2020 CrimeFest Awards

Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award
– Laura Shepherd-Robinson for Blood & Sugar (Mantle)
With thanks to convention and award sponsor Specsavers. Courtesy of the sponsor, the winner also receives £1,000.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award
for Best Unabridged Crime Audiobook
– Lee Child for Blue Moon, read by Jeff Harding (Penguin Random House Audio) With thanks to award sponsor Audible UK. Courtesy of the sponsor, the winners share £1,000.
 eDunnit Awardfor Best Crime eBook
– Holly Watt for To The Lions (Raven Books)
 H.R.F. Keating Award
for Best Biography or Non-Fiction Book related to Crime Fiction– John Curran for The Hooded Gunman (HarperCollins Crime Club)

Last Laugh Award
for Best Humorous Crime Novel– Helen FitzGerald for Worst Case Scenario (Orenda Books)
 CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Children (ages 8-12)
– Thomas Taylor for Malamander (Walker Books)

CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (ages 12-16)
– Kathryn Evans for Beauty Sleep (Usborne Publishing)

All the winners received a Bristol Blue Glass Award and will be offered complimentary attendance and panel appearances at CRIMEFEST 2021.


The Redemption of Charm Frank Westworth
Killing Sisters Book 3
This is my first venture into the world of the killing sisters and, pleasingly, there’s more to this book than I was anticipating. The violence, and for that matter the sex, is pretty graphic, satisfying for anyone Jonesing for a blood fest, but there are long periods of thoughtful plotting and character exploration here too. This is not just an action thriller, it’s a decent story of broken, villainous and marginalised characters clashing in a violent world.
It took a while to figure out how I felt about The Redemption of Charm and to get comfortable with the style. Chapter one had me torn between the pleasurable anticipation of impending violence and getting to grips with the fragmented writing. Westworth likes word play, which is fun, but he also likes disconcerting the reader. There’s method here though: the anti-anti-hero, JJ Stoner, is a mess, a busted up man, his head’s in pieces, he’s come from hell and even the tranquillity and isolation of rural America retreat can’t patch him up without the natural curative of time. The writing reflects JJ Stoner’s battered mental state, disorientation and loneliness. He’s got a story to tell but it’s scrambled in his own mind, it’s got to be teased out.
So JJ Stoner is damaged and dangerous, ex-black ops, an experienced soldier and killer; but, is he a powder keg or a burn out? His last operation was a cluster-fuck of betrayal. JJ is a bit like another JJ, Joey Jones, (Jason Statham), in The Hummingbird (2013). Of course, JJ here is short for Jean-Jacques an illustrious name handed down from a philosopher via a punk rock legend to a tempestuous killer.
August this year, deepest America; three local guys are soaking up the beer and chewing the fat, it’s a nice evening but for the gunshots that keep cracking in the distance. That’d be JJ who has already worked through twelve magazines. Joshua, the local law, already checked this Brit guy out, the Feebs say hands off, he’s ok, he’s on our side but he’s dangerous, don’t spook him. Next day JJ calls into the sheriff’s office for a chat. JJ tells sheriff Joshua that he’s just here to rest up, if people leave him alone there’ll be no trouble. Rather than put his mind at rest the sheriff is more afraid of JJ and what he might bring by the end of their pleasant little chat. JJ actually arrived the September before, found himself a shack to shack up in, looking to heal. By October Associate Deputy Director Travis turned up, he thinks JJ could be useful to the US, along as he can ditch the Brit loyalty, then he can stay.
So what’s JJ’s story? There’s this guy, Mr Hartmann, known as Hardman, he set up an operation, set JJ to catch an assassin. Only Hardman was controlling the assassin, JJ was the one supposed to die. Then Hardman could forget the past, the link to JJ, and get on with his stellar career. JJ began figuring stuff out though, Hardman was sleeping with his girl, Lissa, (it didn’t end well for her), JJ confronted Hardman, big mistake he didn’t kill him. It’s unfinished business but can JJ get it together well enough to fight the fight.

Liking JJ is tough, he’s totally fucked up and even on his best day he’s got a mean/mad streak in him – an anti-anti-hero. The slow burn element of the novel surprised me but the long set ups and contemplative moments add to the fun. Cross, double cross, revenge, a heavy touch of tongue in cheek humour and sex. If I’m honest this novel is a little overlong but it is entertaining and capable to throwing up a surprise or two.

The Book Guild Ltd, paperback, 2017. ISBN: 9781911320555


Barry Forshaw, Maxim Jakubowski and Paul Burke discuss the crime fiction of 2020. Best books so far, ones to watch out for. 8.00pm Thursday, 30th July. What are your picks? Join the debate on Crowdcast, just follow the link below:



No Exit Press million selling crime fiction favourite Leigh Russell launches her new novel Deadly Revenge on 23rd July. Leigh talks to Paul Burke about the new book on Crowdcast video interview 8.15pm. We’d love you to join us, maybe you’re have a question? Click the link to join us:


Press Release

Theakston highlights to include Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Ian Rankin

Jul 2, 2020

Harrogate International Festivals unveils its world-class virtual HIF Weekender line-up featuring performances and interviews with best-selling authors, internationally acclaimed musicians, and innovative thinkers. Running from 23-26 July, this cultural celebration coincides with what would have been the legendary long weekend of Harrogate’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, part of the Festival’s cancelled summer season.

Theakston highlights include crime writing royalty Lee Child in conversation with Joseph Finder, Ian Rankin interviewed by NJ Cooper, Mark Billingham celebrating 20 years of Tom Thorne and Val McDermid presenting the genre’s ‘New Blood’ rising stars Deepa Anappara, Jessica Moor, Elizabeth Kay and Trevor Wood, alongside the virtual crowning of the coveted Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020 – plus Steve Mosby will be joined by AA DhandEmma Kavanagh and Amanda Jennings to explore writing in the age of pandemic, and Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste are set to present a virtual version of their popular podcast Two Crime Writers & A Microphone for the weekend. There will be Berwins Salon North talks from Adam Rutherford, Claudia Hammond and Lewis Dartnell; and a stellar series of interviews across the cultural mix including composer Ben Palmer, theatre Maker Stella Duffy, newsreader and presenter John Suchet and author Anthony Horowitz.



Bernardine Evaristo, Lara Maiklem, Sophie Anderson and Chris Haughton win the Indie Book Awards 2020

Independent Booksellers Reveal their Top Books for the Summer as part of Independent Bookshop Week

London, 26th June 2020: With Independent Bookshop Week currently taking place across the UK (20-27 June), the top summer reads according to indie booksellers have been revealed today, with Bernardine Evaristo, Lara Maiklem, Sophie Anderson and Chris Haughton named as winners of the 2020 Indie Books Awards.

Winning in the Fiction category is Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo with her lyrical and compelling exploration of gender and identity Girl, Woman, Other (Penguin), while Mudlarking, a journey through objects unearthed from the river Thames by Lara Maiklem (Bloomsbury) won the Non-Fiction category, a new category for this year. The winner of the Children’s Fiction category is Sophie Anderson with The Girl Who Speaks Bear (Usborne), a playful adaptation of myth, folklore and fairytales, and winning the Picture Book award is Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (Walker Books), the award-winning creator of Shh! We Have a Plan.

Chosen by a judging panel of independent booksellers, authors and industry influencers, the awards celebrate the best books in paperbacks to read this summer. The Adult categories were judged by bookseller Matt Taylor (Chepstow Books & Gifts), Elizabeth Perry (Daunt Books), Zool Verjee (Head of Marketing and Publicity at Blackwells), Sarah Shaffi, (freelance journalist and #BAMEinPublishing co-founder) and Hachette author William Shaw. The Children’s categories were judged by chair bookseller Vanessa Lewis (The Book Nook), Layla Hudson (Round Table Books), Jessica Paul (Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books & More), Jonathan Douglas (CEO of National Literacy Trust) and Hachette author Piers Torday.

Upcoming events with the authors as part of Independent Bookshop Week include:

  • Bernardine Evaristo will be joining the series of virtual events “At Home with 4 Indies”, created by booksellers from Book-ish (Crickhowell), Linghams (Wirral), Forum Books (Corbridge) and Booka Bookshop (Shropshire). She will be live on their Facebook page on Friday 26th June at 7pm.
  • Sophie Anderson will hold a special Twitter chat with Sam Reads Bookshop (Lake District) on Friday 26th June at 4pm.

Matt Taylor of Chepstow Books & Gifts, Chair of Judges, said: “We were delighted to select Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo as winner of the Fiction category. We felt it was such an engaging, vibrant, funny and important book it should win every prize going, be thrust into the hands of browsers in bookshops and be read by everyone. The panel found Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem fascinating and felt we were down in the mud with her at 5am going through broken pieces of pottery looking for that one hidden gem.  It is a brilliant mix of social history and archaeology written in a highly engaging voice.”

Vanessa Lewis of the Book Nook, Chair of Judges said: “Don’t Worry, Little Crab was deemed the perfect picture book with its vibrant colour palette and heart-warming message about being brave and trying something new. Chris Haughton’s unique style and delightful illustrative details makes this book a pleasure to read aloud. Sophie Anderson’s magical interweaving of narrative and traditional stories makes for an exhilarating tale. As Yanka sets out to discover more about her past and befriends the animals of the snow forest she learns to accept who she is. This is a beautifully crafted story and the perfect antidote to these uncertain times.”

For more information about the Indie Book Awards and previous winners, please visit www.indiebookshopweek.org.uk/IBWBookAward.

Follow the latest developments via social media: #IndieBookshopWeek @BooksAreMyBag


Dead Wrong Larry Holden (1957)
Dead Wrong is a decent breezy crime read, a kind of near-noir. It would have made a good movie but none of Holden’s novels were filmed. Although, Holden, a pseudonym for Lorenz Heller, did write for TV under the name Burt Sims, just not adaptations of his own books. This novel has similarities in plot to The Maltese Falcon. The scenario is familiar but there are a couple of nice twists that energise the story and a few passages of superb writing. Of course, Holden is no Hammett but he is a good writer and Dead Wrong is entertaining, it’s a solid confection of tension, surprise, romance, double cross and murder, all delivered with style. Dead Wrong has a compact narrative, plenty of authentic dialogue and a touch of humour. Holden is at his best describing verbal confrontation, intense scenes in confined spaces are his forte, particularly outstanding is the first meeting between a man who realises he’s in the frame for murder and the cold, hard hearted detective bent on putting him away – it’s clever and subversive. Dead Wrong opens with a package going missing, a murder soon follows, an innocent man is in the frame and a cop with a touch of the Javert about him is on his tail.
I came to this story off the back of reviewing two novels by the same author using a different pen name, Frederick Lorenz, (review published on Crime Time UK*). Those novels were unlike Dead Wrong in style, almost organically evolving stories arising from continual conflict between the central characters. Dead Wrong doesn’t have that spontaneity, this is a linear, structured murder mystery; the story of a man trying to clear his name, but it has tension and is more accessible and easily recognisable as a crime novel. The denouement is a poetic and rewarding finish to the story.
Newark – Joe Malone hasn’t seen Harry Loomis in eighteen months. Out of the blue Harry rings to say he’s coming round and he’s sent a parcel ahead that should with Joe soon. The parcel is important Joe should look after it carefully. The parcel never arrives, Joe figures he’ll tell Harry that when he sees him. Harry should show up around 10.30pm but he’s unreliable, he might duck into a bar on the way, could easily arrive with a girl in tow or need bailing out of jail. Harry is chief mate on a freighter transporting goods from Newark, NJ, to the West Coast returning laden with lumber from Washington state. Harry doesn’t show but his daughter Claire does, a pretty young woman looking embarrassed. She hasn’t seen her father since he walked out on her and her mom twenty years before. Harry is leaving the boats for good and he’s promised Claire a new start. They wait for Harry.
‘“You’re very nice,” she murmured.
I knew damned well I wasn’t but for a minute she made me think I could learn how.’

Eventually Joe and Claire head to the dock, Harry’s not there but the watchman never saw him leave. Joe’s takes Claire back to her hotel. When he gets back to his flat it’s been tossed and he gets sapped, when he comes round he doesn’t call the cops. Next morning he drives to Trenton for work, he rings Claire throughout the day but can’t reach her. Eventually lieutenant Flavin and Sgt Gilman of Homicide turn up at Joe’s place. Harry has been murdered and Joe is in the frame. Holden weaves a little misdirection in to spice the plot.
There are some common features with the Frederick Lorenz novels I mentioned: Holden is strong on the fight game, the sea, hard drinking, and intense interactions. Lieutenant Flavin is a genuinely nasty cop and Joe and Claire are well sketched and intriguing characters. This novel doesn’t set the world on fire but it’ll keep you turning the page.
Larry Holden, (Lorenz Heller, 1910-1965), also wrote as Laura Hale.

A Stark House Press Black Gat Book 22/6/20, 9781951473037.