Should Books Be Age Certified?

Photograph: Rebecca Bradley

Photograph: Rebecca Bradley

You walk into a bookshop and it’s split into lovely sections for you to browse. To make it easier to find what you’re looking for. If you’re a writer and you are approaching agents they will want to know what genre it fits into. This, so it can be “shelved” easily in that very bookshop. And if your book can’t easily fit into the headers the bookshop has created? Well you’re in trouble when looking for an agent because it makes their job more difficult when trying to sell it.

So we drill down into the header of children’s and wander over to this section in our bookshop and it’s split down yet again. This time into age of reader levels. The highest age bracket header in the children’s section is 9-14 (UK, Waterstones). You then have to go and browse the YA section. As a parent with a boy who is fast approaching 11 years of age, we have recently slipped into browsing the YA shelves because he has read all that interests him in the children’s section. I now have to be a bit cautious about what I’m buying with him.

So you get my point with the above description of bookshops, agents and the need to pigeonhole books into categories and age groups?

Give my son another couple of years or so and I’m sure his feet might be finding the urge to wander further afield in the bookshop. This would take him into the adult sections. He reads fantasy and science fiction type books. What would be waiting for him in these books?

Earlier this month I did a post on the level of violence in crime fiction books and at what stage people thought it became gratuitous rather than necessary to the story. And that our acceptance of such levels has changed in recent decades. There was a lot of conversation around this post and it continues to be something that I think about. Especially when the most recent book I have read had really graphic depictions of the mutilations inflicted on murdered women found by police officers. I wasn’t sure I could read on and ended up skim reading it when I realised it was dragging on longer than was necessary.

Now I get to my point. As a young reader yourself, I’m sure you were reading adult fiction before you were – an adult! As was I. But as I’ve said before. My staple diet was Agatha Christie. A much gentler read on the stomach. Horror fans maybe didn’t have such a gentler ride and they will come at me with that if they read this post, so I will acknowledge this now. But should children be reading such things at an age when their minds aren’t ready for it?

BBFC_15.svg

By ChristianBier and originally BBFC (BBFC Categories) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Films and even video games have age certificates. And as I’ve shown, books in shops are shelved according to age for children, so it’s a small start. Though I admit again, that this is probably more to do with reading level that appropriateness. So I’m asking, should books have a small age certificate on them quietly sitting in one corner or on the spine? It at least gives a reading older child an indication that it’s really not the best book to be picking up off mum or dad’s bookshelf.

I’ve heard authors arguing against this for the very reason that they themselves picked up books to read when they were young and books should be available to all. Etc etc. I’ve also heard crime authors say they are definitely not allowing their children or grandchildren to read their books until they are a lot older. I know I’ve told my youngest he’s not reading mine. So if we absolutely will protect our own children this way, why won’t we do the same for other children who may live with parents who don’t vet the books or don’t even read?

Would it be so bad for books to be a little sensible when they are now so graphic, and have an age appropriateness rating on? What are your thoughts on this? I know it’s a subject that has people screaming censorship, but I don’t believe that’s what it is. I think it’s a little common sense in an ever increasingly violent immune world.

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What’s Your First Draft Like? – Steve Cavanagh

Steve CavanaghToday I’m pleased to welcome crime writer Steve Cavanagh into the First Draft hot seat.

Steve is a practicing lawyer from Belfast (someday he might get the hang of it). His debut novel, The Defence, will be published by Orion Books on 26th March 2015.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

The first stage for me is to kick the idea around in my head for a while. That initial idea has to be pulled apart, and while I’m doing that I normally have two or three other ideas and somehow and amalgam of those thoughts solidify into a single idea for a book. Then I just get started. No outline, no safety net. I figure out where the story starts and I get stuck in. For my first book, The Defence, two ideas really hit me at once and they formed the back bone of the book. I’m a lawyer during the day (I turn into a human at night) and in 2011 it occurred to me, while I was in the middle of cross examining a witness, that I had just conned the witness into admitting he’d lied under oath. I started thinking about it and realised that lawyers and con-artists actually share a lot of skills. It wasn’t until later that year that I realised this was probably an interesting thing to explore in a character. So I thought about the worst possible scenario for a lawyer who has to try a case. I normally think in the ‘what if’ kind of way. Out of the blue, it just hit me, while I was sitting on the sofa in my living room – what if a lawyer stood up in court to start a trial with a bomb strapped to his back and his client is holding the detonator? That’s a bad situation. As soon as I had that idea I immediately started thinking about how I could make that scenario worse, much worse.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I think you have to be disciplined about writing or it just won’t happen. With my day job, I don’t get a lot of time to write, and I ‘ve got two young kids and a wife who I love spending time with, so I normally start writing around ten or eleven at night and try to do as much as I can. And I try to write every day, but sometimes work or the kids or life just gets in the way. Before I start writing, I brew the strongest coffee I can tolerate, ingest as much as I can to jolt me awake and get going.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Oh, straight to the laptop every time. I can pretty much touch type, so it’s actually faster for me to type than write long hand. Plus my handwriting is awful.

How important is research to you?

Research is very important to me for three reasons. Firstly, my novels are set in New York City. I’ve never been to New York. Matter of fact, I’ve never been to the US. I read mainly US crime fiction and thrillers, and I grew up watching US TV shows and movies, so I feel like I know the city. I certainly know it enough not to have to stop during the first draft and research part of the city, I can get through it with my own knowledge but for subsequent drafts I will look at looks and the internet to make sure my descriptions are accurate. The second main avenue of my research is law based. The US trial process is very similar to our own, but I do research real cases, real statutes, and I consult textbooks to make sure that I know the legal procedure. Very little of that will get into the book, but I like to have the knowledge behind the writing. Again, I know enough for the first draft, but I will do research in subsequent drafts. Lastly, I do like to feature expert witnesses in the novels so I do a lot of research in those fields. For The Defence, I researched Forensic Document Examination and Graphology. And for the second book I’m knee deep in scientific papers on gunshot residue. Again, I rely on my own knowledge for the first draft, then check and research for the subsequent drafts.

How do you go about researching?

There is so much you can get from the internet if you know where to look. Most of my legal research is case law and statute based, which I get from the net, but I do have textbooks on criminal procedure which I refer to from time to time.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I don’t really store anything, certainly not ideas. I read in Stephen King’s On Writing, that he doesn’t write down his ideas because he figures that the good ideas stick around in your head anyway. For research stuff, if I’ve read it, it’s stored. I’ve learned, over time, to assimilate a lot of information very quickly, so I don’t tend to store web pages or documents. It’s nice to have the textbooks to hand if I need to check something quickly.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

Well, because I don’t outline, I have to be confident that the story I’m going to tell will sustain a whole novel. What I’ve tended to do is spend a lot of time getting the first few chapters right. Once I’m confident I have a solid base, I’m good to plough on until the end without looking back and editing.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Coffee and quiet. That’s all I need.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

The outside world frequently interrupts my writing, mostly my job. If I have a trial coming up, in the week leading up to the hearing and for the length of the trial (which can sometimes be a couple of weeks) I can’t write at all. Because I have to know that case, inside out, I’ll constantly be thinking about the case. I don’t really have a choice as sometimes my work involves trials with twenty plus witnesses and thousands of pages of documents so I have to devote my mind to that, alone.

What does your work space look like?

I write in my kitchen, in the chair that faces away from the window. Here’s a pic. I don’t have a study, although I’d like one, but I can’t seem to write anywhere else but this one space. Here’s a pic.

steve desk

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

When I was writing The Defence, it took me a few weeks to get the beginning the way I wanted it. So I tend to edit at the beginning, making sure that I’ve got the reader hooked in solidly and then I can write the rest of the book without looking back at all.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I do tend to look at word counts but I don’t set myself a daily target. Sometimes I can bash out a couple of thousand words in a night, other times it’s a couple of hundred. Basically I keep going until I begin to get drowsy. Then I quit. On occasion I can go for three or four hours, other times it’s maybe an hour. Depends on the strength of the coffee.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

I’ve finished the first draft of the second book in the Eddie Flynn series, The Plea. It’s in good shape, and my first book was pretty much the same. It’s mainly tidying up and cementing plot holes. I’ve been lucky so far in that I’ve not had to radically change anything in a book while editing. The first draft of The Defence took around five months. The first draft of the book I’m working on now took seven months.

Steve first draftIn what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I read the first draft on paper and I attack it with a sharpie as I go. If I had a gun to my head I don’t think I would be capable of transferring my manuscript onto an ereader. I also think it’s important to make the book look different to the eye while editing. So I write with the pages zoomed 150%, and I read on paper because the different format helps to cut out some of the blindness that infects you while you’re reading.

What happens now that first draft is done?

A read through, then an edit on the computer. Then more edits. I suppose I will go through up to eight or nine edits before I show it to anyone. That’s when the panic starts.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Steve on his website, Twitter and Amazon.

The Defence

 

Steve cover 1The truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial.

The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.

It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy.

Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if Steve defence 2wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

 

 

 

To read any of the previous First Draft Q&A’s you can check the list Here.

To be a part of the First Draft series, just get in touch and let me know.

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October’s Crime Book Club Meeting and November’s Read

Last night the crime book club discussed Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes.

It was a busy meeting. The group is growing which is great to see. We even had Margot join us from the airport which I thought was amazing and goes to show the positives of having an online book club in that as long as you have an internet connection, you can join us from absolutely anywhere. So you will notice, if you watch the below video, some background noise. There was a great conversation about the book though.

The book split the group, some loved it and other members felt it had the feeling of having all been done before. The group loved the writing, sense of place and the protagonist and everyone said they would read the next in the series as they felt forgiving of a debut in a series.

You can watch the meeting below.

The next meeting is Wednesday 19th November at 8 p.m. GMT. The book chosen was Dominion by C. J. Sansom.

Dominion1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House.

Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill’s Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government’s side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined.

And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . .

 

And bookclubers, just so you are aware and leave yourselves enough time to read this, it has about 600 pages depending on the format you are reading on.

 

To keep up to date straight into your email inbox with what we are reading and when the meetings are sign up to the newsletter Here.

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A Bloggy Good News Day

There are two things I want to say in today’s blog post and both of them are good news items. Who doesn’t love a bit of bloggy good news?!

Firstly, remember the Shelfie blog hop I took part in on 24th September? The post Here. And the originating and organising blogger Tara is Here. Where all I had to do was post a photo of myself with my book shelf? Well I won first prize! ($40) Oh yes I did! :) Must be my beautiful smiley face yes?

Shelfie 2

Sorry.

one-lovely-blog-awardThe second thing is that Elsie Elmore nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award. There are lots of rules to these blog awards and I find them really difficult because you have to provide seven facts about yourself for this one and then nominate fifteen other blogs for the award. Doing that terrifies me because I’m scared of missing someone out who I blog and talk regularly with, so I’m going to just thank Elsie for the award and recommend that you go and check out her blog and actually click the follow button because she does have a lovely blog and is a lovely person and worth having in your bloggy life and you can find her Here so what are you waiting for. Go find Elsie!

Thank you to both Tara and Elsie. I love blogging. It is such a lovely place to be.

 

 

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Recently Read – The Drop by Dennis Lehane

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

Genre: Crime

dropThe Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski through a cover scheme of funelling cash to local gangsters — ‘money drops’ — in the underworld of Boston bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv, Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families and foes all work together to make a living — no matter the cost.

 

 

 

My Thoughts:

Bob and cousin Marv work behind the bar that used to belong to cousin Marv but now belongs to the Chechens because they took it. Twenty years ago. Bob and cousin Marv are likable enough characters. Bob keeps to himself and stays out of everyone’s way, until one day he walks home and fishes a half dead dog out of someone’s bin. This starts a friendship with Nadia but puts him in the sights of Eric Deeds, a not very nice or stable individual.

And here you have all the major players of the novel.

Other than the book blurb above, this really is the basis for the book and I can’t say much more without giving plot spoilers away, but Lehane has crafted yet another brilliant story with characters you can sympathise with, yet who surprise you. You can feel the dirt and grime and run down feeling of, the area, and the minds of the people living there. And you understand. The writing is smooth, and instead of being shocking, it feels right and a part of the fabric of the piece. The simplicity of a small group of characters is used to great effect and as the novel progresses you learn a little bit more about them and to what extremes they are willing to go to in the circumstances they find themselves in. I loved this. It will appeal to those who like American crime fiction, character driven stories with an honest but smooth telling.

With thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for my copy.

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5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now

I love ASAP Science on YouTube and I thought this short video was particularly relevant to many of us nowadays.

 

Have you ever felt your phone vibrate and it not have been your phone?! Me too.

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What’s Your First Draft Like? – Alison Gray

Today’s first drafter is crime writer Alison Gray.

AGAlison  fulfills numerous roles. As well as being a writer, she is a wife, a mother, a sister, a godmother, a friend and a reader.

She studied literature at St Andrews University and loves to read both new and established authors. She has read and enjoyed in her time, Agatha Christie, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Higgins Clark, Elly Griffiths, Sophie Hannah, Camilla Läckberg, Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, Patricia Cornwell, Harry Bingham, Sarah Sheridan, Michael Ridpath, Stieg Larsson, Lars Kepler, Ann Cleeves, Fergus McNeill, Mari Hannah, Kate Rhodes, Danielle Ramsay, Ken McClure, M J McGrath, Michael Robotham and Steve Mosby, to name just a few.

And she has recently discovered that she loves sitting in the front row at productions of Shakespeare, especially by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Propeller theatre companies as she feels it’s the next best thing to being on stage herself!

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

When I first think about writing something new, I hold the idea within me for some time letting it ripen. During this time I am absorbing things from around me which will work themselves into the story. After an indeterminate time (it could be hours or weeks or longer) I’ll just sit down and begin writing.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I’d love to have a set routine but I can’t seem to manage it. Whenever I start a routine for anything, within a month or so it has slipped away from me so I find it is just better to go with whatever is in the moment. I seem to work better that way.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

I’m a straight to the keyboard writer. I don’t know if I could be a writer now if I had to use pen and paper. Writing longhand is labour intensive and when I think about the Brontës writing entire manuscripts in minuscule writing in teeny tiny books, I find it quite amazing we ended up with such wonderful stories Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

How important is research to you?

Research is very important to me but not for the first draft. The most important thing for me in the first draft is the story flow and momentum. I will keep a list of things that I need to check as I go along, so that I can do the research later.

How do you go about researching?

I make a list of what I need to research while writing the first draft, so I will work my way through the list, ticking off things that are easier to research first. I’ll begin by researching these things on the Internet to find out the answers myself. When I have more complex things to research relating to plot or procedure, I’ll try and find someone who has the knowledge to talk to about it. For Hibiscus Fruit, I contacted an organisation of ex CID officers in London with questions relating to the plot and also an ex-police officer in Northumberland.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I’d love to be organised and know exactly how and where to file everything for a project, like images, cover ideas and links to articles, but also things that I create around the story, like backstory and character bios and a mindmap of story associations. I create a folder on the computer for the story and underneath it have separate folders for storing various things.

My ideal would be: Ideal organisation

 

 

But this is the reality: Actual organisation

Tell us how that first draft takes shape

The first draft is written in waves. I always begin by reviewing what I have written the previous day, perhaps making some changes to it so that it is easier to read and then I continue on further. By the time I am about 50% of the way through I have usually begun several lists of things to watch– things that need research, continuity points, plot points and also new things that occur to me in relation to the plot or characters or setting that I will need to go back to later and insert as appropriate. I usually take a couple of breather periods during first draft writing because it is very intense. When the draft is around 80% complete, the writing becomes even more intense and I write the remainder as far as possible without stopping because of the momentum of the story.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

No. I just need undisturbed time and my computer.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

When I’m writing hours can pass and I don’t know where they went to so lost for a period of time is a pretty good description.

What does your work space look like?

I set up a desk in a small room on the way to the garden. It is very comfortable and has a lovely view.

Work Space

However, it’s such a nice spot that everybody wants to use it now!

Queue to use my writing space

So I often end up sitting on my bed writing on my laptop instead. Visualise a Tracey Emin style bed and superimpose me with my laptop on top and you’ll get the picture!

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I do change things as I go but the most important thing for me in the first draft is to keep the story moving along, so my focus is on that.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Some days I write a lot and other days not so much. If I had to do a certain number of words in a day I would probably begin to worry and it would be counter-productive. I do measure overall progress by word count in association with story development. I’d worry, for example, if I told the whole story in 50,000 words or if I had written 20,000 words before anything happened.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

I can write a first draft quite quickly if I don’t do anything else. But I prefer to take a breather or two during the writing because it is an intense process and ordinary life has its own demands. So it is more likely to be around six months by the time the first draft is finished. It is always in rough shape at the end. There are things to research and adjustments to make.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I read it through and make annotations on the ereader and then repeat the cycle. I never print my work these days. It takes too long and is too costly on paper and ink. I tend not to keep drafts to go back to but to keep working on the same one until it is completely finished. I used to have Arch Lever folders but now all the work is held on a hard drive.

 

 

 

What happens now that first draft is done?

I take a break and do something completely different. I need a bit of separation before I come back to it afresh. The first draft is only the beginning. But I usually celebrate too – whether it is to go and see a play, go to a writing conference, buy something I’ve been wanting for some time, or just to have an ice cold beer.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

Thank you very much for having me on your blog.

You can find Alison on her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Hibiscus Fruit

HibiscusOn leave from her job in Newcastle upon Tyne, following the death of her lover, DS Abby Foulkes is on Skiathos with their young son, Johnny. But just as they begin to relax, Johnny finds human bones in a wood near a Greek monastery on a hillside above Skiathos town. It isn’t long before Abby discovers that this isn’t the first set of bones to be found. When someone disappears from the Hibiscus Fruit hotel where they are staying, Abby is drawn into the mystery.

 

 

 

To read any of the previous First Draft Q&A’s you can check the list Here.

To be a part of the First Draft series, just get in touch and let me know.

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Recently Read – Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris

Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence by Roz Morris

Genre; non fiction

NailAre you writing a novel? Do you want to make sure you finish? Will you get lost and fizzle out? Will you spend more time reading about how to write than actually getting the words down?

Most books on novel-writing will make you read hundreds of pages about character arcs, inciting incidents, heroes’ journeys. It’s great to know that – but while you’re reading about it you’re not writing your book.

And what these books don’t tell you is how to use this learning and get the job done.

Nail Your Novel is a writing buddy – and mentor – in a book.

In 10 easy steps it will tell you:
*how to shape your big idea and make a novel out of it
*how to do your research and how to use it
*how to organise your time
*how to plot and build characters
*when you’re going to hit problems and what to do about them
*how to write on the days you don’t feel inspired
*how to reread what you’ve written and polish it.

Along the way, Thumbnail Notes give tutorials about storytelling and storycraft – strictly when you need them. The author has written nearly a dozen novels that have made it into print – and this is how she did it.

You don’t even need to read the whole book before you get started. You read a section, then do as it says. And, once you’re finally satisfied, Nail Your Novel will tell you how to sell it to publishers and agents.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. Morris’ pathway from ideas to completed novel make complete and utter sense and she leads you through them in way that makes you believe, not only that each stage is achievable, but that you can do it.

It is a book that can be read by a writer at the start of a novel with just the idea in their head or a writer who has a book that needs an overhaul. It can be read by a writer who has already written successful novels because I bet there are things in here that could ignite that flame when things get tough. Morris has games and not just any games, but games that keep you working on your manuscript while you work through whatever issue it is you’re having, be that plot point issues or writers block.

I can’t wait to get started implementing the ideas in this book. I think it will help me keep things in better order and permanently moving forward and thereby making me more productive.

If you read this book you’ll wonder why you didn’t read it sooner.

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What Do You Want To Read For November’s Crime Book Club?

In the UK on the 5th of November it is Guy Fawkes night. A night that represents the plot to burn down the Houses of Parliament in 1605. So I thought for November’s book club we could read a historical fiction book and see how we fare with that and what members thoughts are on this sub genre in the crime genre. We would as always love new members to join us, so if you like the look of any books on offer or the winning book, then please do join us. Our next meeting is next Wednesday 15th October where we will be reading Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes, so you still have a week to read that and join in next week if you want to. You can find details as usual on how the club works in the tab above. Or be taken directly there from Here.

You can vote on the below choices in the comments section, on the Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #crimebookclub. Votes need to be cast by next weeks meeting. To keep up to date with books and meetings you can sign up to the newsletter Here.

The choices for November are:

Dominion by C. J. Sansom

Dominion1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House.

Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill’s Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government’s side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined.

And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . .

The Holy Thief by William Ryan

holyMoscow, 1936, and Stalin’s Great Terror is beginning. In a deconsecrated church, a young woman is found dead, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see. Captain Alexei Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate. But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD—the most feared organization in Russia—becomes involved. Soon, Korolev’s every step is under close scrutiny and one false move will mean exile to The Zone, where enemies of the Soviet State, both real and imagined, meet their fate in the frozen camps of the far north.

Committed to uncovering the truth behind the gruesome murder, Korolev enters the realm of the Thieves, rulers of Moscow’s underworld. As more bodies are discovered and pressure from above builds, Korolev begins to question who he can trust and who, in a Russia where fear, uncertainty and hunger prevail, are the real criminals. Soon, Korolev will find not only his moral and political ideals threatened, but also his life.

William Ryan’s remarkable debut will storm into ten countries in what is sure to be an international publishing event. With Captain Alexei Korolev, William Ryan has given us one of the most compelling detectives in modern literature, a man dogged and humble, a man who will lead us through a fear-choked Russia to find the only thing that can save him or any of us— the truth.

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

MangleFunny, fresh and sharply plotted Victorian crime starring a detective duo to rival Holmes and Watson.

Gower Street, London, 1882:
Sidney Grice, London’s most famous personal detective, is expecting a visitor. He drains his fifth pot of morning tea, and glances outside, where a young, plain woman picks her way between the piles of horse-dung towards his front door. Sidney Grice shudders. For heaven’s sake – she is wearing brown shoes.

Set between the refined buildings of Victorian Bloomsbury and the stinking streets of London’s East End, THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS is for those who like their crime original, atmospheric, and very, very funny.

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At What Point Does Crime Fiction Become Merely Gratuitous?

Gratuitous or realistic; the blood and guts, and downright bloody violent scenes shown in TV crime drama’s and written down in crime novels in today’s world?

You may think I have an opinion from the tone of the question but I’m not sure I do just yet. But I am wondering at what point we as a society think it’s time to stop, that the line has been crossed.

I have sat at several crime writing panels where the level of violence used in novels is defended. (And I’m not saying either way how much is or will be in any of mine. I’m opening a discussion.) Where already published authors have said that it is not gratuitous but in tone with the book and exactly how real crimes look.

Stuart Miles. Freedigitalphotos.net

Stuart Miles. Freedigitalphotos.net

Yes, real crimes look that way, but usually only the cops and fellow emergency service staff get to see that nasty side of life, not civilians in their safe homes. So why do they have this need to get so up close and personal with a post-mortem for instance? To see the knife go in and the skin peel back, the body cavity open and the secrets spill out? What is it that drives normal people who don’t have to see this for a living need to attempt to vicariously see it through fiction? Because I can assure you, those who see it up close for real, sure as hell don’t just put the book down when the story is over and forget what they’ve seen.

This has been a gradual change in society, like the raising of a girls skirt from a Victorian era full length modesty covering skirt to the Sixties mini. Crime shows like the original Hawaii 5-0, Quincy, The Sweeney and The Professionals along with writers like Agatha Christie didn’t show all. They cut away when it came to the nasty stuff. Left it to the imagination. They didn’t feel they needed the detail, or blood and gore, to tell a good story. Yet now we have shows such as Bones, Hannibal is particularly bad and I had to stop watching the second series, Criminal Minds (notice I go a lot for US-based drama?) and Silent Witness to name just a few. And with authors, there are many who describe the violence or the blood or body or details of post-mortem.

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Stuart Miles. Freedigitalphotos.net

This is probably a sociology type post on how times have changed and what has become acceptable. But my question is this then, if we have moved so far in what we now find acceptable, granted it was gradual in say a forty-year period, how far will we be willing to go for the sake of entertainment, or reality in entertainment in future years to come? Because that’s what fiction is: entertainment. We’re not writing sociology papers, we’re not starting debates on topical social issues, we’re writing entertainment – maybe about topical social issues, but you really don’t hear of fiction starting a good debate, especially for change in any area.

What are your thoughts on this subject? How much further can we go and with each generation finding it that bit more acceptable and “current” for the sake of “true art”.

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