Patrick Lennon, whose debut novel, Corn Dolls, was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2008, was drafted in at the last moment to replace Sophie Hannah as the panel chair. Four writers; Stephen Booth, RJ Ellory, Laurie R King and Jane Hill were to discuss the mysterious world of psychological crime fiction. I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of any of the writers before, but decided to attend this event, as psychological crime is my favourite type of crime novel.
Jane Hill, who is stand-up comedian as well as a successful crime novelist, has had four psychological thrillers published to date and stood out for me as being a Yellow Room sort of gal. She was amusing, bright, but, sadly, seemed to find it difficult to make herself heard amongst the more domineering males on the panel, yet I found her the most interesting. Jane worked in commercial radio for twenty years - firstly as a journalist and then as head of programming for a group of local stations, presenting music shows and attempting to train DJs to be witty. She started out trying to write ‘chick fic’, but her publisher suggested she go ‘darker’, which Jane’s hairdresser had also advised. Her first novel, Grievous Angel, is a darkly comedic portrait of a woman scorned and packs a captivating surprise. It has been described as ‘playful and poignant, sexy and sinister’. Another one to add to my ‘to read’ pile, then.
Roger Ellory is the perfect example of the tenacious writer, determined to get published. He wrote twenty-two novels, before his twenty-third was finally accepted. A Quiet Belief in Angels was picked up by Amanda Ross for The Richard and Judy Book Club in 2005 and instantly became a bestseller. He sets his novels in the US, although he was born and bred in Birmingham, simply because America fascinates and inspires him. He spoke about the connection between reader and writer being essential. He said the best books are the ones that speak our emotional language. I couldn’t agree more. Roger had a lot more to say than the rest of the panel or was it simply that they just couldn’t get a word in? He did let it slip that Amanda Ross is working with a major TV company on a similar sort of book programme to the Richard and Judy Bookclub but with different presenters and a different format. I can’t wait!
Stephen Booth seemed like a nice bloke. He was quietly spoken and mild-mannered. He has written nine novels featuring Derbyshire detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. His books are set in the atmospheric Peak District, an area close to my heart, so I was eager to learn more. He made the audience smile when he said that the Derbyshire police love the fact that he’s writing about their force, are only too happy to help him with his research and even invited him to the launch ‘do’ when they took delivery of a new police helicopter. I’ve just purchased his latest novel, The Kill Call, in audiobook format for my Ipod. A great accompaniment to the ironing.
Laurie R King’s first book, A Grave Talent, came out in 1993. She is from the US, but loves England and has written over 20 books, some of them set in England and some in the San Francisco Bay area. She shares a publisher, Allison and Busby, with Rebecca Tope, aka Becky Smith who has been a long term supporter of QWF and The Yellow Room. Laurie also supports new talent. She said she made a point of reading first novels no matter how few copies they sold, as she is keen to nurture fledgling writers. Let’s hear it for Laurie!
I was either in a mid-afternoon torpor or the panel didn’t discuss psychological crime in much detail. As I remember it, the authors wandered off the point early on and didn’t return to the theme of ‘Murder in Mind’. On the other hand, it might have been my attention, which wandered off.