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

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.


The Eyes of Texas ed. Michael Bracken
Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods.
Bracken’s introduction to this intriguing and entertaining collection sets out to dispel any notions readers may have of the Lone Star State being just one kind of place, (your movie/tv inspired notions). Texas isn’t all devious oil barons in shiny glass castles or Rangers and gun toting cowboys on the wide open plains still living the life they did a hundred and fifty years before. Bracken is keen to point out the diversity of people and cultures, sexuality and ethnicity, in modern Texas. That diversity is represented in these stories, the locations are the hugely different too – from the coast to the pan handle, via all manner of urban and rural setting, (plains, woods, desert et al). Without wishing to massage the ego of Texans, (everything is bigger there after all), it’s true this collection is an illustration of the vastness of the state.
So I’m sold on Bracken’s thesis. There are seventeen stories here and they vary dramatically in theme, style and character. This is a well curated anthology that a kind of unity, the order spices up the reading experience, the first story, Chasing the Straight, sets the mood, indicating these stories are going to be original and subversive of tropes and familiar themes. The last story, The Patience of Kane is a perfect ending, it’s got a nice positive but reflective feel to it. These are mostly modern tales that have that local angle or a twist that makes them intriguing. There’s plenty of humour, a few surprises, and a couple of tales with real depth. If they are hardboiled it’s with an edge, this isn’t about mean streets but there are plenty of mean people. There’s also detectives with no experience, others with an axe to grind, the clever mingle with the lucky.
Chasing the Straight – Trey R Barker. It’s 2.30 am when Derrick Kruse chases a burglar into the path of a pizza delivery van. To the driver’s relief the man isn’t dead. Detectives Benzle and Maas organise an ID parade for Derrick, only he isn’t happy with the line-up, he’s wants the men in height order, why? The man was trying to break into Billie Vogan’s house for her abusive husband, scare her some more. Derrick talks to Billie, there’s nothing he hates more than domestic abuse, this is a case he intends to make his own. A tale about listening, rectifying a wrong and seeing people for who they are not what they are.
The Haunted Railcar – William Dylan Powell. Billy is enjoying la dolce vita on a boat in Corpus Christi harbour when trouble arrives in the form of Dell McClendon, dressed as a clown, coming up the gang plank. Billy’s capuchin monkey is a peace loving creature, good with people, bad with clowns. The creature lays into Dell. With Billy apologising Dell explains his amusement park is losing revenue, someone is messing with the place, it’s like they got a ghost sabotaging things and ‘Americans won’t be pushed around by no ghosts.’ Plenty of humour and subversion of tropes here.
The Yellow Rose of Texas – Josh Pachter. In the words of the song: ‘Her eyes are bright as diamonds, They sparkle like the dew’. Only not now, the sparkle’s all gone, the young woman lying face down in the mud by the Brazos river, with a single yellow rose placed on her back, has been strangled. Helmut Erhard found the body, the police chief says it’s Elsie Jordan, new school teacher, a young woman so there are rumours, gossip. Erhard mostly does divorce work so he’s totally unqualified for a murder investigation but he feels obligated having found her. Does Helmut’s investigation reveal his inexperience or innate genius? Can blundering around lead to finding a killer?
Harvey and the Redhead – Debra H Goldstein. The redhead enters the bar and makes straight for Harvey Houston. Olive Twist, yeah, of Twist Realty and Development, wants Harvey to retrieve a painting stolen from her family years before. The theft has come to light again following the devastating storm that just hit. The painting has no worth, just sentimental value, her uncle painted it. Only the family mustn’t appear to be connected to its retrieval. There’s more here than meets the eye as someone is about to underestimate Harvey.
Purple and Blue – Stephen D Rogers. A Boston detective isn’t flavour of the month with his lieutenant or the rest of the homicide squad: ‘Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but how I ended up in Austin? I lost a bet.’ A tale with a twist.
Blackbirds – Graham Powell. Andy Wilkins arrives in Jefferson looking for Jack lynch. The chief doesn’t mind him talking to the locals if he’s polite: ‘Everyone’s sure nice, but you ask questions and suddenly it’s New York City – nobody knows nothin’.’
Patience of Kane – Bev Vincent. A private eye aims to meet his new client at a cafe, she tells him to look for the heavily pregnant woman: ‘The establishment was surprising low on gravid females when I arrived.’ The client wants to know how and why her husband died in a car crash, and, by the way, where was he going when it happened. The ethics of being a detective.
Bearing in mind the stories have modern sensibilities they have the feel of a collection from the heyday of the magazines. The writers are former/current law enforcement, a judge and a lawyer, a psychologist, private eyes and scribes both local and adopted. All the stories are enjoyable, not too heavy, and they feel like they belong together.
Down & Out Books, paperback, ISBN 9781643960401, 2019.


Tokyo Traffic by Michael Pronko
A Detective Hiroshi Mystery
Tokyo Traffic is an entertaining and involving crime read. Set in modern day Japan it is rich in local colour and culture, an intriguing element of the story for Western readers. The unfolding investigation into the dark underbelly of Tokyo life, sex trafficking and the pornographic film industry, is fascinating, if disturbing. There’s a degree of subtlety in this novel, the story is not only grittily real but also thought provoking and emotionally alive. It easy to feel for the plight of the central characters, particularly Sukanya, a child trafficked from Thailand to Tokyo’s sex industry. However, some of the villains are rounded too and more interesting for it. The first novel in The Hiroshi series, The Last Train published in 2017, promised much. Tokyo Traffic, the third in the series is a mature thriller, a nice melding of suspense elements, an engaging detective team and a mystery with a few twists.
Sukanya stumbles around the film set, drugs still in her system, she throws up. The warehouse has been turned upsidedown, there’s glass on the floor and blood – blood everywhere. Celeste, her only friend, they clung together on the boat from Thailand, is dead. Ratana, the other girl is gone, a man took her away before it happened, they could return at any moment. Sukanya needs to get out of the warehouse now. She approached the two dead men, takes money from their wallets, grabs an iPad and scarpers into the night time city. Sukanya doesn’t knows the streets or the people, she has no passport and barely has any clothes on her back. The film studio owner, Shibaura, waits outside the crime scene for Kenta – Kenta saved the porn film peddler from financial ruin, now he will fix this. They will have to involve the police but first Kento has to track his missing iPad, Kirino will take care to everything else.
Finally the police are alerted to the crime scene. Sakagushi, a former Sumo wrestler, head of Homicide, allocates the case to Detective Hiroshi Shizumi. There are three dead people, a girl probably underage probably foreign, the film director, (a young man from a wealthy family), and a senior official at the ministry of finance. As the team start looking for witnesses and a motive they have to figure out which one was the target.
Sukanya has money but she doesn’t realise how dangerous the iPad she took is. She can’t book into a hotel, she can’t turn to the police, and the criminals are not the only predators out there for a child alone in the city. She badly needs a friend but who can she trust?
This is the most accomplished of the Hiroshi Mysteries. There’s a real sense of peril in the hunt for Sukanya, who proves to be a very resourceful child. There’s a serious theme underlying the story of a girl lured from her home to Bangkok on the promise of a job only to be abused, beaten, raped and transported to Japan to ‘work’ in the sex film industry. That said, there are moments of humour and real triumph as she manages to avoid falling into the hands of her would be killers.
Michael Pronko is a professor of American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. He has written three non-fiction works on Tokyo life. The other novels in the Hiroshi series are The Last Train (2017) and The Moving Blade (2018).
Raked Gravel Press, Paperback, 20th June, ISBN 9781942410195, also available as an eBook.