Five tips on embarking into the dark heart of crime fiction

By Mary Paulson-Ellis

Mary Paulson-Ellis is the award-winning author of The Other Mrs Walker (Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year), The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing and Emily Noble’s Disgrace.

Ahead of her Festival workshop on using history and memory in your fiction, she has provided five top tips on embarking into the dark heart of crime fiction.

Write your story, your way

Crime is an elastic genre, it takes all comers, from Patricia Highsmith to Alexander McCall Smith, from Daphne du Maurier to Barbara Vine. So rather than putting yourself in a box before you begin – be that police procedural, cosy crime, domestic noir or any other of an ever-expanding milieu – concentrate instead on exploring whatever crimes and misdemeanours spark your imagination in your own distinctive way. Once your work is done, like Cinderella you can fit your foot to the appropriate shoe. Or make a new one if it doesn’t fit at all.

Strive for complexity

We’ve all heard the acronym, KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. But while simplicity can be your friend when writing – stripped down prose for example, or a neatly executed plot – sometimes it is also the enemy of the long form. Crime in real life is never black and white, so it shouldn’t be on the page either. Whether it’s complexity of theme, of character motivation, or even dialogue (where everything that really matters lies beneath the words actually being spoken), take courage and embrace the grey.

Fear is your friend

Most of us have the luxury of writing from a place of safety, be that a kitchen table or a favourite coffee shop. But inside, our heads teem with worst-case scenarios. The loss of a loved one, perhaps, or the horror of a violent death, even the terror of the blank page. Imagine placing all that fear and its resultant anxieties into the hands of your protagonist? Suddenly the dark abyss becomes a font of possibilities. Stand with them on the edge and look down. Now give them a push, see how far they might fall.

The past is never dead…

William Faulkner’s famous saying, ‘The past is never dead. It isn’t even past’, is the perfect key to writing rich, authentic crime fiction. Your characters might try to hide from their past, or struggle to overcome it, but like the darkest shadows of the imagination, it will always be there. Whether it’s about atoning for past wrong deeds, or grappling with the shifts in law, investigative practices and social attitudes that open new opportunities for justice, the past is a weapon and you can wield it to considerable effect.

Keep peeling the onion

A great premise can be electrifying, getting the reader to turn those pages fast. But ultimately it is a hollow experience if the characters playing it out are subservient to the plot. The Queen of Crime, Val McDermid says that writing crime fiction is like constructing a three-legged stool: it requires plot, setting and character to work. Take one away and the rest fall. But the best plots begin and end with character. And the richest most authentic settings are characters in their own right. So think of your protagonist as an onion and begin to peel away their layers. Once you get to the sliver of silver at their core, then your writing will fly.

Don’t miss…

WORKSHOP: SINS OF THE PAST WITH MARY PAULSON-ELLIS

Sunday 12 September, 10am – 12noon or 2 – 4pm BST, Online, £35

Times bestselling novelist Mary Paulson-Ellis is known for her dark, atmospheric dual-timeline detective novels set in Edinburgh. Join her for an informal, interactive online workshop exploring the ways that memory and history can be used to haunt the present in your crime story.

A brilliant opportunity for insight and advice from the award-winning author of The Other Mrs Walker (Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year), The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing and Emily Noble’s Disgrace.

This online workshop will take place online via Zoom. Instructions will be sent to you a few days in advance.

Recommended by Paul Willetts

Paul Willetts, the critically acclaimed author of King Con and Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms,  is a master of non-fiction storytelling – spinning true-life accounts of con artists, spies and gangsters into gripping stories steeped in detail and atmosphere. 

To prepare you for Paul’s upcoming true crime writing workshop on Saturday 11 September, we asked him which essential true crime reads he would recommend to likeminded readers and writers of non-fiction.

The Case of the Murderous Dr Cream (2021) by Dean Jobb

The Canadian doctor turned serial killing poisoner, Dr Neill Cream, was among the late nineteenth-century’s most notorious criminals, his notoriety spanning both sides of the Atlantic. But he’d drifted into obscurity by the time Dean Jobb began researching this sparely written and brilliantly structured account of his life and monstrous crimes. I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of it, so I wasn’t in the least surprised by its huge critical and commercial success in America.

The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

I don’t usually read books from the pop psychology genre spawned by Malcolm Gladwell. I only read this example of the genre because it came out while I was researching the escapades of a compulsive Jazz Age conman and imposter. He pulled off a series of stings so implausible that I was curious to discover the latest scientific analysis of why we fall for con tricks. As Marina Konnikova (a young psychologist turned staff writer at The New Yorker)reveals, our vulnerability is rooted in our sense of invulnerability, our sense that it’s other people who get conned.

The True Story of Titanic Thompson (2012) by Kevin Cook

I must admit I’d never heard of Titanic Thompson until I picked up this book. He turns out to have been a famous mid-twentieth-century ‘proposition gambler’, who made a fortune by wagering enormous sums of money, usually on his ability to perform some improbable task. One of his most celebrated coups involved betting Al Capone that he could throw a lemon onto the roof of a five-storey building. Read this book and you’ll find yourself with a month’s supply of comic anecdotes.

Years of the Locust (2009) by Jon Hotten

When it was first released more than a decade ago, there was talk of Hotten’s book being turned into a movie. Like so many film projects, though, the mooted film never materialized, which is a shame because this is an immensely cinematic book, written with the swagger and brio of mid-period James Ellroy. It’s set in American South during the 1990s, which plays host to the tragic business relationship between an aspiring champion boxer and his psychopathic manager.

I’ve come across few true-crime books that have such a brilliant opening: ’28 April 1995. So here he comes. Fat Rick Parker, rocking and rolling through Orlando International Airport on this, the last day of his life.’

A Very English Scandal (2016) by John Preston

Entertaining though the TV adaptation was, it’s nowhere near as good as the book, which provides an addictive and blackly amusing account of the plot by the Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, to murder his gay lover, Norman Scott. Never has the clichéd ‘reads like a thriller’ tag been more appropriate. Unsurprisingly, Preston has a parallel career as a novelist, best-known for his fictionalized account of the archaeological discoveries at Sutton Hoo—a novel that has recently spawned a touching and understated Netflix movie.

Midnight in Peking (2011) by Paul French

With this true-crime debut, its Shanghai-based author Paul French established himself as one of the world’s leading true-crime writers. The book chronicles of his re-investigation of a long-forgotten murder of a young English woman living in 1930s Peking. As well as being a murder mystery, it’s a vivid portrait of the vanished world of expats living in British colonial China—a world on the brink of being swept away by the Japanese invasion of that country.  


Don’t miss…

WORKSHOP: TRUE CRIME WRITING WITH PAUL WILLETTS

Saturday 11 September, 10am – 12noon or 2 – 4pm BST, National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall, Norwich, £35

Join Paul Willetts, the critically acclaimed author of King Con and Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms, for a friendly writing workshop packed with practical tips and advice on how to research, structure and write your non-fiction story.

In this two-hour session, you will explore:

  • How to research your story and use true life details to enhance atmosphere and characterisation
  • Approaches to structuring your story
  • Possible routes to publication, including how to pitch your story to an agent

Whether you are new to the genre or have some writing experience, this workshop offers an essential snapshot of how to approach your non-fiction project.

Megan Abbott (c) Drew Reilly

Internationally acclaimed writer Megan Abbott (‘A legend for good reason’ – The Washington Post) will deliver the 2021 Noirwich Crime Writing Festival Lecture, it has been revealed today.

Abbott, the bestselling and award-winning author of The Turnout and Give Me Your Hand, frequently explores the threat of violence at the centre of women’s lives. Her highly-anticipated, original festival commission will focus on adaptation and crime writing in the era of Netflix and HBO. Previous Noirwich Lectures include Attica Locke on colonialism and theft, George Alagiah on environmental destruction, Val McDermid on gender and violence, and Arne Dahl on crime and class.

Now in its eighth year Noirwich is a crime writing festival that interrogates the way we live now through this rich and multidimensional genre. Known for its innovative programming, the Festival is delivered by the National Centre for Writing and the University of East Anglia (UEA). The 2021 Festival will be a hybrid programme with in-person creative writing workshops at Dragon Hall, home of National Centre for Writing, as well as free online events to extend the reach to international audiences.

Joining Abbott on the top bill are David Peace (Red Riding Quartet, The Damned Utd and the Tokyo Trilogy) and Korean American novelist Steph Cha who won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for her crime fiction novel Your House Will Pay. The programme will also include a showcase of the freshest new voices in crime writing from UEA’s MA programme and a celebration of over 50 years of creative writing at the university. Further programme announcements will be made in the coming weeks.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director, National Centre for Writing says:

‘This year’s Noirwich programme blends international crime writing with home-grown talents, workshops for aspiring crime writers and conversations with masters of the form. David Peace, Steph Cha and Megan Abbott will be joined by UEA alumni Femi Kayode and Cat Ward among many others in a festival programme that gets under the bonnet and spies through the magnifying glass on this most popular, imaginative and dexterous of genres.’

Dr Nathan Ashman, Lecturer in Crime Writing at the UEA, says:

‘Noirwich returns this year with a thrilling line-up of international and UK-based writers operating at the very cutting edge of their craft.  Alongside a headline lecture from Edgar Award winning novelist and screen writer Megan Abbott, the festival will feature an exciting array of workshops, discussions, and events, including conversations with Steph Cha, celebrated author of the explosive and suspenseful 2019 thriller Your House Will Pay, and David Peace, an award-winning British crime writer and author of the acclaimed Red Reding Quartet and Tokyo Trilogy. It is an exciting and dynamic festival programme.’

The eighth Noirwich Crime Writing Festival will take place from 9 – 12 September 2021. All events, (excluding the workshops) are free, however booking is essential. For programme and ticket updates, see noirwich.co.uk and follow @NOIRwichFest and @WritersCentre on Twitter.

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival 2021 is sponsored by The Crime Vault, the crime/thriller community of Little, Brown. With support from Arts Council England and Jarrold.

Mark Aldridge and Sophie Hannah in conversation on The Writing Life podcast

Bringing together two of Hercule Poirot’s biggest fans for a conversation spanning the 100-year history of one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved creations. From the original novels, short stories and plays through to adaptations for stage, screen and radio – how has Poirot changed over the years, what makes him so compelling, and what will he look like in another century’s time?

Mark Aldridge is a lecturer, film historian and author of the definitive book about Agatha Christie’s book adaptations on film and television, Agatha Christie on Screen. His upcoming book Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (released October 2020) is a lively and accessible history of the world’s favourite fictional detective. Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime author and has written a series of ‘continuation novels’ based on Hercule Poirot: The Monogram Murders, Closed Casket, The Mystery of Three Quarters and the upcoming The Killings at Kingfisher Hill.

Hosted by Steph McKenna and Simon Jones.

You can go direct to the RSS feed here.

About the speakers

Mark Aldridge is a senior lecturer and film historian at Solent University, Southampton. He previously wrote the definitive book about Agatha Christie’s book adaptations on film and television, Agatha Christie on Screen, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016. Twitter @DrMarkAldridge

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her crime novels have been translated into 49 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thriller The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the 2013 UK National Book Awards. In 2014 and 2016, Sophie published The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie’s death, both of which were national and international bestsellers. She went on to publish a third, The Mystery of Three Quarters in 2018 which was an instant bestseller, and her fourth Poirot novel, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill will be published in August 2020. Sophie helped to create a Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing at the University of Cambridge, for which she is the main teacher and Course Director. She is also the founder of the Dream Author Coaching Programme for writers which launched in September 2019.

Sophie is also an award-winning, bestselling poet, and her poetry is studied at GCSE level across the UK. She has co-written two murder mystery musicals with composer Annette Armitage: The Mystery of Mr. E and Work Experience. She has written a self-help book called How To Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life, and hosts the How to Hold a Grudge podcast. Website

‘The Love Boat’ is a short story by novelist and Noirwich UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence, Anita Terpstra. It has been translated by Danny Guinan.


Julia drank her glass of wine down in one, the alcohol helping to erase the words that were burning liked acid on her tongue. They were out on the open sea and the rolling of the yacht was making her feel seasick.

At the stern, Robert, her husband, and her best friend, Fenna, were deep in conversation. Julia and Fenna had come up with the name ‘The Love Boat’ for the yacht. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the institution of marriage. 

Fenna laughed at something Robert said.

‘Slut’, Julia thought to herself. It wasn’t just the wine that had left a bitter taste in her mouth.

This little sailing trip had been organised to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of their son, Victor. They were on their way back to port. The light was fading fast. Tomorrow Victor would be celebrating his birthday with his friends, but tonight it was the turn of family and those they regarded as family. Like Fenna.

Fenna had become an object of ridicule within their circle of friends and beyond. Her husband – or ex-husband to be precise – was a successful businessman. She had divorced him a few months ago. Everyone knew about the succession of lovers he had kept in his expensive apartment while Fenna was marooned in their house in the country. Julia was the only one who had stood by her when things began to fall apart.  

And this was Fenna’s way of thanking her.

Robert disappeared below deck to join the rest of the party and escape the cold. Fenna was standing alone and Julia saw her opportunity.

‘What a fabulous evening,’ said Fenna when Julia came and stood next to her. Fenna was clearly a bit tipsy.

Julia wrapped her hands around the railing. ‘I know, I know about you and…’

‘Oh my god,’ said Fenna, shocked. ‘I…’

‘I don’t need to hear your excuses. It’s just got to stop.’

‘I had been meaning to tell you, honest, but he…’

‘Please, spare me, before you make an even bigger fool of yourself. If you had the slightest bit of respect for me or our friendship, you would never have started it.’

‘I love him.’

‘What?’ said Julia, looking at her friend in astonishment. ‘How could you do this? After everything I’ve done for you? I was the only one there when everyone else abandoned you after the divorce. Have you any idea how much shit I had to deal with just because I stuck up for you? And now this… Why him? Of all the men in the world, why him?’

‘We just fell in love.’

‘I won’t let this go on any longer, do you hear me?’

‘You can’t stop us from seeing each other.’

Fenna stared at her defiantly. She meant what she said, Julia realised. She took a quick look over her shoulder. No one around. Instinctively, Julia pushed her friend and watched with satisfaction as Fenna tumbled over the railing into the dark water. That’ll teach her not to start an affair with Victor.

She let out a deep sigh of contentment and walked over to join her son in the wheelhouse. Julia lay her head on his shoulder.

‘Mum, have you seen Fenna?’ asked Victor.

‘No, dear, I’ve no idea where she is.’


Anita Terpstra

Anita Terpstra
(c) Harry Cock

Anita Terpstra (1974) graduated in journalism and art history. Her successful debut thriller Nachtvlucht (Night Flight) was nominated for the Shadow Prize and the Crimezone Thriller Award. Samen (Together) was nominated for the Golden Gallows. Her books have been translated into German and French.

Anita is a UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence at the 2020 Festival.

Danny Guinan

Danny Guinan is a translator of fiction and non-fiction from Dutch into English. Born and raised in Ireland, he now lives and works in the Netherlands. His translated works include the books Attention and Concentration by Stefan van der Stigchel for MIT Press, as well as a number of short stories by Sanneke van Hassel that are due for publication in the autumn by Strangers Press as part of the New Dutch Writing series.

‘Solstice’ is a short story by novelist and Noirwich UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence, Anita Terpstra. It has been translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey.


“Hello? Team? I’m lost! Help me!” Nynke cried as she returned to the last clue, which was in Princentuin park. She must have taken a wrong turn.

A ghost tour of Leeuwarden, even if it was to be followed by dinner in a restaurant, wasn’t exactly her idea of a fun company outing. Nynke hated horror films and was afraid of haunted houses, so this really wasn’t her scene. And certainly not in this kind of weather. It was pitch-dark, cold, windy, and raining cats and dogs. She was soaking wet, chilled to the bone.

At the Weighhouse, formerly the marketplace, a headless “Simon Lunia” had scared her senseless. Simon had been beheaded two centuries earlier during a public execution at the Weighhouse, and now the internet was teeming with stories about people being accosted by a man seeking his head. And at Oldehove, the crooked tower on Wilhelmina square, which had once been a cemetery, she’d been followed by “Red Frouk.”  Long ago, she had committed suicide, jumping off the tower because of a broken heart, and her spirit had been haunting the square ever since.

In Prinsentuin park, Nynke was on her guard, but nothing had happened. According to legend, on June 21—the day of the summer solstice in 1888—a young woman had entered the park, then disappeared without a trace. Ever since then, the young woman’s ghost had been trying to lure walkers into following her. And, just like her, they were never seen again.

With enormous reluctance, she walked through the park’s main entrance. Just ahead of her, a young woman emerged from a thicket. Nynke screamed. The woman wore a tattered brown dress and a white apron that was stained around the waist. No shoes, dirty feet. Two braids falling over her shoulders. Her face was as white as a sheet, and she was staring intensely at Nynke.

“Okay, I’m completely fed up with all this scary business. Can you please just take me to the restaurant?” Nynke said angrily. She had no idea where they were dining because it was supposed to be a surprise.

The woman beckoned, and Nynke quickly followed, but after a few minutes, she was struck by doubts. They weren’t walking to the town center. Instead, they were moving away from it, toward the water bordering the park, which was always full of boats when the weather was fine.

“Are you sure we’re going in the right direction?” Nynke asked.

The woman didn’t answer and continued walking until they found themselves at the edge of the water.

“Hello? Can you please answer me?”

Abruptly, Nynke stopped.  Was this woman actually part of the ghost tour? Or was she…? Fear flashed through her like lightning.

When the woman noticed that Nynke was no longer following her, she walked back and grabbed her by the wrist. The coldness of her hand startled Nynke.

“Let me go!”

The woman’s fingers tightened.

“Ow, you’re hurting me.”

Nynke gave her a shove, and the woman fell, hitting her head on the corner of a stone bench. She remained motionless, lying on the waterfront with her eyes wide open. Nynke made a run for it. Barely half a minute later, she almost crashed into a colleague.

“What happened to you?” He asked.

“Oh! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you. I got lost and…”

“Didn’t my wife come and get you?”

“Your wife?”

“Yes, she’s wearing a brown dress and has braids in her hair. She’s part of the ghost tour. We thought it would be fun if the tour suddenly ended, you’d all get lost, then she’d pop up and lead you to the restaurant. My wife is really very good, isn’t she?” He said proudly. “That dimwit from the admin department almost peed her pants.” He laughed. Nynke swallowed hard. 

“No,” she managed to say, “I didn’t see her.”


Anita Terpstra

Anita Terpstra
(c) Harry Cock

Anita Terpstra (1974) graduated in journalism and art history. Her successful debut thriller Nachtvlucht (Night Flight) was nominated for the Shadow Prize and the Crimezone Thriller Award. Samen (Together) was nominated for the Golden Gallows. Her books have been translated into German and French.

Anita is a UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence at the 2020 Festival.

Sarah Timmer Harvey

Sarah Timmer Harvey is writer and translator currently based in Brooklyn. Sarah holds an MFA in writing and translation from Columbia University. Sarah’s translations, interviews, and writing has appeared in several publications including Modern Poetry in Translation, Cagibi, Asymptote, and Gulf Coast Journal. Reconstruction, a chapbook of Sarah’s translations of stories by the Dutch-Surinamese writer, Karin Amatmoekrim will be published by Strangers Press (UK) in September 2020.

Here, Noirwich UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence Paddy Richardson reflects on her home city of Dunedin in New Zealand, and its relationship with writing and crime fiction.


On the globe, our little country, New Zealand; three narrow islands at the end of the world and Dunedin, there, right down the end.

Dunedin is a place of hills, trees and harbour, the central city spreading towards the enclosing hills, the houses tucked in amongst them. Out on the peninsula, the albatross soar, the seals bask on rocks. On clear days the sea sparkles, on others the mist comes in, a soft flowing veil of grey. Our buildings are a mix of grand Victorian and semi-modern, the beautiful stone buildings beside the Leith River which form the oldest part of the university, the grand railway station, the now disused prison buildings, gothic and harsh, once the scene of the only hanging of a woman in New Zealand.

Dunedin, at one time the wealthiest city in the country after gold was discovered nearby, has a chequered history of grandeur, wealth and lofty hopes.  We are the only city to have castles, two of them in fact, now serving as shrines to the men who wanted to implant European opulence in this land. One is now a crumbling ruin whereas the other has been coaxed over years into its past splendour.  But while it has been made beautiful again, Larnach Castle is a place of bygone scandals, secrets, deaths and ruin. If you slide past the black curtain into the third wife, Constance’s, boudoir, you feel a shiver in the atmosphere; rigid respectability mixed with disappointment, loss and heartbreak.

Dunedin is a writers’ city. The Octagon, placed in the centre of our main streets, is presided over by Robbie Burns’ statue and many of the paving stones are embossed with writing from our most famous writers, Janet Frame, Charles Brasch, Dan Davin, James K. Baxter.  The University of Otago Burns Fellowship, a year’s residency for writers, means that poets, playwrights, novelists come and go in this city leaving their mark.

There is atmosphere and inspiration in our history, our buildings, our breathtakingly beautiful landscape and mood-changing climate. Over the past years, crime fiction has flourished in New Zealand. Here in Dunedin, Vanda Symon’s Sam Shephard series gives us a sassy young female Dunedin police officer who takes the reader into what Vanda sees as ‘a wonderful mix of moody, gothic architecture and happily grubby and tired modern buildings amongst a diverse and off-beat population.’  Writer, Jane Woodham says ‘it was easy to set my first novel Twister in Dunedin as the city’s gothic architecture and sometimes morose weather helps to create the grim atmosphere we have come to expect in a crime novel’. Finn Bell also uses Dunedin and the far south as settings for his award-winning crime fiction novels whereas Liam McIlvanney recalls his home, Scotland, for inspiration-entirely fitting within a city often referred to as the Edinburgh of the South. Maxine Alterio, one of Dunedin’s best-known writers, has also veered into suspense fiction with her latest novel The Gulf  Between set in and near Dunedin and in Italy.

As for me, Dunedin, continues to be the city where I love to write. My windows look across the harbour. I watch as the words take shape.


Paddy Richardson

Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories, Choices and If We Were Lebanese and seven novels, The Company of a DaughterA Year to Learn a Woman, Hunting Blind, Traces of Red, Cross Fingers, Swimming in the Dark and Through the Lonesome DarkTraces of Red and Cross Fingers were long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award and Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark were short listed. Four of her novels have been published overseas, A Year to Learn a Woman, Hunting Blind and Traces of Reds have been translated and published by Droemer Publishing, Germany, and Swimming in the Dark by Macmillan, Australia. Through the Lonesome Dark was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.

Paddy has been awarded Creative New Zealand Awards, the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award. She has been a guest at many writing festivals and was one of the New Zealand writer representatives at both the Leipzig and Frankfurt Book Fairs in 2012 when New Zealand was the guest of honour. In 2019, she was awarded the Randell Cottage residency in Wellington where she spent six months writing and researching her latest novel to be published in 2021.

Paddy lives in a beautiful part of our world, on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand, where she swims, walks, reads and works as a full-time writer.

Paddy is a UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence at the 2020 Festival.

Below is an extract from Swimming in the Dark (Upstart Press, 2014) by Paddy Richardson, which was shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award. You can order a copy of the novel here.


She can see the river now, a blue-green snake beneath the road.

Always there was the river. Rushing in after school, hauling on togs and running, leaping off the rocks, churning through the water. They’d be down there hours in the summer. The smell of thyme, like eucalyptus except fainter, sweeter. The grey-blue colour of it, the feel of it scratching her bare legs. The way the soles of their feet toughened up, turned into leather in the summer months. Sometimes Mum came down to find them, baby Serena under one arm, a packet of fish and chips under the other.  Thursday was Benefit Day. Fish and chips, maybe ice cream. Mum’s box of wine.

If it hadn’t been for the men, it could’ve been all right.

It could’ve been all right but it wasn’t.

Did you ever wonder why? Ever wonder why I left the way I did? Ever wonder how I was getting on in Dunedin with no one to help me, no one that I knew? Did you ever wonder if I was scared?

She’s tired but she’ll keep on driving.  Not long to go. Roxburgh, now. The wide main street with the churches, the pubs. Not long. It’s getting towards the end of the day and the sun’s lowering, bright and glaring on the windscreen. Past the dam, and she’s climbing now, taking the corners gently. She’s winding downwards. On the last stretch.

When she lived here Alex was the world. Everyone knew who was important, who owned the businesses on the main street, who lived in the big houses. Alex was the world and if you were important you could do what you liked. If you were important you could take someone little and stamp them out flat.

 Nearly there and she’s still scared. Scared of going back. When she left she wasn’t going back. No matter what happened, she wasn’t ever going back. Now she has to. No choice.

Still, there’s nowhere else like this; the burnt, golden land, the rocks like great looming ruins glinting silver in the evening sun. Fruitlands, with the crumbling stone buildings beside the road, the pine trees jutting out of sand and rock, the houses dotted up on the rise of hill and there, at last, the bridge.

That bridge was her last memory of the place. Getting up in the early morning,  pulling on her jeans and T-shirt, grabbing her jacket. Taking her bag and moving slowly and silently through the house, turning the door-handle, slipping through and easing the door shut behind her. She pulled the hood of her jacket up over her head, wove her way through town, keeping away from the main streets. Along the river, then up onto the bridge. She walked across it, her head down, too afraid to look up.

She was over the bridge, walking to the top of the rise when she heard the whine of a truck easing into a lower gear. She put out her thumb.


Paddy Richardson

Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories, Choices and If We Were Lebanese and seven novels, The Company of a DaughterA Year to Learn a Woman, Hunting Blind, Traces of Red, Cross Fingers, Swimming in the Dark and Through the Lonesome DarkTraces of Red and Cross Fingers were long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award and Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark were short listed. Four of her novels have been published overseas, A Year to Learn a Woman, Hunting Blind and Traces of Reds have been translated and published by Droemer Publishing, Germany, and Swimming in the Dark by Macmillan, Australia. Through the Lonesome Dark was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.

Paddy has been awarded Creative New Zealand Awards, the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award. She has been a guest at many writing festivals and was one of the New Zealand writer representatives at both the Leipzig and Frankfurt Book Fairs in 2012 when New Zealand was the guest of honour. In 2019, she was awarded the Randell Cottage residency in Wellington where she spent six months writing and researching her latest novel to be published in 2021.

Paddy lives in a beautiful part of our world, on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand, where she swims, walks, reads and works as a full-time writer.

Paddy is a UNESCO Virtual Writer in Residence at the 2020 Festival.

By Duncan Campbell

Has there ever been a time when True Crime – as opposed to the fictional version – has had such a high profile? Whether in television documentaries or podcasts, accounts of famous murders or heists are never absent from the airwaves. True Crime books, meanwhile, tend to fall into two different categories. There are the memoirs of the protagonists – criminals, detectives, victims, lawyers – and there are the works of writers, reporters and historians. It’s hard – very hard – to say what the best ones are in two such crowded fields.

Of the latter category, two of the deservedly best-known are, of course, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son by Gordon Burn. The former explores the story behind the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959 by two ex-cons, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The latter is about Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ and an examination both of his character and of the bungled police investigation that allowed him to carry on killing. Of the more than fifty books about or by the Kray twins, John Pearson’s The Profession of Violence remains the best, not least because of the remarkable access he had to the twins at the time when they were still busy posing for David Bailey photos.

Putting our fascination with killers into context is Judith Flanders’s wonderful book, The Invention of Murder, which explains how Britain as a nation became intrigued by criminality and gore in Victorian times. And the potential pitfalls of the true crime genre are brilliantly highlighted by Janet Malcolm in her book, The Journalist and the Murderer. It opens with a famously provocative sentence: ‘Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.’

Most professional criminals are men but Gone Shopping by Lorraine Gamman tells the story of  Shirley Pitts, a shoplifter who operated in the 1950s and 1960s. When she died in 1992, she was buried in a £5,000 Zandra Rhodes dress that she did not buy over the counter. Above her grave was a floral tribute in the shape of a Harrods shopping bag and the legend ‘Gone Shopping’, hence the title.

Of books by protagonists, these by former criminals stand out: Gentleman Thief by the late cat burglar, Peter Scott, who stole Sophia Loren’s diamonds in the 1960s. Scott ruefully admits that although he was described as a ‘master-criminal’ in fact ‘a master idiot would have been a better description.’ A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun by Noel ‘Razor’ Smith is, unlike too many memoirs of professional criminals, remarkably candid about the pointlessness of choosing bank robbery as a career. He recounts one occasion when he tried to hold up a newsagent’s with a Luger pistol and was told by its Ugandan-Asian proprietor, with commendable sang-froid, ‘Your gun is unloaded – you are minus the magazine. And you swear far too much for such a young man.’ Smith bought a Mars Bar instead and told him to keep the change.

Of other memoirs, I would add two thoughtful books: Jimmy Boyle’s A Sense of Freedom and Erwin James’s Redeemable. The former is by the ex-Glasgow-hardman-turned-artist, the latter by Erwin James, who was jailed for life for two murders in 1984 and tells his remarkable story with commendable frankness and introspection.

Police memoirs – like criminal memoirs – can sometimes be rather unreflective and self-aggrandising. Two recent books that are neither of those things, are Good Cop, Bad War by Neil Woods and Graham Satchwell’s An Inspector Recalls. The former is an account of the life of an undercover drugs squad cop who is now an advocate of changing the drugs laws. As he puts it: ‘fighting to end the War on Drugs will do more to harm the gangsters than anything I ever accomplished as a cop.’ An Inspector Recalls is a very honest account of life as a detective with the British Transport Police.

Books by those who have been victims of crime are much rarer; we remember the names of the murderers but rarely of those murdered or attacked. The serial killers, Fred and Rose West, prompted many interesting books, including Gordon Burn’s Happy Like Murderers, Andrew O’Hagan’s The Missing, Howard Sounes’s Fred & Rose and Brian Masters’s She Must Have Known. But one of the most revealing is by Caroline Roberts, who was 16 when she was attacked by the Wests but managed to escape. Years later in the trial of Rose West, she bravely gave evidence on behalf of ‘all those girls who didn’t make it”. Her account of what she suffered and her sometimes grim experiences at the hands of the press is equally poignant.


Photo: Linda Nylind

Duncan Campbell has been writing about crime for nearly half a century. He was the crime correspondent of the Guardian and chairman of the Crime Reporters’ Association. He has written extensively on the subject of crime for various publications, including Guardian, Observer, Esquire, New Statesman, London Review of Books, Radio Times and Oldie. He has written four other books on crime: That Was Business, This Is Personal; A Stranger and Afraid; If It Bleeds and We’ll All Be Murdered in Our Beds! The Shocking History of Crime Reporting in Britain. Duncan was the first presenter of BBC Radio Five Live’s Crime Desk and the winner of the Bar Council newspaper journalist of the year award. He has appeared in numerous documentaries about crime and was the consultant on the 2018 film about the Hatton Garden burglary, which was partly based on an article he wrote about the case for the Guardian. Underworld, the definitive history of Britain’s organised crime is published by Penguin.

Duncan is leading an online true crime writing workshop on Saturday 12 September at 10am and 2pm BST. Find out more below.



Presented by The Crime Vault

Anyone else struggling with a book buying obsession? Got a weekend getaway coming up and need some reading to bring with you? We’ve got you covered!

To celebrate this year’s Noirwich Crime Writing Festival which is taking place online for the very first time, we’ve teamed up with The Crime Vault to gift one lucky winner with a bundle of ten of the hottest crime writing reads of the summer.

  • Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
  • A Better Man by Louise Penney
  • A Knock at the Door by T.W. Ellis
  • Cry Baby by Mark Billingham
  • Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre
  • Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza
  • Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay
  • Still Life by Val McDermid
  • The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne
  • The Woods by Vanessa Savage

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is enter your details via the entry form below. Your details will only be shared with the National Centre for Writing and not passed on to any other parties, unless you have opted-in to their newsletters. Full terms & conditions can be found below.


The competition will close at 11.59pm on Wednesday 2 September 2020.

The Crime Vault is the place to discover great crime and thriller books and ebooks online. They offer recommendations and competitions to win the latest bestsellers and crime classics, plus brand-new titles never before available in the UK. Showcasing exclusive material by internationally bestselling authors alongside thrilling new voices, all these great reads are available to buy through their online retail partners at the touch of a button on their website: www.thecrimevault.com

Terms and Conditions

  1. The prize draw (the “Prize Draw”) is open to people aged 18 and over living in the UK who enter their details on the Noirwich competition entry page.
  2. Employees of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, The Crime Vault, or anyone else connected with the Prize Draw may not enter the Prize Draw.
  3. Entrants into the Prize Draw shall be deemed to have accepted these Terms and Conditions.
  4. Only one entry per person.
  5. Noirwich accepts no responsibility is taken for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected or incomplete or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of the entry is not proof of receipt by Noirwich.
  6. The closing date of the Prize Draw is 23:59 on Wednesday 2 September 2020. Entries received outside this time period will not be considered.
  7. One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.  The draw will take place on Thursday 3 September 2020.
  8. The winner will receive a bundle of 10 books from The Crime Vault. Book titles are subject to change.
  9. Noirwich accepts no responsibility for any costs associated with the prize and not specifically included in the prize.
  10. The winner will be notified by email on or before Friday 4 September 2020 and must provide an email address. If a winner does not respond to Noirwich within 5 days of being notified by Noirwich, then the winner’s prize will be forfeited and Noirwich shall be entitled to select another winner in accordance with the process described above (and that winner will have to respond to notification of their win within 5 days or else they will also forfeit their prize). If a winner rejects their prize or the entry is invalid or in breach of these Terms and Conditions, the winner’s prize will be forfeited and Noirwich shall be entitled to select another winner.
  11. The prize will be sent to the winner by post.
  12. The prize is non-exchangeable, non-transferable, and is not redeemable for cash or other prizes.
  13. Noirwich shall use and take care of any personal information you supply to it as described in its privacy policy, a copy of which can be seen here, and in accordance with data protection legislation.  By entering the Prize Draw, you agree to the collection, retention, usage and distribution of your personal information in order to process and contact you about your Prize Draw entry.
  14. Noirwich reserves the right at any time and from time to time to modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, this Prize Draw with or without prior notice due to reasons outside its control (including, without limitation, in the case of anticipated, suspected or actual fraud). The decision of Noirwich in all matters under its control is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered in to.
  15. The Prize Draw will be governed by English law and entrants to the Prize Draw submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival today announced two virtual UNESCO City of Literature Virtual Writers in Residence for the 2020 Festival: Anita Terpstra from Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, and Paddy Richardson from Dunedin, New Zealand. Supported by the National Centre for Writing and University of East Anglia, they will create new work and foster connections between Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, and their home city.

Anita Terpstra’s debut thriller Nachtvlucht (Night Flight) was nominated for the Shadow Prize and the Crimezone Thriller Award. Samen (Together) was nominated for the Golden Gallows. Her books have been translated in German and French. Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories and seven novels. Through the Lonesome Dark was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.

Anita Terpstra said:

‘I’m honoured to be chosen as writer of virtual residence at Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. We don’t have literary festivals that celebrate crime writing in the Netherlands, unfortunately, and Norwich must be so proud it has. Maybe my city Leeuwarden, which is now a UNESCO City of Literature, can host a crime writing festival one day. I do hope my residency puts Leeuwarden ‘on the thriller writing map’, so to speak, and am looking forward to sharing my writing with the (virtual) visitors of the festival.’

Paddy Richardson said:

‘I feel thrilled and very honoured to have been selected for the UNESCO City of Literature digital writers’ residency at Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. For me, personally, I see this as an opportunity to make contact with, and share my writing and experiences with, other writers and readers of crime fiction. I also see this as an opening for my home city, Dunedin, to make literary connections with Norwich, another UNESCO City of Literature. ‘

As UNESCO City of Literature Virtual Writers in Residence, Terpstra and Richardson will have the opportunity to appear on The Writing Life Podcast over the Festival weekend and write up to two commissioned pieces of writing.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at NCW said:

‘Following on from our inaugural Noirwich UNESCO City of Literature Writer in Residence in 2019, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir from Reykjavík, we’re seizing the opportunity to welcome two Virtual Writers in Residence to join us at this year’s Festival. We can’t wait to introduce Anita and Paddy to our brilliant and curious Noirwich audiences: though the current situation prevents us from welcoming writers to Norwich in person, we will connect virtually and be transported by their words and ideas instead. We’re always excited to find new ways to connect with our fellow cities of literature and to introduce our writers and readers to each other.’

Stay tuned for podcast conversations with Anita and Paddy over the Festival weekend, as well as new crime writing commissioned exclusively for Noirwich audiences!

More about our writers in residence

Anita Terpstra (1974) graduated in journalism and art history. Her successful debut thriller Nachtvlucht (Night Flight) was nominated for the Shadow Prize and the Crimezone Thriller Award. Samen (Together) was nominated for the Golden Gallows. Her books have been translated in German and French. Image (c) Harry Cock

Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories and seven novels. Traces of Red and Cross Fingers were long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award and Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark were shortlisted. Through the Lonesome Dark was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.

Paddy has been awarded Creative New Zealand Awards, the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award. She has been a guest at many writing festivals and was one of the New Zealand writer representatives at both the Leipzig and Frankfurt Book Fairs in 2012 when New Zealand was the guest of honour. In 2019, she was awarded the Randell Cottage residency in Wellington where she spent six months writing and researching her latest novel to be published in 2021.

Have you planned your Festival experience yet?

We’ve created a handy one-page digital guide to the Festival weekend, with links to each event and details on where they will take place. Click the image below to download it.

This year Noirwich is taking place online and each session can be accessed by a URL link that will be emailed directly to you 24 hours before the start date. Workshop participants will receive further instructions on how to download and use Zoom.

Noirwich returns in an online format – and all events are free!

Attica Locke’s writing has explored race, prejudice and the anxieties of Trump’s America. Now, in a specially commissioned lecture, she will uncover the power inequalities inherent in the nation’s favourite genre: crime fiction. Locke, who is also a screenwriter on the acclaimed series Little Fires Everywhere, will deliver the 2020 Noirwich Crime Writing Lecture.

The hard-hitting Noirwich commission is expected to tackle structural inequalities at the individual and global level, with Locke drawing on examples from her own writing including Blackwater Rising, which investigates the enormous power of oil companies. Previous Noirwich lectures include Val McDermid on gender and violence, George Alagiah on environmental destruction and Arne Dahl on crime and class. 

The 2020 line-up also includes Oyinkan Braithwaite, the author behind the literary sensation My Sister the Serial Killer, the New York Times best-selling writer Sophie Hannah, investigative journalist and writer Duncan Campbell and Olivier Norek, one of the writers behind the hit French TV series Spiral. The programme will also include a showcase of the freshest new voices in crime writing from UEA’s MA programme and a celebration of 50 years of creative writing at the university.

Henry Sutton, Professor of Creative Writing and Crime Fiction at the UEA, says:

‘Crime writing has always been of the moment – as we adapt to a new virtual world our programme has an added urgency, pertinence and crucially accessibility. These are important voices for a complicated time. We hope Noirwich 2020 will engage new audiences,  and create the widest possible community of readers and writers.’     

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director, National Centre for Writing says:

‘Crime fiction has never felt so important – for diverting and thrilling readers in huge numbers during these complicated days, but also for exploring the fractures in a society made more divided by this pandemic. We’re really thrilled that Attica Locke will deliver this year’s lecture, and that her words and ideas, and those of many other brilliant participants, will reach an international listenership as we move online. We hope you’ll join us!’

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival will take place from 10 – 13 September 2020. All events are free, however, booking is recommended. Online writing workshops are £35 and booking is essential.

Love Noirwich? Please make a donation today to support the future of the festival

Each year National Centre for Writing and University of East Anglia work together to bring you some of the most talented, exciting and fresh voices in crime writing. Your generous support will help keep this not-for-profit festival going, giving crime writers and readers the space to discover and explore new and great works. Please donate today during checkout, thank you.

The sixth annual Noirwich Crime Writing Festival begins today! As excitement grows, we are pleased to reveal details of food and drink on offer over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) at the National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall.

Saturday 14 September

Gringo’s Nacho Factory

The talented folks at Gringo’s will be serving a special nacho and taco menu at Dragon Hall between 1 – 9pm. Mouth-watering options include classic cheesy nachos, BBQ pulled pork nachos, smoky seasoned steak tacos and vegan-friendly BBQ jackfruit nachos and tacos!

See the full menu here

Grey Seal Coffee

Norfolk’s leading specialty coffee roasters Grey Seal Coffee will be serving hot drinks and delicious cakes throughout the day.

The Bicycle Shop

The Bicycle Shop will be serving drinks from 5pm until late!

Sunday 15 September

Grey Seal Coffee

Norfolk’s leading specialty coffee roasters Grey Seal Coffee will be serving hot drinks and delicious cakes throughout the day.

Bloody Marys from Big Tom and Ghost Vodka

Are you ready for the Bloody Brunch? Purchase tickets to both ‘Dark Pasts’ and ‘A Taste of Murder’ and you’ll get a complimentary glass of Bloody Mary courtsey of Big Tom and Ghost Vodka!

Looking for places to eat and drink in the city? Check out our recommendations here, or head to the VisitNorwich website.

Crime lovers rejoice! The sixth Noirwich Crime Writing Festival begins tomorrow with James Runcie at Jarrold…but to get the party started early, why not pop along to The Ivy Brasserie on London St for a crime-themed cocktail or two?

In honour of Noirwich, The Ivy Norwich have created six limited-edition cocktails; each more devilishly delicious than the last and inspired by popular murder mystery board game, Cluedo, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

Created by the brasserie’s talented bar team, each cocktail is named after characters from the famous game and will be available for guests to enjoy until Sunday 15 September. Bespoke cocktails include ‘Miss Scarlett’, a delicious blend of Maker’s Mark whisky, Cointreau Blood Orange, grenadine & ginger ale; ‘Colonel Mustard’, a spicy blend of Ketel One Citroen Vodka and Bloody Mary spice mix; and ‘Mrs Peacock’, incorporating Beefeater Gin, Créme de Violet, lemon and Maraschino liqueur.

Why not book a table in advance and treat yourself to dinner? Visit The Ivy website for further information.

Wednesday 4 September, 7.30pm

The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia

James Ellroy

Celebrate September as Norwich’s ‘month of crime’ and the impending launch of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival with this exclusive event.

James Ellroy, aka the ‘Demon Dog of American Literature’, is best-known for books such as The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid. His new novel, This Storm, is set in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbour and is a ‘frenetic mix of intrigue, corruption and racism, featuring a cast of communists, rogue cops and, of course, murder’ (The Guardian). We are thrilled to welcome him to Norwich for the first time to discuss his latest book, and his fascination with the criminal underbelly of mid-20 century Los Angeles.


Noirwich Season Pass holders: this event is not part of your Noirwich 2019 season pass. Please book separately. All season pass holders are entitled to a Season pass concessionary rate of £8 (applied at checkout).

‘Undeniably one of the most influential crime writers of our time.’ – The Times

‘Ellroy offers a grandiose, Wagnerian vision of wartime LA’ – Sunday Times


About James Ellroy

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed L.A. Quartet: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz. His novel Blood’s A Rover completes the magisterial Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy – the first two volumes of which (American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand) were both Sunday Times bestsellers. His most recent novel, This Storm, is the next instalment in the Second L.A. Quartet.

Image (c) Marion Ettlinger

Indulge in some crime-themed cinema this September with the Film Noir season of Vintage Sundays at Picturehouse Cinemas!

Each Sunday, Cinema City brings classic films back on the big screen where they belong. Starting on 8 September, you can dive into the dark heart of Hollywood with five classics from the likes of Orson Welles and Billy Wilder.

In a Lonely Place

Double Indemnity – Sun 8 Sep, 1pm

Billy Wilder’s paradigmatic film set the template for the genre when first released in 1944. Insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) schemes the perfect murder with the beautiful wife of one of his clients (Barbara Stanwyck): kill her husband and make off with the insurance money. But Walter’s colleague (Edward G. Robinson) – a shrewd insurance investigator – has a feeling that not all is as it seems with the widow’s claim.

In a Lonely Place – Sun 15 Sep, 1pm

Humphrey Bogart delivers one of his best performances in Nicholas Ray’s hard-boiled, LA-set thriller. Dixon Steele (Bogart), a moody, volatile Hollywood screenwriter who’s had his heyday, is accused of murdering a coat check girl from a showbiz restaurant. Laurel (Gloria Grahame), an actress who lives in Dixon’s apartment complex, provides an alibi for her neighbour when questioned by the police, and the pair start a relationship. But the chief of police is unconvinced of Dixon’s innocence and, after learning of his violent past, Laurel begins to question if she is putting herself in danger by staying with him.

The Killers – Sun 22 Sep, 1pm

Director Robert Siodmak brings Ernest Hemingway’s gripping short story of robbery and betrayal to the big screen. Two hit men walk into a diner asking for a man called “the Swede” (Burt Lancaster). When the killers find the Swede, he’s expecting them and doesn’t put up a fight. Since the Swede had a life insurance policy, an investigator (Edmond O’Brien), on a hunch, decides to look into the murder. As the Swede’s past is laid bare, it comes to light that he was in love with a beautiful woman (Ava Gardner) who may have lured him into pulling off a bank robbery overseen by another man (Albert Dekker).

Touch of Evil – Sun 29 Sep, 1pm

Beginning with perhaps the most celebrated tracking shot in history, Orson Welles’s bravura film noir is a shadowy tale of murder, malevolence and police corruption. When a car bomb explodes on the US-Mexican border, Mike Vargas (Heston), a Mexican official investigating drug trafficking, is drawn into the case. Vargas is convinced that American cop Hank Quinlan (Welles) is planting evidence to incriminate the prime suspect, and he becomes obsessed with exposing Quinlan as a rotten apple. Quinlan then seeks revenge by conspiring with gangsters, who terrorise Vargas’s wife Susan (Leigh). Welles gives a stunning performance as a man increasingly depleted of humanity, and his deliriously daring thriller with a dark emotional core is one of the greatest of its genre.

Audience member holding Bloody Mary

Presented by The Times and Sunday Times Crime Club

Crime Club

Celebrate your Sunday in style with a complimentary Bloody Mary and a pair of tickets to our Bloody Brunch double-bill, courtesy of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival and The Times and Sunday Times Crime Club.

A firm favourite of the Festival each year; the Bloody Brunch takes place in the beautiful medieval surroundings of Dragon Hall and is the perfect opportunity to sip a cocktail in the sunshine, mingle with like-minded crime fans and experience some of the most exciting and engaging writers at work today.

This year’s Bloody Bunch features the following events:

Dark Pasts

A Taste of Murder

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is enter your details on the Noirwich competition entry page. Your details will only be shared with the National Centre for Writing and not passed on to any third parties. Full terms & conditions can be found below.

Entries have now closed.

Don’t want to leave it to chance? Purchase your tickets to the Bloody Brunch here.

The Bloody Brunch is presented by The Times and Sunday Times Crime Club, with support from Big Tom and Ghost Vodka.


Terms and Conditions

1. The prize draw (the “Prize Draw”) is open to people aged 18 and over who enter their details on the Noirwich competition entry page.

2. Employees of the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, The Times and Sunday Time Crime Club, or anyone else connected with the Prize Draw may not enter the Prize Draw.

3. Entrants into the Prize Draw shall be deemed to have accepted these Terms and Conditions.

4. Only one entry per person.

5. Noirwich accepts no responsibility is taken for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected or incomplete or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of the entry is not proof of receipt by Noirwich

6. The closing date of the Prize Draw is 23:59 on Friday 16 August 2019. Entries received outside this time period will not be considered.

7. One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.  The draw will take place on Monday 19 August 2019.

8. The winner will receive two tickets to the Bloody Brunch at Noirwich Crime Writing Festival 2019, and two complimentary Bloody Marys at the event.

9. Noirwich accepts no responsibility for any costs associated with the prize and not specifically included in the prize (including, without limitation, travel to and from the event).

10. The winner will be notified by email on or before Tuesday 20 August 2019 and must provide an email address. If a winner does not respond to Noirwich within 5 days of being notified by Noirwich, then the winner’s prize will be forfeited and Noirwich shall be entitled to select another winner in accordance with the process described above (and that winner will have to respond to notification of their win within 5 days or else they will also forfeit their prize). If a winner rejects their prize or the entry is invalid or in breach of these Terms and Conditions, the winner’s prize will be forfeited and Noirwich shall be entitled to select another winner.

11. The prize will be sent to the winner by Noirwich by email.

12. The prize is non-exchangeable, non-transferable, and is not redeemable for cash or other prizes.

13. Noirwich shall use and take care of any personal information you supply to it as described in its privacy policy, a copy of which can be seen here, and in accordance with data protection legislation.  By entering the Prize Draw, you agree to the collection, retention, usage and distribution of your personal information in order to process and contact you about your Prize Draw entry.

14. Noirwich reserves the right at any time and from time to time to modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, this Prize Draw with or without prior notice due to reasons outside its control (including, without limitation, in the case of anticipated, suspected or actual fraud). The decision of Noirwich in all matters under its control is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into.

15. The Prize Draw will be governed by English law and entrants to the Prize Draw submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

Things are hotting up (literally!) this week as the excitement begins to build for the 2019 Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. Make sure you subscribe to the NCW Podcast, which will feature some great crime-flavoured content in the coming months.

First up, Henry Sutton, co-director of Noirwich, meets with Beth Sowersby to discuss this year’s amazing festival line-up and to dive into the themes being explored.

Hosted by Simon Jones.

Listen on Spotify
Listen on iTunes
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Google Podcasts

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