemporary writers I am a particular fan of Peter Robinson, Belinda Bauer and Graham Hurley. I also now follow the work of Barry Forshaw very closely, and would like to follow in his footsteps. He gets all the best panels at the best festivals - which he deserves, as he is the pre-eminent commentator on crime fiction.

TRC: Hemingway, Ian McEwan, Shakespeare – anyone who can paint a picture in words and make the reader live every moment. There are so many great authors out there: I don’t aspire to comparison, but I do feel I want to be one of them.

MP Wright
MPW: Both James Lee Burke and Walter Mosley have influence my own writing immensely. I could waffle on endlessly about the reasons, but to be concise, both writers offer up to the reader an important quality in their main characters of Robicheaux and Rawlins – And that’s integrity. Yes, both men are flawed but they are very real on the page and I wanted to emulate that in my own characters, flaws and all. Burke and Mosley’s characters are not heroic and JT Ellington is far from being a hero, but there is a heroic nature that develops in the man which is unfurled by his strong moral compass. He’s a man who is forced into a job he really doesn’t want. Desperation and necessity are what dictates his decisions as Heartman’s story develops. The relevancy of the American author angle is that I wanted to bring some of the ‘Man Alone’ feel to the current British Crime Fiction arena. Not in the ‘Maverick’ detective sense of the police procedural but as in the Hammett/Chandler/MacDonald world weary and cynical feel. I hope I’ve created that kind of vibe in Heartman. As a comparison to my own writing the critics have been kind, citing my writing to be bed fellows with MacDonald, Mosley, Burke and the great William Faulkner. I hasten to add, those are critics comparisons, not mine.

How did you arrive at your central character, and what makes him unique?

TRC: Simon Jardine is a combination of many of the young reporters I have known. His is an era where drinking copious amounts of beer and still coming back with the story was seen as an asset. I want him to encapsulate a time and a profession that will never be repeated; I want him to be fallible and naive as well as single-minded and dedicated – just like some of the best journalists I have known.

MPW: J T Ellington as a character came to me very easily. I’d mapped out a huge back story and had a moleskin notebook containing his family history, much of it created from my own imagination, some of it garnered from research into family histories on the island of Barbados. I’ve had the luck to travel to the Caribbean and many of the Southern states of the USA, especially Louisiana. I wanted to hang around the JT’s persona a strong layer of credibility and a sense of the real whilst giving the readers a feel for an ‘Old Age’ detective, on that harks back to the times of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. I say to my Daughters that JT is the hero I could never be, but his Cousin Vic, is in some ways (I’m shame faced to admit) very much me. His humour and no nonsense attitude certainly hark back to my own rather irascible personality. Carnell and Loretta are very much ‘Real People’ who I have known for a long time. They know who they are but I’m not telling. They are two strong characters in the book that I’m very proud of.

The setting of the books is important- how well do you know the places where your books are set? 

TRC: The Simon Jardine murder thrillers are set in Derby, where I worked as a reporter from 1970 to 1978 and knew every inch of the town and county. But in A Fatal Drug I have also travelled to Spain to capture the burgeoning leisure industry and the birth of cheap flights to the country’s Costas. I feel it is important to take the reader on a journey with you, certainly emotionally, but also geographically.

MPW: Of all the questions I’ve been asked about Heartman; ‘Why Bristol?’ is the one that is sprung on me most. Originally I’d tried to set the book here in my home town of Leicester, but logistically and on scale, it simply didn’t work. Bristol is a big and beautiful city. Its also strong connected to the West Indies in a commercial and commerce sense, most certainly historically for all the wrong reasons; slavery being the foremost. Heartman is set in St Pauls which sits just outside of Bristol city centre. It was ghettoised early on by greedy, white landlords who packed new immigrants from the West Indies who had travelled thousands of miles to the mother country seeking work and the promise of ‘Streets That Were Paved with Gold’. What they got was far from the truth. Cramped tenement homes, badly paid jobs nobody else wanted and not always the warm welcome that the British political state had promised them either. Bristol was the right place for JT to make his new home. I wanted to put him in a world that was both familiar and alien. Ellington understands how British society works to some degree, he’s witness first hand the White ‘Officer Class’ of the Barbadian Police Force in which he used to serve but at the same time is knocked for six by a country that is far removed from the Caribbean life he has led.

How did you decide on the scope of your book, John?
JM: I wanted to write a book that was accessible to the general crime reader, and so I wanted it to be readable and reliable. I likened it to the Good Pub Guide - exhaustive coverage countrywide, but broken into specific areas, looking to encourage readers to try new authors, and making their own decisions as to whether to read more of that author's work.
And how did you decide where to draw your area boundaries? eg why does your West Country include The Cotswolds?

JM: Originally I tried to write a county by county guide, but soon realised that this wasn't feasible as too many authors wrote across too many counties. Therefore I broke the country into regions, and had to make some controversial decisions such as putting the Cotswolds into the West Country rather than the Midlands, and adding Aberdeen to the Scottish Highlands and Islands section.

What were the key decisions that influenced the layout of your book?

JM: I soon realised that as well as having to use regions, I had to limit the amount I wrote about any one author to 400 words, with a minimum of 60. Also I decided to concentrate on authors writing since 1960, with a selection of Golden Age and earlier authors to ensure comprehensive coverage.
I also decided to leave out authors if I could not be certain of the setting - the best example being Susan Hill. She does not make it clear whether her cathedral city of Lafferton was meant to be in Devon, Wiltshire or Gloucestershire. Even so I ended up with 96,000 words on 400+ authors who have written around 5000 crime novels!

If we could be a fly on the wall and watch you writing, what would we see?

JM: I write on a PC in an upstairs room - which is permanently untidy, with books everywhere. I always write with something on in the background, either music (usually) or cricket commentary (often).I also tend to talk to myself as I write!

TRC: A body bent over a laptop in a small office, staring at a blank wall waiting for inspiration. No distractions and, when I am really stuck, a few yards walk to my allotment to discuss the plot with the cabbages and beans. They’re often right.

MPW: A madman waving his hands about, swearing, playing Public Image Ltd way to loud with a picture of Noel Coward looking at me...

Describe the excitement of seeing your book in a bookshop for the first time

JM: The best moment of my writing life was seeing the book on the shelf in Foyle's in London - I turned it face out and took a photo for posterity!

TRC: I was self-published with First Dead Body, but the thrill of the launch and book signing at Scarthin Books, Cromford (best signing they’d ever had, they said) will stay with me. A Fatal Drug is published by Fahrenheit Press, so it’s currently digital and will be paperback through Amazon soon. I await the thrill of seeing my book in a bookshop.

MPW: Surreal is the first word that comes to mind. Wonderful to see it on the shelf after months of hard slog. I’m accused by those who love and know me of not enjoying the moment when the books are published, and that’s very true. I’m very much a ‘Pit Face’ writer, I love to write, but I’m not too hot with all that comes with it, the self PR, Facebook, Twitter and festivals... Great for those writers who do enjoy that side of the industry, but for me its simply a necessary evil. Give me the pub any day of the week.

How many words do you aim to write on a good/bad day?

JM: I have no set amount, really. When writing the book, I would aim to write 6 or 7 entries on a good day (on average about 2000 words)

TRC: As an ex-journalist I can easily knock out 3,000 to 4,000 words, but then comes the hard part of re-writing, editing, honing and producing something worthy.

Are Amazon reviews important? More/less so than other reviews?

JM: Amazon is a major player in publishing, so reviews on their site have to be important. Unfortunately I've not had very many.

TRC: Amazon is, I believe, the world’s biggest bookshop, so every review is gold dust, even the negative, nasty ones. The difficulty is asking the reader to take the jump from reading to writing about the book they’ve read.

MPW: I’m very grateful to all of the fantastic folk who have take time to write aReview, good or bad. Amazon reviews are important for the consumer, for the reader and it lets me, the writer, now how I’m doing. If it wasn’t for the readers, where would we writers be? So yeah, very important.

For Tony and Mark: Do you set out to shock readers? If so, how?

TRC: To a small extent. Torture, murder and sundry violence is always shocking so I hope to share that emotion with the reader.

MPW: I’ve never set out to shock the reader; that’s not my writing style...
Do you know the end of the book before you start writing it?

TRC: No! The narrative takes on a life of its own and moves the writer and reader along. That said, once the first draft has been written, while the re-writing and editing is brutal, the structure and finale remain.

MPW: Yes.

What is your view on epublishing? Is your book available electronically? 

JM: Epublishing is a sea change in publishing - and my book is available via Amazon kindle. Having said that, nothing beats the smell of new books!

TRC: The publishing world continues to change. Some would claim ebooks are a major advance, and I am among them; some that the printed word is still the most tangible and pleasurable, and I’d agree with that as well. Sales of First Dead Body and A Fatal Drug (which is in its infancy) have been significantly greater digitally than print.

MPW: If folk are reading, that’s great news. Ebook, paperback or hardback; whatever suits the individual. I’m just chuffed that books are being read by ‘Joe Public’

Describe the excitement of publication day

JM: My excitement really began when I received my 6 personal copies and saw the published book for the first time - actually about 5 days before publication.

TRC: First Dead Body was my debut and was a new baby. The launch and signing were just one long party at Scarthin Books. That smile still sweeps across my face when I think back. A Fatal Drug’s publication day was a totally different methodology with Fahrenheit. There was a ‘Twitter storm’ and I was then told that nothing would happen for at least two months: that two months isn’t up yet.

MPW: I’m probably not the best writer to ask this; I don’t get the buzz perhaps other writers do for publication day. I’m pleased that the book is out and that readers can dip in if they wish, but otherwise, it's business as usual...

What, briefly, do you want readers to get from your work?

JM: I want to encourage readers to broaden their reading and try fresh authors, both new and old. As a librarian my role to encourage reading - and I see my book as a continuation of this.

TRC: A little escapism and, to some extent, an insight into the world of newspapers, rock music, drugs and decadence in the early 1970s. The ‘free love’ of the 1960s was slowly creeping up the M1: we could read about it, hear about it, but it was the 1970s, probably prefaced by The Pill becoming more widespread, before attitudes were loosened up.

MPW: To fall in love with the characters I’ve created and to become lost in the world in which they are set...

Do bad reviews hurt?

JM: You have to accept that not everyone will like your work, and to an extent take it on the chin. What does hurt is when it is justified and you think - I could have done better.

TRC: So far not at all. The fact that someone has read the book and taken the trouble to write and express an opinion is good. Mind you, I was a little put off by my work being called ‘turgid’: it’s a fantastic word, but I’d rather it wasn’t used in conjunction with my writing!

MPW: It’s a review, not the dentist... Reviewers are out there. Its there job to critique. I have no axe to grind with them. I have to say, the UK Book Bloggers and press have been both generous and kind to my work and I love ‘em for it. Bad reviews come with the writers turf, same as good. As Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry once said; “Opinions are like ass’ oles, everybody’s got one.”

What promotions have worked best for your book?

JM: Taking part in literary festivals and talking to library audiences, WI's, U3A etc.

TRC: I did the full round of newspaper and regional/local magazines and local radio, but what has worked best, it seems, has been Amazon’s own promotions. Plus Fahrenheit’s global presence and know-how.

MPW: EDPR the London based PR company, headed up by the brilliant Emma Draude and Sophie Goodfellow. Proof that PR specialists really do help sell books and get your work out to the big, wide world. I doff my cap to ‘em.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?

JM: Write something that you would want to read yourself.

RC: Write about what you know –and make sure that what you know has a wide and interesting remit and isn’t boring.

MPW: Keep writing... one word at a time and write what you want to read. Also, good reading makes good writing.

John Martin, Richard Cox, MP Wright
July 2016

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