Friday, September 19, 2014

9mm: An interview with Steve Mosby (the lost tapes)

As I mentioned back in July, two years ago I had the pleasure of attending the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England. It was a terrific few days, filled with great seminars, events, and social occasions. I caught up with several authors I knew or had interviewed, and met many more.

This year I rediscovered some interviews with some of those authors, that were recorded at the time but never published, for a variety of reasons and mishaps. So I now have some 'lost tapes' editions of 9mm spread over a couple of months. It's really cool to be able to finally share these with you.

Today, for the 84th edition of 9mm, I'm sharing my interview with British crime writer Steve Mosby, who was a completely 'new to me' author when I attended Harrogate in 2012. That's one of the fantastic things about attending such events - getting exposed to other extremely talented authors well worth adding to the reading list. Mosby is a little like New Zealand's Paul Cleave, in that he is critically acclaimed and wins awards but is not yet as appreciated by the wider reading public in his home country, while at the same time being hugely popular overseas, including in crime fiction 'canary in the coal mine' Germany.

This year at the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival Mosby, who has eight thrillers under his belt and has won the CWA Dagger in the Library, took the helm of proceedings as festival chair, helping put this year's programme together over many months. From all reports, it was an awesome festival this year, so well done to Steve on his efforts. But for now, let's revisit him staring down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Steve Mosby

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
It’s really hard for me to pick a favourite. I’m a big fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne, he’s really really good. If I had to pick an absolute favourite, I’d probably pick TV’s Cracker, Robbie Coltrane, and Prime Suspect, Jane Tennyson (played by Helen Mirren). With Cracker it was the psychological side of it, and I really liked the character, who was a boozer and a gambler, and unapologetically a horrible person in a way. I really liked the psychological side of it. With Prime Suspect, it’s just really well written stuff, and she’s such a strong female character.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I probably wouldn’t be able to pick a single one, but I could say the author, which would be Diana Wynne Jones, who’s a children’s author, of fantasy. There was a book she wrote called POWER OF THREE which I really really loved, and ARCHER’S GOON, and THE MAGICIANS OF CAPRONa, and I could go on forever...  It was just brilliant storytelling, and so engaging, especially as a child the stories were enthralling. I re-read them recently, and as a writer now I just marvel at how beautifully put together they are, how lean, and just so interesting. The kid in me still loves the stories.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’d done a few short stories, a few small press horror stories, all horror stories with a science fiction element. Novel wise, I finished my first novel when I was 17. It was rubbish obviously, it doesn’t exist anymore – my parents may have a copy somewhere. Then I wrote another six or seven that were unpublished as well. So it was about my eighth which was finally taken by an agent. Very much a steep learning curve.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Well I’ve got a two and a half year old son, so not so much leisure at all. I used to like the usual things like going to the cinema, but it’s so hard to do that now. I like to get out and work, we live fairly in the countryside. Go to the gym, exercise, music, try to play the guitar.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
My hometown is Leeds, and I think the best thing about Leeds is it has a really concentrated city centre, which is good for shopping, but then like five minutes out of the city centre ou’re in the countryside. So the best thing to do if you’re visiting I think is to explore the city centre, which has a really good music scene actually, loads and loads of good music in the evening, loads of things to experience. But then try to get out and see some of the scenery. The moors and things like that. It’s just really really nice.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Oh my, someone desperate who wasn’t really famous and would take any part? I don’t know, I’m not really sure who looks like me. I (un)kindly got compared to a guy called Curly Watts, who is on Coronation Street, and when I’ve got longer hair I also get sort of a Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, though I stand a bit taller than him. Though if Tom Cruise can play Reacher, then he can play me.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It would have to be THE 50:50 KILLER, it was my third, and I think it’s the book where I sort of figured out what I was doing. I’m still figuring it out now, but that was the book when certain things came together and I thought ‘yeah this is the kind of thing I want to write’. And it opened a lot of doors for me actually, it was sort of a reasonably successful book which allowed me to write full-time. So I have a lot of affection for that.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
It’s a really interesting question. I think loads of writers starting out will be really looking forward to seeing that physical copy in a bookstore and it is exciting when you go into a bookstore and see it. It is exciting, but then you look at the hundreds and thousands of other titles around it and your little book suddenly looks very lonely. But yeah, it was a massively good feeling to see that. How’d I celebrate? I was living in a studio flat, I couldn’t pay my council tax, and I had the bailiffs after me, and it wasn’t a particularly good time in my life, so I think I probably whooped a bit. Hardcore whooping.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I haven’t actually done that many book signings. There are so many weird things that happen at book festivals, but you know, what happens at festivals stays at festivals. Actually last night, I was up at 3 o’clock in the morning, and we were outside, and a man in his underpants came running past. That was all he was wearing. We don’t know what it was, he was running back and forth trying to get into the hotel, and it was one of the weirdest sights I’ve seen. But if I thought about it for long enough there’s probably even weirder things.


Thank you Steve. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch. 

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You can read more about Steve Mosby and his books here:

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Comments welcome. 

Och aye Scotland...

Big few days ahead for Scotland - not only is the Bloody Scotland festival being held this weekend in Stirling, near Glasgow, but of course there is a rather important ballot being held as to whether Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom or strike out on its own. Plenty of arguments either side, which have been debated and canvassed poorly and well elsewhere. Coming from the other side of the world, it's not really much of my business, but it will be interested to see on which side the votes fall.

Either way, I'll be in Stirling this weekend for the Bloody Scotland festival, catching up with and and meeting a slew of terrific Scottish and international crime writers, and I'm sure there will be a celebratory or commiseratory whisky or two being drunk, depending how things go compared to how my Scottish friends and acquaintances wanted them to go. If you're in Stirling this weekend, say hi - I'll be the bearded bulky guy with the Kiwi accent, wandering around and taking it all in. The winner of the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year will also be announced as part of the Bloody Scotland Festival. I'll keep you informed.

Och aye!

Friday, September 12, 2014

9mm: An interview with Susan Kiernan-Lewis

I'm pleased that now we're really rolling again on the 9mm interviews. Thanks to all the fantastic authors who are being so generous with their time, and to you, dear readers, for making suggestions about who you'd like to see interviewed. We'll be having brand new 9mm interviews every Friday for the next few months. Feel free to message me or leave a comment with any feedback, requests, or suggestions.

Today I'm pleased to share my recent interview with Susan Kiernan-Lewis, author of the Maggie Newberry and Atlanta series of mysteries. Kiernan-Lewis is a prolific writer, having written screenplays, stage plays, advertising copywriting, and dozens of mysteries, sci-fi/paranormal, romance, non-fiction and short stories during her career. She describes herself on her Facebook author page as loving "horses, travel, France, New Zealand, and cooking". All good things. The lady has taste! Kiernan-Lewis has a background in advertising, and has worked internationally in agencies from her hometown of Atlanta to London and Auckland.

But for now, Susan Kiernan-Lewis becomes the 82nd author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Susan Kiernan-Lewis

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? Amelia Peabody.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I became obsessed with a book of German fairy tales as a child. They were sort of gruesome but I devoured them (a word used a lot in the book) over and over again.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before my Maggie Newberry mystery series, I wrote screenplays, radio plays and stage plays, mostly about the interplay between the sexes.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I love to travel but day-to-day I read voraciously.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I’m from Atlanta. I’d tell them to definitely go to Mary Macs for lunch for a classic southern meal and also to a Brave’s baseball game.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Janeane Garofalo

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
I’ve just started a new mystery series and for me, the latest thing I’ve written is always my favorite. I’ve fallen in love with these two detectives—one a paranormal innocent and the other a jaded excop—and I love the dichotomy and chemistry between them.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
It was a very gratifying feeling. I’m sure I took a screen-shot on Amazon and sent it to my husband. :-)


9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
One time at a book signing, a guy sat down at the table with me. To this day I’m not sure why.


Thank you Susan Kiernan-Lewis. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch. 

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You can read more about Susan Kiernan-Lewis and her books here:

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Comments appreciated. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

9mm: An interview with Stav Sherez (the lost tapes)

As I mentioned last month, two years ago I had the pleasure of attending the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England. It was a terrific few days, filled with great seminars, events, and social occasions. I caught up with several authors I knew or had interviewed, and met many more.

Recently I've rediscovered some interviews with some of those authors, that were recorded at the time but never published, for a variety of reasons and mishaps. So I now have some 'lost tapes' editions of 9mm spread over a couple of months. I'm really glad to be able to finally share these with you.

Today, for the 81st edition of 9mm, I'm sharing my interview with the talented Stav Sherez, who I first came across when I read THE BLACK MONASTERY, his second novel, a few years ago. Set on a Greek island that was full of history but had become a party destination for yobbish British tourists, THE BLACK MONASTERY was an evocative mystery thriller and very enjoyable read. He's since published a further two crime novels, A DARK REDEMPTION (his new one at the time of our interview), and last year's ELEVEN DAYS. Prior to becoming an author, Sherez was a music journalist.

Along with being a great writer, I found Sherez a real blast to interview. He's intelligent and quickwitted, and there were a lot of laughs and banter caught on the recording. Like the other 'lost tapes' I've found and transcribed recently, it's been a real pleasure to listen back over the interviews, which were great fun. Hopefully I've captured that sense of light-heartedness amongst some of the answers given.

But for now, Stav Sherez stares down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Stav Sherez

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I have to be clich├ęd for once and say it’s probably Jack Reacher or Harry Bosch. Jack Reacher mainly because he’s unlike any other character in fiction, I love the idea of him being a loner, drifter - he’s really the archetypal cowboy hero. That cowboy comes into town, he saves the people, then rides off. I love the idea of him roaming from town to town, having no connections, no family, and all of that. And I love his logical, deductive [way of thinking] – it’s almost Sherlock Holmesian, the way he uses deductive logic to work out what’s wrong with the scenario and how to deal with it. And Harry Bosch I just love, Michael Connelly’s hero, just his relentless quest for justice, and he’s such a cool character. That’s the life we’d want to live if we had alternative lives.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I actually know this, because it was Carrie by Stephen King. The film had come out, I was about eight or nine years old, and I couldn’t go and see the film, and I was like obsessed by Sissy Spacek with the blood. And I found it in a charity shop, and I bought it, and I probably didn’t understand half of it, but I just went ‘wow, this is what I want to be, i want to be a writer’. It just opened up whole worlds to me, growing up in England, reading about America. And I still read Stephen King, I’ve been reading him for 30 years now, and I still love him. But he was the first one really that made me realise this is what I wanted to do.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’d had one novel which I’d written, sent to four and five people and got rejected. I’d been a music journalist for four or five years, but I’d always wanted to be a novelist, and everything else I did, the journalism and all that, was just a way to earn a bit of money. And I loved music so much as well, so mainly I was a music journalist.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Not much - music, really. Listening: I’m not very musical so I love listening to it ‘cause I don’t understand it. Whereas books and films, I kind of deconstruct it, because we think about structure and character. Music blows me away, ‘cause it’s something I just can’t do. So literally my life is just music, coffee, cigarettes, and writing. That’s what I love... Grateful Dead, Springsteen, y’know.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Oooh, London’s quite a hard one. Just walk around London, walking around London without a guidebook, you see all the layers of history from 15th century pubs to 21st century The Gherkin, all these buildings. You see all this wonderful history, and also the different neighbourhoods, it’s so hydrogenous and multi-cultural, in the best way possible. You turn a corner and you go from a Greek neighbourhood to a Spanish neighbourhood to an African neighbourhood. London is just a wonderful walking city, it’s like New York or Paris or Amsterdam in that way. So I’d say throw away your guidebook and just start walking. Don’t worry about getting lost, ‘cause getting lost is what you want to do. It’s lovely. It’s fascinating, I’m 41, I’ve lived there all my life, and there’s still areas I’ve never seen that I discover, London’s great like that.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Ooh, that’s a good question, and a hard one. If I was really vain I’d say George Clooney, because I love George Clooney. But in reality, my God, maybe Mark Ruffalo who was in Zodiac, who I think is grand and has that slightly nervy thing that I seem to have. Mark Ruffalo crossed with Woody Allen... more anxious and hypochondriac, which I am, and death-obsessed-with and woman-obsessed-with, which I am too.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite is probably my first, DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, because it’s the one that when I was writing I had no idea what the publishing world wanted, what fans wanted. I was just writing because I wanted to write the kind of books that I loved reading, and I had no idea, it wasn’t even written as a crime book, even though it is a semi-crime novel. And it was just this beautiful freedom, with no deadlines or anything like that, and it was the first time in my writing career when I felt everything was coming together and I could make this into a novel, rather than short stories, which I had written before. I’d never been able to stretch it out until then. It was the first novel, so it’s like your first kid in a way. They’re all favourites for different reasons, but that one’s my favourite.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
It was weirdly anti-climactic [seeing it in a bookstore], I thought ‘that’s nice’. But when I first got the deal, when I first got that phone call, I was watching a film, and I still remember this, my agent called – and I’d only been with her two weeks –and it was just disbelief, stunned disbelief. For two or three days I didn’t think it was real, then suddenly I realised “My God, this is what I’ve wanted my whole life”. It was wonderful. It was a year until the book got published, so I just celebrated, and just had fun for a year. Lot of alcohol.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Sadly I don’t think I have many weird things. I like people asking me about anything, I don’t mind. I think the weirdest thing, initially, is just people coming up to you having read your book, after being unpublished and all that. People saying “I loved this bit”, finding people who get excited the way I get excited about other author’s books. At festivals I’m just as much of a fan. I see Gillian Flynn and I’m scared to talk to her because I loved her book so much, GONE GIRL, it’s amazing. So just having people moved by my books, good or bad... it’s not weird, but at the start it felt strange because it had just been in my head for so many years.


Thank you Stav Sherez. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch

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You can read more about Stav Sherez and his novels here:

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Comments welcome. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The state of Kiwi crime: the Ngaio Marsh Award on Radio New Zealand


Following the announcement of Liam McIlvanney as the winner of the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Liam and I (in my role as Judging Convenor) were interviewed by Lynn Freeman, live on Radio New Zealand, on Sunday afternoon. After 10 minutes of non-stop laughter and banter before we went live, both Liam and I managed to come across as quite serious and professional, at least for a while.

We canvassed several interesting things in the interview, including the state of New Zealand crime writing, what makes a crime novel a crime novel, recognition for New Zealand writers, New Zealand reader preferences and buying habits, and much more. You can listen to the broadcast here: