Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Don't Judge Me, Ayo... Or, Wait, Please Do by Brad Parks

As inveterate readers of crime fiction, we know cops, because we’ve read a thousand police procedurals.

And we know attorneys, both defense and prosecution, because we’ve read an equal number of legal thrillers. To a slightly lesser degree, we also know medical examiners, fugitive apprehension experts, and so on, and so on. Virtually every job in the criminal justice system gets a thorough vetting in our genre.

Except, of course, for the one that perhaps matters most:

The judge.

In crime fiction—as in real life—the judge seems to issue rulings from on high, tossing them down like godly lightning strikes before fading back into the mists. We never hear much about the human heart beating beneath the robe (or, in the case of you charming Brits, under the wig).

I mention all this because, one, Ayo Onatade is the one who invited me here to ShotsMag, and I happen to know she looks after the Justices at the Supreme Court; and, two, a judge is the protagonist of my U.K. debut, Say Nothing.

In truth, I didn’t set out to till unplowed fields with this novel. I first came up with the premise—that a U.S. federal judge would have his children kidnapped by someone looking to control the outcome of a case he was hearing—and only later recognized that by happy accident I had stumbled upon fresh ground.

Once I did, my internal monologue went something like this: Huh, a judge. That’s kind of interesting.

And then it went: Oh, bollocks. I’m writing this in first person, but I don’t know a blessed thing about what it’s like to be a judge.

Remedying that was no easy task. Federal judges are notoriously taciturn, seldom granting interviews or writing tell-all memoirs. The first few judges I approached with a request for an interview told me (politely) to get lost.

Once I finally found one who was willing to let me in—on condition that I wouldn’t reveal his or her identity—I was fascinated by what I found.

For starters, I had no idea how busy federal judges are. You’d think when they hear a case that’s over by 11:30 they’d be tucking into their first gin and tonic by 2. But, no, my judge routinely put in ten-hour workdays, even when there was nothing scheduled in the courtroom. As I have the protagonist muse early in the novel:

From a workload standpoint, federal judges tend to be like ducks: There’s more going on under the surface than anyone quite realizes.

I was also fascinated by how solitary my judge felt. The demands of maintaining proper judicial detachment wore on my judge and the whole staff. At one point, I have the judge’s clerk—who has a pair of fish named Thurgood and Marshall, after his favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice—say to his boss:

Sometimes I feel like these guys”—he pointed to Thurgood and Marshall, swimming aimless circles behind him — “like we’re in a fishbowl all the time. It’s just us in this little office suite, isolated from the rest of the world, and we render our decisions and who knows what everyone thinks? It’s not like there’s a comments box in the back of the courtroom.”

But more than anything, what struck me about this character I was creating was how this ordeal I was putting him through—having his children kidnapped and not being in control of what happened to them—was so at odds with his regular existence.

As my protagonist says at the end of Chapter 4 of Say Nothing:

With little more than my own gut to guide me, I routinely make pronouncements that will shape the remainder of peoples’ lives. The wealthiest lawyers in the land kowtow to me. Huge bureaucracies are forced to follow my orders. The most formidable people in our society are but one bad decision away from winding up in my courtroom, begging for my mercy, sometimes literally trembling before me.

I realize it’s the position, not the person, that inspires this sycophancy. I certainly do nothing to encourage it. I am something of a reluctant Caesar. The constant fawning embarrasses me.

It comes with the job all the same.

Whether I like it or not, I represent power.

Whether I want it or not, I have power.

Or at least I used to.

I’m grateful to the judge who talked to me for the time spent and hospitality extended. I certainly couldn’t have written the novel without help from the judge and the judge’s staff. Did I get everything right? I don’t know.

But I guess Ayo can be the judge of that.

Say Nothing by Brad Parks is published by Faber & Faber (£12.99)

Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty Awards, three of American crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. Say Nothing is his U.K. debut.

More information about Brad Parks and his books can be found on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter @Brad_Parks and on Facebook

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award

Virago deputy publisher Sarah Savitt and The Pool c.e.o. Sam Baker have launched a competition to find a new female crime writer for Virago.

The Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award aims to find a female writer for the Virago list who is already writing a "suspenseful" and "intelligent" original crime or thriller novel.

The winner will be offered a publishing contract with Virago as well as two hours of mentoring by novelist Jill Dawson courtesy of Gold Dust mentoring.

For a chance to feature on the Virago list, writers have been asked to submit a 5,000-word sample and a 500-word synopsis via the website.

Entries will be judged by Baker and Savitt, as well as by novelist Erin Kelly, author of The Poison Tree (Hodder), literary agent Jo Unwin, journalist Coco Khan, and Emily Iredale, development executive for Scott Free, the London branch of Ridley Scott’s TV company. The winner will be announced in September. 

Savitt said she hoped the competition would bring to light a "smart, nail-biting, provocative novel", believing the genre had evolved to explore more feminist issues."I believe crime and thriller authors are exploring women’s lives in a particularly interesting way at the moment, and the genre is overlapping with conversations in feminism about consent, domestic violence, gender roles and much more, which feels stimulating and is producing great stories," said Savitt. "I am hoping to find a smart, nail-biting, provocative novel in that tradition through our competition in partnership with The Pool. I am grateful to all of our wonderful judges and am confident we will find some brilliant new talent."

Baker, who is also a judge for 2017's Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, said the competition combined The Pool’s mission to celebrate women’s voices and bring them to a wider audience, with her own passion for crime and thrillers." Female crime writers - from Patricia Highsmith to our judge Erin Kelly - have been asking difficult questions of our society for decades, and now, more than ever, the world requires unflinching scrutiny. I’m excited for the talent we might uncover,” she added.

Terms and conditions can be found here.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Call for Papers - Noir - Vol 16 (2017) No 2

The geography of noir has frequently changed after its “classical” period  (1941 The Maltese Falcon - 1958 Touch of Evil), both coming to include  crime literature, TV series, social drama, and new media in its sphere, and welcoming such controversial issues as gender, ethnicity, and trauma among its themes. We invite scholars in all fields of Anglo-American studies to send proposals about noir as genre, sub- (or sur-) genre, or stylistic mode; about noir writers and film directors of the past and the present; about the new directions of crime fiction(s) regarding LGBT; about the ways noir has (or has not) interfaced with chaos theory, complexity, and fractal geometry; about the connections between noir and politics; about the representation(s) of evil in contemporary literature and the media; and about noir and the American Canon.

Authors are kindly requested to register in the journal site and to follow all the instructions in the “Authors’ guide” when uploading their papers. As usual, submissions (about 5000-6000 words) will be double-blind peer-reviewed.
The deadline for their submission is 15 July 2017

Linguæ& is a peer-reviewed journal which provides a new outlet for interdisciplinary research on language and literature, giving voice to a cross-cultural and multi-genre koine. While the idea for the journal was developed in the ambit of the post-graduate programme in European Intercultural Studies at the University of Urbino, Italy, its scope goes far beyond that of exploring pre-established cultural paradigms. Indeed, its strongly experimental and dialogic approach to the ongoing debate should serve as encouragement for the submission of new work by young researchers. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Barry Award Nominees

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced the nominees for 
the 2017 Barry Awards. Congratulations to all!

Best Novel:
Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)
The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton (Putnam)
Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Second Girl, by David Swinson (Mulholland)

Best First Novel:
Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown)
I’m Traveling Alone, by Samuel Bjork (Viking) 
IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout Press)
Presumed Missing, by Susie Steiner (Random House)

Best Paperback Original:
Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)
The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street) The Queen’s Accomplice, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
The Darkest Secret, by Alex Marwood (Penguin)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)
The Girl in the Window, by Jake Needham (Half Penny)

Best Thriller:
Overwatch, by Matthew Betley (Atria)
First Strike, by Ben Coes (Minotaur)
Guilty Minds, by Joseph Finder (Dutton) Back Blast, by Mark Greaney (Berkley)
The One Man, by Andrew Gross (Minotaur) Collecting the Dead, by Spencer Kope (Minotaur)

The winners will be announced Thursday, October 12, during Bouchercon, in Toronto.


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Call for Chapters: Agatha Christie Goes to War

Editors: Dr J.C. Bernthal (Middlesex University) and Dr Rebecca Mills (Bournemouth University).

Chapter proposals are invited for an edited collection exploring and evaluating the role of war in Agatha Christie’s life and writing.

Christie’s work is now recognised not only as a distraction from twentieth-century anxieties and conflicts but also as a way of processing them. Christie’s career was created out of her war work in a Torquay dispensary and her awareness of Belgian refugees; her first husband Archibald Christie was an airman during the First World War and her second husband Max Mallowan served in North Africa during the Second, leaving her behind in Blitzed London. Her work cannot be considered as insulated from these conflicts; themes of displacement, violence, military masculinity and women’s duty resonate throughout her fiction. Gill Plain and Alison Light, for example, have examined the traces of the First World War in the bodies and social scenes of Christie’s Golden Age fiction, while recent television adaptations of And Then There Were None (2015) and Witness for the Prosecution (2016) brought subtexts of post-traumatic stress disorder and social upheaval into the foreground as well as heightening military imagery through lighting and flashbacks. 

Engaging with the legacy of the First World War is part of a turn away from a narratological focus on Christie and the clue-puzzle towards a multiplicity of feminist, queer, and sociological readings that contextualise Christie’s work within its contemporary literary, political, and social environments. Existing scholarship tends to focus on World Wars, especially the First, but Christie’s life and career covered diverse fields, stages, and modes of warfare. We aim to present the first detailed study of the theme of war in Christie’s fiction and life-writing, spanning a range of conflicts in England, Europe, the British Empire and beyond, and responses to events from the Boer War to the Cold War. 

We therefore invite 300-500 word abstracts for contributions of 6000-8000 words that take a global and in-depth approach to wars and their traces in Christie’s work. Please include a brief biographical note. Topics might include (but are not limited to) the following:
·       - Re-evaluating the First World War in Christie’s life-writing and fiction
·       - Christie’s war work
·       - A comparative approach to war in the work of Christie and her contemporaries
·       - The Second World War—the Blitz, rationing, fifth columnists
·       - Codes and coding
·       - Gender and/or sexuality and war
·       - Displacement and exile
·       - Colonial wars and empire
·       - Foreign fields
·       - Nation, ideology and extremism
·       - Revolution
·       - Representations of Communism and Nazism
·       - The Cold War and global conspiracies
·       - The Spanish Civil War
·       - Thrillers and espionage
·       - War in Christie adaptations
·       - Memory and war
·       - Commemoration
·       - Loss and bereavement
·       - Terrorism
Deadline for abstracts: 30th June 2017. Estimated deadline for finished chapters: 30th November 2017.