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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Goldsboro First Monday Meet the Authors June 2017

Goldsboro First Monday Meet the Authors,
5 June 2017
 Judges’ Room, Browns Hotel,
St Martins Lane, London

 As before four crime authors gathered in the impressive surroundings of the panelled Judges’ Room of Brown’s Hotel to talk about their writing, in particular their most recent publications. Leading crime expert Barry Forshaw (see photo left) guided the discussion with his customary skill and aplomb. The June authors were Abir Mukherjee, Ruth Ware, James Oswald and Imran Mahmoud. There were a good many people in the audience, getting on for perhaps 100, and I understood from a subsequent conversation with Barry that the majority were not practising crime writers but were either studying the craft of crime writing perhaps on the Crime Writing MA course at the City University or were simply fans. Either way it is excellent that crime writers appeal to a community larger than themselves.

James Oswald was the first to begin. By day, he told us, he farms Highland cattle and New Zealand sheep on his farm in North-East Fife and saves his writing for the hours of darkness. James was hailed by Barry as a Scottish Noir writer but admitted to us that he actually came from Bishops Stortford. His latest novel in the Inspector McLean series is Written in Bones; the six previous novels are all available in paperback. He also writes a fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, as well as comic scripts and short stories. He is currently short-listed for the CWA Dagger in the Library award. In Written in Bones a body found in a tree in a scenic Edinburgh park is that of a disgraced former police officer turned criminal kingpin turned celebrated philanthropist. The body appears to have fallen from a great height – accidental or deliberate? Research into the victim’s past takes McLean back to the city’s past and through its underworld. James suggested that would-be writers should read their work aloud.

Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark Dark Wood, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s New Line Cinema. Her second novel, The Woman in Cabin Ten, was published last year and she is currently working on her third, The Lying Game, in which four women who had been at boarding school together meet in response to a desperate plea from one of them. While at school they had invented a game in which they competed to tell the most outrageous lies; now those lies have come home to roost and they must get their story straight in a place which is no longer safe for them. Ruth told us that writing the third story had been just as difficult as the first one.

Abir Mukherjee’s first novel was A Rising Man and won the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition. His family come from Bangladesh and he was brought up in Scotland. It was the first in a series set in 1920s India and stars Captain Sam Wyndham and ‘Surrender-Not’ Bannerjee.  A Necessary Evil is the second in the series. The modernising heir to the throne of the fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore with its tigers, elephants, diamond mines and beautiful Palace of the Sun is assassinated and his death reveals suppressed conflicts and religious turmoil and draws Wyndham and Banerjee into danger. A Rising Man has been listed for two CWA awards: the Gold Dagger, and the Historical Dagger. He told us that he saw crime novels as social commentary. Apparently in these kingdoms which were a feature of pre-Independence India the wives were often the power behind the throne.

Imran Mahmoud is a criminal barrister who has appeared in numerous cases at the Old Bailey and the Court of Appeal. He was brought up in Liverpool, in a family atmosphere where there was great pressure to succeed, and then moved to London to practice law where he found that life was very inclusive in contrast that of Liverpool which was then very divided. He specialises in Legal Aid cases involving charges of murder and other serious charges of violent crime. Much of his writing is informed by his extensive court experience involving gangs of boys, often from very deprived backgrounds, who feel excluded from much of society. His debut novel You Don’t Know Me has been highly praised in reviews. In it an unnamed young black man who is the defendant in a murder case, when it comes to the closing speeches, dismisses his counsel and delivers his own defence. In the end it is the reader who has to decide the question that goes to the jury: guilt or innocence. He told us that in spite of the unusual approach he had no difficulty in getting the book published and that, despite the darkness of the setting, in his childhood Enid Blyton had been a powerful influence – the Famous Five were effectively a street gang!
Report by Radmila May 

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

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