Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival launches BIG READ 2016: PD James’ AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN

Big Read Banner

This year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival BIG READ has launched and is celebrating the life and work of the ‘Queen of Crime Fiction’ PD James. In partnership with Faber & Faber and libraries and reading groups in the North of England, the book chosen to be 2016’s Big Read is James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. This iconic book introduces Cordelia Gray, the first modern female detective in crime fiction.  When she created Cordelia Gray, P.D. James was working as a civil servant in the crime department of the Home Office. About the novel, she wrote: ‘I wanted to have a young heroine of courage and intelligence who faces the problems of life with a determination to be successful in a job which everyone else thinks she won’t be able to do.’

P.D. James began writing aged 40 and went on to write over 18 novels and collected numerous awards and honours. Aged 91, she received the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award in 2011. She died in 2014, aged 94.

The Big Read initiative aims to encourage as many people as possible to celebrate great crime writing by reading the same novel at the same time and then getting together to talk about it. Literature Festivals Manager Gemma Rowland said: “We are enormously proud of the Festival’s outreach and literacy initiatives … Thanks to the generous support of publisher Faber, the Festival has been able to distribute 1500 copies of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman to local reading groups through our partner library services across Yorkshire, Middlesbrough and Tyneside for free.”

Crime writer Mari Hannah

Crime writer Mari Hannah

The Big Read begins on Monday May 9 and runs until Friday May 13, with free events in libraries across the North. This year, Festival Reader in Residence and bestselling crime author, Mari Hannah, will be talking about the book and leading the conversation. Mari Hannah is the award-winning author of the fabulous Kate Daniels crime fiction series. Her latest crime novel, a standalone book, The Silent Room, is available now.

Mari said. “It’s a particular honour to be taking PD James on the Big Read, not just because of her brilliance and legendary status but because of the novel itself. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a classic crime novel introducing a lead character ahead of her time. PD James was a true pioneer who gave the rest of us something to chase.”

The BIG READ events will be fantastic, great for crime fiction fans and those new to the genre – so get along to one if you can and chat about An Unsuitable Job for a Woman with Mari Hannah. This is when/where you’ll find her:

Acklam Library – Monday 11am 9th May

Killingworth Library – Monday 2pm 9th May

South Shields Library – Monday 6.30pm 9th May

Rowntree Park Reading Café Tuesday 11am 10th May

Ripon Library – Tuesday 2pm 10th May

Skipton Library – Tuesday 7.30pm 10th May

South Elmsall Library –   Wednesday 11am 11th May

Keighley Library – Wednesday 2pm 11th May

Holmfirth Library – Wednesday 7pm 11th May

Newcastle Library – Thursday 11am 12th May

Hartlepool Library – Thursday 2pm 12th May

Billingham Library – Thursday 7pm 12th May

Sheffield Library – Friday 10am 13th May

Rotherham Library – Friday 1pm 13th May

Barnsley Library – Friday 4pm 13th May


To find out more about Mari Hannah pop over to her website at and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

To find out more about the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (and the BIG READ) – Europe’s largest event dedicated to the celebration of crime fiction – that’s taking place from 21st – 24th July 2016 check out their website here and follow them on Twitter @TheakstonsCrime

The FEVER CITY Blog Tour: CTG Interviews debut author Tim Baker about FEVER CITY


Today I’m delighted to be hosting a tour stop on Tim Baker’s FEVER CITY Blog Tour. Tim’s dropped by the CTG blog to answer a few questions about this stunning noir thriller …

Welcome, Tim! Your debut novel FEVER CITY was published in January, can you tell us a bit about it?

FEVER CITY is a propulsive, seat-of-your-pants noir thriller set in the 1960s with an important contemporary component set in 2014.

There are three separate narratives, each with its own central mystery. As the novel progresses, these three stories begin to converge then intertwine, dovetailing at the end into a resolution of all three mysteries.

The first narrative features a private investigator, Nick Alston, who is brought in to assist the police in their search for the kidnapped child of America’s richest and most hated man.

The second concerns a professional contract killer, Hastings, who is recruited into an attempt to assassinate President Kennedy and who decides to risk his life to sabotage the hit.

And the third concerns Nick’s son, Lewis Alston, who is in Dallas in 2014 to interview JFK conspiracy nuts for a book he’s doing on the Kennedy Brothers and who stumbles across information that could connect his own father to the assassination of President Kennedy.

I’m a big fan of the noir thriller. Can you tell me about what attracted you to writing this kind of story?

I’m also a huge fan of the noir thriller. What I love most is the moral ambiguity and the elevated dramatic stakes, as well as the power of the genre’s central conceit – which is that we are all prisoners of the mistakes of our past. Noir is always character-based storytelling and so tends to occupy a richer, more emotionally complex terrain than ordinary thrillers; a landscape of nuance, despair and danger.

In FEVER CITY you blend historical facts – like the assassination of JFK – with the fictitious storyline. How did you go about researching the era and places featured?

It was very important for me to get all the background historical elements right – whether they were concerning JFK and the documented events leading up to his assassination, or portraying the real-life figures who appear as secondary characters, such as Howard Hughes, Marilyn Monroe or J Edgar Hoover.

Once I had that historical architecture in place, I set about shaping mood and nuance, often by withholding specifics and implying ambiance instead of trying to build it.

As far as place is concerned, I believe that tone is the best way to capture the kind of rich period atmosphere I was after, rather than merely layering factual details down one upon another.

How would you describe your approach to writing – do you dive right in, or plot everything out in detail first?

Normally I begin with a strong sense of place. I try to write a locale in as rich and as vivid a way as possible, so that I feel as though I have entered that terrain; as though I inhabit it.

Once I’ve accomplished that, a certain tone emerges, and with it a voice.

That’s the pivotal moment for me – when I discover that voice. Sometimes it never arrives, and I have to abandon the story, but when I do manage to find it, I get caught up in the voice and just start writing.

I never plot the story at the beginning. Instead I see myself as embarking on a voyage of discovery, knowing there will be surprises along the way and trying not to anticipate them.

After completing several drafts, I begin to step back and take a look at the plot from the point of view of story structure. This is when I try to sharpen details and ensure that the story is both coherent and structurally sound without being obvious. My editor at Faber, Angus Cargill, taught me an enormously important lesson about the power of keeping your writing implicit.

FEVER CITY is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about your route to publication?

It was in 2011 that I came up with the idea to combine a fictitious kidnapping with a momentous historical event, the assassination of JFK.

And I also wanted to layer in a contemporary domestic noir style narrative into the story that would give resonance to one of the themes of FEVER CITY, which was that the forces behind JFK’s assassination are the same forces that nearly destroyed the world economy in the 2008 Financial Crisis.

It was an ambitious and complex project, and the book took three years to write, after which I sent it out to agents on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first offer of representation came from a young agent, Tom Witcomb, at Blake Friedmann, and his offer put all the other agents on alert. Many came back requesting I give them additional time to consider the manuscript.

But in the meantime, Tom was already busy outlining his vision of the book and the kind of edits he would suggest, and I just found his enthusiasm contagious and knew he would be able to transfer that genuine passion to potential publishing houses.

Tom put the manuscript out to auction and less than three days, we were excited beyond words to accept Faber’s pre-empt. When I had seen the list of publishers Tom was sending the book to, the one I really wanted far more than any other was Faber and Angus Cargill. I was my dream choice and I was over the moon to find a home with them.

And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

I’m just completing a thriller set in Mexico in 2000 about the battle for justice of two women aligned against the forces of corrupt political institutes, vicious sweatshop owners, and narco terrorism. I’m also working on a first contact novel set in 19th Century Australia, and the sequel to FEVER CITY. And if all goes well, one of my screenplays will be going into production in September in Brazil.


A big thank you to Tim Baker for dropping by the CTG blog today and talking about his debut novel FEVER CITY.

Here’s what the blurb says: “Nick Alston, a Los Angeles private investigator, is hired to find the kidnapped son of America’s richest and most hated man. Hastings, a mob hitman in search of redemption, is also on the trail. But both men soon become ensnared by a sinister cabal that spreads from the White House all the way to Dealey Plaza. Decades later in Dallas, Alston’s son stumbles across evidence from JFK conspiracy buffs that just might link his father to the shot heard around the world.”

FEVER CITY by Tim Baker is published by Faber & Faber and out now. You can buy it from Amazon here

Be sure to follow Tim on Twitter @TimBakerWrites

And check out all the other fabulous tour stops on the FEVER CITY Blog Tour …

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The Jump Blog Tour: CTG interviews Doug Johnstone about #TheJump


Today I’m delighted to welcome author Doug Johnstone to the CTG blog as part of his blog tour marking the launch of his new thriller THE JUMP.

And so, to the questions …

Your latest book – THE JUMP – is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

The book is all about Ellie, a woman in her forties who is struggling after the suicide of her teenage son six months ago. Her son jumped off the Forth Road Bridge near their house in South Queensferry, and the story opens with her finding another teenage boy on the bridge about to jump. She sees a chance at redemption for what she thinks are her failings as a mother, but in reality she gets sucked into a whole new nightmare that threatens everyone around her.

I’ve been skirting around the issue of suicide for a long time in my writing, and this book feels like a culmination of that obsession. I wanted to write about the loss and lack of resolution for those left behind by suicide, how there are no easy answers, but I wanted to embed that in a thriller storyline. Hopefully The Jump manages to pull that off, but I guess readers will have to decide for themselves. Although Ellie does some terrible things, I think she’s the most sympathetic central character I’ve had in a book, and hopefully, if I’ve done my job, the reader will care about what happens to her and those around her.

How did you get into writing thrillers – what was it about the genre that attracted you?

I kind of fell into it really. My first two books were less obviously thriller-ish, though they were marketed as crime books by the publisher. I’ve always read thrillers and crime, in fact, I never really thought about the distinction between any genres of book when I was reading and then also when I first started writing. All good books have conflict at their core, and more often than not that involves criminal activity.

I suppose I write domestic noir, if you want to define it, thrillers about ordinary people like you or me getting sucked into horrible, extraordinary, tragic situations. Hopefully the reader then wonders what they would do in a similar situation. I’ve always been interested in how ordinary folk act under extreme pressure – we all like to think we’d do the ‘right’ thing, but morality is never black and white, and I have a lot of sympathy for people doing wrong things in seemingly impossible circumstances. So that’s what I write about.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

I’m somewhere in between. I like to be pretty organized before I begin the first draft, but I don’t have everything nailed down in terms of plot. I usually have a pretty clear idea about the opening few scenes, and the same goes for the final few chapters, but I deliberately leave a little bit of a grey area in the middle to get to where I’m going to. So much of the story depends on the characters and how they react to the crap you’re throwing at them, you have to leave a little wriggle room there. Plot ultimately stems from character, so if I need to change ideas about what happens because of the way the book is progressing, then I’m happy to do that.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

It’s kind of banal advice, but just keep at it. Getting published can feel like a war of attrition sometimes, like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, but you just have to keep plugging away at it. Keep reading all the time, even the rubbish books teach you something and act as inspiration to write better. And keep writing all the time, you get better and better at it without even noticing sometimes.

It’s good to be clued up about the industry, but writers should never try to chase whatever they think the next big trend is going to be. For one thing, that bandwagon will be long gone before you can get on it, but more importantly, you’ll be writing something that isn’t true to yourself. Write the story you want to read, write it as well as you can, and eventually, hopefully, people will notice. Don’t be disheartened!

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

I’m currently re-drafting the next novel, a kind of femme fatale thing set in Orkney that starts with a plane crash and gets nastier. I’ve still got a fair bit to do on that, so that’ll take me to the autumn, then I usually spend a month or two working on new ideas before I settle down to the next book. I have a few kicking around at the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it while I’m still working on something. Apart from that, two of my books are optioned for film and television, so hopefully there will be some movement there, and I also work part-time at Queen Margaret University as a literary fellow. Plus I’m looking after my two young kids, so plenty to be getting on with!

Massive thanks to Doug Johnson for stopping by to chat about his latest book THE JUMP and tell us about his writing process.

THE JUMP is out now. Here’s the blurb: “You can do anything, if you have nothing left to lose. Struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her teenage son, Ellie lives in the shadows of the Forth Road Bridge, lingering on its footpaths and swimming in the waters below. One day she talks down another suicidal teenager, Sam, and sees for herself a shot at redemption, the chance to atone for her son’s death. But even with the best intentions, she can’t foresee the situation she’s falling headlong into – a troubled family, with some very dark secrets of its own.”

To find out more about Doug Johnstone and his books hop on over to his website at and be sure to follow him on Twitter @doug_johnstone

To look at THE JUMP on Amazon click on the book cover below:


And be sure to check out these other fab stops on THE JUMP blog tour …



#InBitterChill Blog Tour: CTG Reviews In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that area closest to you.”

Out this month, Sarah Ward’s debut novel – In Bitter Chill – perfectly captures the hauntingly chilling atmosphere of the best Nordic Noir crime fiction, within a closer to home Derbyshire setting.

This intricate mystery follows Rachel Jones as she tries to piece together why Sophie Jenkins’s mother would commit suicide thirty years after the abduction. Now a professional genealogist, Rachel is no stranger to digging through public records to connect seemingly unrelated information and family histories. She starts putting her skills to use investigating the events around the time of Mrs Jenkins’s death, and in the process unravels a complex web of secrets and lies which have devastating consequences.

Meanwhile, DI Sadler, DS Palmer, and newbie DC Connie Childs are working the case too. As they wade through old case files from 1978 and the facts from Mrs Jenkins’s suicide, they are unable to find a connection. Then a woman is found murdered, and the mystery surrounding the cases deepens – someone is still guarding the secrets of the past, and they’ll kill to do so.

In Bitter Chill is a haunting debut. Beautifully written, with a complex and compelling mystery at its heart, it pulls you deep into the secretive community of Bampton from the first page to the last.

Highly recommended for fans of Nordic Noir and detective crime fiction.

To find out more about Sarah Ward hop on over to her website at and follow her on Twitter @SarahWard1


[With thanks to Faber for my copy of In Bitter Chill]


And be sure to check out all the other fabulous stops on the blog tour …

In Bitter Chill blog tour

CTG Reviews: The Accident by Chris Pavone

The Accident cover image

The Accident cover image

What the blurb says: “Isabel Reed, one of the most respected and powerful literary agents in New York, is in possession of a time bomb and she’s about to give it to her good friend and trusted editor at one of the top publishing houses in the US. Anyone who begins reading the manuscript is immediately struck by the importance of its contents. They can also see that publishing it could be dangerous, but it could also be the book that every agent, editor and publishing house dreams of … What they don’t realise is that reading it could get them killed.

Veteran CIA Station Chief, Hayden Gray, is a man not to be trifled with. At his beck and call is a vast artillery of CIA personnel and he’s prepared to use every single one of them to stop that manuscript from getting into the public domain. He has twenty-four hours to do so.”

Set in the world of publishing, this book takes what starts out as an everyday occurrence – a new manuscript delivered to literary agent Isabel Read’s office – and turns it into a twist-filled story with danger lurking around every page turn. The book – entitled ‘The Accident’ – is filled with secrets so explosive, about a media tycoon so well-known and influential, that there are people prepared to do anything to stop the book being read.

So Isabel’s day turns into a 24-esque chase, with lots of running, hiding and dodging. As the body count rises, she knows that someone, or some people, are trying to kill her and the manuscript, but she doesn’t know who. So she turns to the one person she’s sure she can trust: Jeff Fielder – her long-time friend, and editor at a major publishing house – to help her get the book published, and to stay alive.

The book alternates between character point-of-views, primarily Isabel, Jeff, Hayden Gray, and the unnamed author of the book. With each character’s narrative you get a glimpse of the history that led to the book being written, and the impact it having been written, allowing you as the reader to piece together the complex web of secrets that have been hidden for so long.

This story has intrigue and mystery in spades. As the plot unfolds, and more about each of the key characters is revealed, you start to understand the complex relationships that connect so many of them.

A gripping read, with an artfully crafted plot and fabulously engaging characters, the story includes some major twists towards the end – several of which I really didn’t see coming. The Accident is an engaging, entertaining, page-turner of a thriller.

Highly Recommended.


[with many thanks to Faber & Faber for my copy of The Accident]