Last night was a very special event at Mostly Books – the first time I can remember that four wonderful authors crammed into this small shop with as large an audience as could be fitted in! They were:
- William Shaw – author of the excellent Alexandra Cupidi series of Kentish crime novels (and the Breen & Tozer 1960s crime novels) – his latest, Deadland, is reviewed here.
- J P Delaney – author of the mega-bestselling psychological thrillers The Girl Before and Believe Me. I’ve recently finished The Girl Before (review soon) – it kept me up to read it in one sitting! His third, The Perfect Wife will be out in August.
- Cara Hunter – Oxford author of the DI Adam Fawley books – the fourth, No Way Out, was published in April. She lives in a street not unlike that in her books.
- Olivia Kiernan – an Irish writer, living locally, author of the DCS Frankie Sheehan books set in Dublin – the second, The Killer in Me, was also published in April
Chairing the discussion was performance poet Tina Sederholm who is a serious crime addict – she did a wonderful job. She started off, after introducing the authors, by asking why we read crime? Olivia said, “The monster looks like all of us,” anyone could be a murderer – and there is the “survival impulse” that compels us to keep reading. Cara added that she’d recently read some research that found that the people least affected by crime are middle-class women, but the people who are most afraid of crime are middle-class women, which is maybe why so many women read crime novels. JP added that the genre has been made more vibrant in recent years – there was a “Sea-change after Gone Girl“.
Moving on to talk about the main characters in the author’s current books, Tina asked about their responses to the “troubled male DI trope,” – something which doesn’t feature in any of these author’s books. Cara’s detective is Adam Fawley – but she started writing the first book, Close to Home, without gender in mind – her protagonist narrates some parts in the first person, and the DI’s gender is never specified. However, she realised she wouldn’t be able to keep that up in subsequent books, so made DI Fawley a male, but one who is in touch with his feminine side. Olivia’s lead is a police superintendent, so for Frankie, she is first and foremost an utter professional. William added that many people didn’t like his female DI Alexandra Cupidi when she appeared as a subsidiary character in The Birdwatcher. Whereas these author’s main characters are all reliable, that’s not the case with JP’s – Believe Me was inspired by the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common and the undercover operation to entrap the man they thought did it. JP’s protagonist is the woman who acts the part, and turns out to be rather unreliable! Moving to secondary plots, William Shaw told us how he loved writing the teenagers Tap and Sloth in Deadland “who steal the wrong phone. Your heart goes out to them – then you put them in extreme danger!”
Moving to locations, William talked about the wild allure of Dungeness which gives his books such a sense of place. Cara asserted that there was plenty of room for more murders in Oxford after Colin Dexter’s Morse – especially to show other parts of the city. Shaw also explained how he got Alex’s surname from a chap he didn’t know who tried to friend him on social media, whereas Cara has included family ‘winks’ in her books for fun! Cara also includes documents, tweets, newspaper articles, website screenshots etc to break up her books – there may be clues in them, they may be red herrings… JP switches to ‘filmscript’ mode occasionally in Believe Me as the actress feels she is on a set. Olivia has researched police interview techniques, finding it fascinating how they use psychology to get confessions, although sometimes, particularly in the USA, they can go too far. William said he was ultimately less interested in the killers than the detectives and the effect that their job has on them – many suffer from PTSD.
It was a wonderful evening, and the four authors and Tina were lovely to talk to once the formal part of the evening ended. Having lugged a bag of books with me, and topped up buying more on the night, the photo at the top of the page shows all the signed copies I now have! William Shaw also drew a little bird for me – “to annoy the birdwatchers”, he quipped!
The only thing to mar the event, was that I didn’t take my phone with me, so when I found I’d left the memory card of my camera in my laptop at home – I couldn’t take a photo. Grrr!
It was great to see the four authors interacting so well together for a most enjoyable event. I am so looking forward to reading more by William Shaw and JP Delaney, and am sure I will enjoy Cara Hunter and Olivia Kiernan’s books too – I have great crime and psychothriller reading ahead of me.