Ayo Onatade is a freelance crime fiction critic and commentator. She reviews, writes, interviews and blogs on all things crime fiction related. Find her @shotsblog.
I am fairly certain that all debut writers get the jitters when it comes to people reading their work or when they are in a room full of people about to be probed as to why they wrote the novel, why that particular genre and if the book is in fact any good.
This year I shall be interviewing three different crime writers whose debut novels have all been making major waves within the crime fiction community for various reasons for the Fresh Blood event at the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival.
Steph Broadribb is a crime blogger (known as Crime Thriller Girl) whose debut novel Deep Down Dead has had readers rapidly turning the pages as they frantically try to keep pace with her main protagonist Lori Anderson. She is not only a Bounty Hunter but also a single mother trying to raise her daughter who suffers from a serious illness. The fact that her bounty is someone that knows her inside out adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the storyline that keeps you intrigued and fascinated. You may wonder what if anything this author knows about bounty hunting. She does in fact know a lot. Her research has been hands on and she certainly knows how to also write a story with enough emotional depth that makes you want to know what happens next. So if you would like to know how much Steph Broadribb actually does know about bounty hunting and other unusual aspects of her crime fiction life join us at Noirwich to find out.
Joseph Knox’s dark novel Sirens starts with a runaway girl with a powerful father and an anti-hero in the form of a rather junior detective who soon finds himself in over his head in a situation that could be the death of him. Can he in fact survive? One would expect Joseph Knox’s knowledge of crime fiction to be eclectic and thorough as he has been Waterstones crime and thriller buyer, and he certainly knows his way around the genre. Sirens is what readers would call urban noir and Knox paints a story of Manchester in all its grimy detail. It is unpretentious, page turning and shows a side of Manchester that very few want to and do see. With The Times Breakthrough Award nomination under his belt along with Sirens being long-listed for two major Crime Writing Association Dagger Awards it is clear that one should not really be surprised about the critical acclaim that Sirens has been received and the interest that is being shown to that author as well.
It is would certainly be a bit strange if you are a criminal barrister and you decide to write a crime novel and because of the nature of the “day job” you decide not to write about something that you know. It was Lois McMaster Bujold who said “You write what you know because—like there’s another choice? In this case Imran Mahmood has certainly done that with his debut novel You Don’t Know Me. With the story told through court transcripts the reader has an unnamed defendant who sacks his barrister and decides to give his own closing speech and tell what as far as he is concerned is the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and to include everything his barrister did not want told – thus upending a four-week trial that has taken place. Is the narrator reliable or unreliable and are we the readers, who are essentially the jury, persuaded by what our unnamed defendant purports to be the truth? Whilst this is in essence a straightforward legal thriller it is also a book of the inner city that is violent, gritty and filled with plenty of wrong decisions. It is Imran Mahmood’s intricate knowledge of the criminal justice system and dealing with inner city clients that makes You Don’t Know Me such an intriguing read. With You Don’t Know Me being a BBC2 radio book club choice the opportunity to delve more into what it is like to be a successful criminal barrister as well as a crime writer is too good an opportunity to miss.
All three authors are darkly stylish in their own different ways, writing raw, urban and edgy stories that will keep you transfixed. If you are interested in knowing what makes them tick then you must surely join us at Noirwich for the Fresh Blood panel. It is bound to be exciting.