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Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

GAVIN KNIGHT – HOOD RAT

In crime on January 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Gavin Knight is an investigative journalist who’s first book, Hood Rat, has been received with high praise and acclaimed not only in the UK, where it was first published, but around Europe and Asia too.

His narrative style to portray real and violent events has been a true success and Gavin has been called to write articles and speak about the riots that raged in England for 5 nights back in August 2011.

Hood Rat, your latest book, was published by Picador in July last year. It’s been widely acclaimed and being developed into a film. What got you interested into this world of inner city crime?
I had written about gang crime as a journalist for The Times and Prospect. I felt that the way these crimes were being reported was superficial; the more gang members and cops I met, the more I realised there were powerful human stories behind the headlines that weren’t being told. My wife, who’s also a journalist, told me to go out and find the kind of stories I wanted to write. So I did.
You poured over 100 hrs of pure interviews in your research. Tell us about them. How did they go? What happened, anything hairy?
 I transcribed 100 hours of digital tape myself and used that material to shape the narrative. It gave texture, context and dialogue from reported speech. Many of the subjects were brilliant story tellers. Also I can’t write shorthand and have a terrible memory so it’s the only way to do an interview !  Most of the subjects were inspiring, fascinating company especially Karyn McCluskey and John Carnochan the co-directors of the Violence Reduction Unit, DC Svensson, the gritty Manchester cop and Pilgrim, the armed robber from Hackney.
There was one hairy encounter in Possil Park in Glasgow when I was confronted by an 18 year old and felt like someone had left the door of the panther cage open.

What other tools did you employ to research Hood Rat?
 It was primarily a piece of investigative journalism so it took a long time to track down characters who had powerful human stories to tell. In fiction you can make these characters up but in non-fiction you have to go out and find them.  There are surprisingly few detectives who are like DC Svensson for example; he was unique. Cops who have read the book comment on how detectives like him, who are deeply immersed in the underworld, are not easy to come by.  Trust is very important. Criminals are also initially reluctant to talk to you.
What did you want to get from writing Hood Rat? Did you succeed? Any regrets?
 I enjoyed the challenge, the work and meeting the protagonists. If you feel strongly about the issues and angry that people are being abandoned in society then that puts fire in your belly. Many of the main characters were inspirational people.  It is a side of society that is often discussed but never really investigated in depth – so it was fascinating to see people in the front line. I was thrilled with the response, but the feedback from the protagonists was the one that really mattered. I learnt a lot too.
Your writing has been compared to Truman Capote‘s In Cold Blood. How do you feel about it?
 No one can touch In Cold Blood. It’s a true crime classic. I liked the way he used the techniques of fiction to tell a true crime story and that influenced the style of Hood Rat. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is another extraordinary true crime book with a novelistic style.
The book is written in a New Journalism style. Did you actually made a conscious choice (if so why?) or it just came to you?
 I’d written long articles on crime for publications like Prospect and the Times, but I was wary of writing a book full of social context, statistics and analysis. That would be earnest and worthy. So I set out to use the techniques of fiction to make it more readable, give it a gripping narrative.
Hood Rat will be published in Germany sometime this month. How has it been received so far? Do they see similarities between their inner city crime and the British one? Why the interest?
 The German publisher liked the original proposal. She was a Wire fan.  They already publish crime fiction authors like James Ellroy, James Frey and Dennis Lehane; they said that even though Hood Rat was non-fiction its literary style made it fit well with those writers. It was very flattering for a first book to be mentioned alongside those writers. We had great fun with the German translator discussing words like “ballies” and “flossing”.  It’s going to be published in Germany first, then Spain and Italy.  There was huge international interest in the riots and I ended up being called up by Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian and French press. All the foreign press had a touristy preconception of Britain and were shocked to find out about real life in our inner cities. A piece I wrote for El Pais in Spain was retweeted 2,000 times. All large post-industrial nations are dealing with a marginalised group in society who feel they have been abandoned. They have drugs, violent fathers and knife crime as well.

You were invited to speak about the August riots in 2011. What’s your take on it and the way the police and the government reacted to and dealt with them?
 The conspiracy theory that it was a truce of organised gangs was exaggerated by the Tories. Michael Gove and others were rolling it out at the time, and I wrote a piece in the Guardian refuting it. Gangs and young people have become the new bogeymen under the bed for large factions on the right. The Home Office statistics released months later proved that the riots were far less to do with gang violence than originally stated. Many of the subjects I interviewed for the book were not surprised by the riots; they’d already seen the levels of violence simmering. What is interesting now is that the Government have conveniently forgotten about it. The latest ONS statistics show knife crime has risen by 8% in the last year. A Centre for Social Justice report stated that children are now “dumped” in custody. We also had the revelation that Thatcher’s government had considered “managed decline” as a policy for the inner cities following the Toxteth Riots.
You spent a long time following police officers in drug raids, arrests, etc. How do you feel about that? What’s your perception of police officers now compared to before spending time with them? What did you get out of the whole experience?
 I have a high opinion of police officers. Almost all of the ones I was out with were doing a difficult job on fairly low wages and not getting much credit for it.  Many were dedicated and passionate. Some had witnessed appalling things and one or two were even haunted by them.  There are a lot of endemic problems in society and we cannot police our way out of them. The level of violence in deprived areas is down to many different factors: deprivation, alcohol and drug abuse, parental abuse, intergenerational disadvantage, educational failure, malevolent influences on the young.  The police are too often expected to deal with all of it.
What are you working on at the moment?
 Another book in a similar territory involving investigative research.
When can our readers find out more about you and your work?
The paperback is out on February 16th !
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NOTIFICATION

In crime on January 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Due to personal circumstances, the Tuesday Author Interview will be delayed for a few weeks.

Stay posted for further notice.

Thanks.

ANDREW KINCAID – STRANGE WORLD

In crime on January 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Buddhist, horror and fantasy writer, Andrew Kincaid is this week’s interviewee. He has a passion for the odd, scary, Stephen King and his awesome blog, Lucid Dreams and Saturn Skies the life (and writing) of Andrew Kincaid http://authorandrewkincaid.com/tag/blog/. Here’s Andrew to introduce himself and tell us more about his posts on serial killers.
How about we start off with you telling the readers a bit about
yourself?
Sure! My name is Andrew Kincaid, and I am a horror and fantasy author. I’m also currently an unemployed, poor college kid in his senior year pursuing a double major in Biology and Business. I write about weird stuff, philosophy, spirituality, and I also review movies and books on my blog. I’m pretty much a huge nerd who has always been fascinated with the strange.
Where does your interest in horror come from?
Being a scaredy cat. Seriously…I was something of a wuss when I was little. But isn’t it odd how the things that we fear the most also fascinate us? I didn’t start reading/watching horror until later in high school – you  might say my first love was fantasy. Although the love of the horrific was always there – I was fascinated by the paranormal as a kid, and I liked books about mummies and other such weird stuff. I was sick a lot, so I had plenty of time to absorb all of it. Plus, my dad was (and still is) big into horror/sci fi/ fantasy. I think I got a lot of it from him.
One of your most recent posts on your excellent blog, Lucid Dreams and Saturn Skies the life (and writing) of Andrew Kincaid http://authorandrewkincaid.com/tag/blog/ was about Elizabeth Bathory who you identify as the Queen of Serial Killers. First of all, I’d like to ask you why write a post about it, what is it that really caught your attention?
Three things caught my attention about this case.  The first being the fact that the perpetrator was a woman.  Here in the US, we don’t seem to think that females are capable of the kind of brutality a male is.  And often that’s true…but not as often as we think.  The second being the sheer scale of the crime.  Most sources that I saw agreed that she was responsible for the deaths of up to 650 people, although she was only charged with the deaths of about 80 or so.  That is killing on a mind boggling scale – the only time one person might be responsible for that many deaths would be if they were a soldier during a time of war, and even then that is highly unlikely.  The third thing that caught my attention was the brutality of the crime.  She has to be among the most sadistic killers I’ve ever read about, second possibly to the monster, Albert Fish.
As for why I did a post about her, well, I’d meant to for awhile I just hadn’t gotten to it.  I suppose that doesn’t answer why though.  I wrote about her because she is morbidly fascinating.  She represents all that is awful about people, and she represents what happens when one person is above the law.

My second question is where does your interest in serial killers come from?
I’m often asked questions like this.  Why do you write horror? Why do you write about terrible things like killers and the paranormal, etc? I’m especially asked these questions because in reality I’m the most mild person you could ever meet. Also, because I’m Buddhist and we aren’t exactly known for our predilection toward morbid and violent things. But then that isn’t entirely true, because you see the darkness is a part of all of us. The First Noble Truth  is that “all life is suffering.” The darkness in our world, I believe, begins and ends in suffering one way or another. We cannot turn our eyes from the darkness – that is denial, and that is not the way to peace. We must embrace the darkness in ourselves and in the world around us, and understand it on a deep level if we are to have any hope of bringing peace.
With that in mind, I’m thinking my interest in serial killers comes from the fact that they are the darkest reaches of the human psyche incarnate. They are a human, stripped of humanity. They are the dark monsters that, if circumstances
had been a bit different, any one of us could have become.

You have two books out. Tell us about them. First off, On Dark Paths. Where does it come from? What made you decide to write a collection of short stories “about this unholy interaction of the mundane and the world beyond”?

The book came from a lot of failure and frustration and not a small bit of desperation. You see, I’ve been a frustrated would be fantasy novelist for years now. Frustrated in that the novels just never seemed to work out – I could never finish one. So I decided to try something different – short stories. I’d read a story in the 2nd person perspective for a literature class I had to take, and I wondered how a horror story would work in that format. I wrote a bunch of those, I think about six of which actually made it into the book. I found I liked writing short horror – it was fun and refreshing.

 As for the “interaction of the mundane and the world beyond” business, I find that I like stories where there is a bit of magic in the modern world, where just average folks come across things they can’t comprehend and are forced to deal with them. The theme was also heavily influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote cosmic horror where his hapless characters came across evidence of a vast world beyond our own, ruled by giant inhuman monsters, and subsequently lost their minds. It’s about playing with people’s heads, really. And it is pretty fun to do!
It sounds very much like an intro to a Twilight episode. Are you a big fan of the show?
I don’t know if I’d say I was a big fan of the show, but I do really enjoy it. They had some really interesting stories that really make you think. I’m a big fan of an author who seemed to be heavily influenced by the show though – Stephen King. My works, on some level at least, imitate his just as he was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft.

Your second book is Strange World, ….about monsters (..er) in wait?!
The second book is basically an off shoot of the first. It plays with the same kinds of themes, those of a world beyond sight that interacts with our own, although it’s grittier and more gory. You have to understand too that the world as I conceived of it for these books was originally designed with a kind of dark urban fantasy in mind, where people could use magic to fend off these critters. I might eventually explore that aspect of things, but not for a good while I think. I’ll save the sword and sorcery for my fantasy work. Come to think of it though, the magic aspect is explored a bit in the only zombie story in the piece, “Zombies, Magic, and High Explosives.”

It seems the site is very important to you with nicely thought out and well-written posts. You even have a post schedule! Monday, review day. ‘Whatever’ Wednesday. Freaky Fridays. Why is your blog so important to you?  
My blog is a showcase of my writing. It is part of how I market my name, and naturally I don’t want a wreck  associated with my name. Plus, I just enjoy doing it. And if you’re doing something, it’s worth doing right.
Where can our readers find more about you and your books?
They can start at my blog http://authorandrewkincaid.com/ and they can check me out on Facebook and Twitter

TRUE CRIME READERS WANTED

In crime on January 10, 2012 at 7:38 am

Are you a true crime reader? Would you like to appear on LaeLand to talk about your interest?

What makes you go straight to the true crime section when you enter a bookstore? What prompts you to pick up a true crime book?

If you would like to give an answer to these questions and add some of your own, please go  to one of the links on the blog or leave us a comment below.

Here’s  Sue to tell us about herself and her passion for true crime stories.

I would say I am an exclusive true crime reader. Very little else interests me.

I am a quiet, 51 year old woman who has been reading true crime since I was probably 12 yrs old.

The book I remember reading in its entirety first was Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliousi and I was absolutely fascinated.

I love Ann Rule and have read all her books including her latest In the Still of the Night.

A great author will cover the principle characters, the environment, a little history of the victims/killers, offer a little psychological detail, trial and outcome.

When I read Ann Rule I get transported to the city where the story takes place.

I have a distinct idea of who the victim is as well as the killer but she still manages to throw in a few surprises.

Nothing better than a great book!!!

The author interview will be back next week. Don’t miss it!

LAURENCE O’BRYAN – THE ISTANBUL PUZZLE

In crime on January 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

Laurence O’Bryan is a first time novelist.

His book, The Istanbul Puzzle, will come out on January 19, 2012.

Snapped up by Harper Collins, the story is one of mystery and intrigue with two more follows-up already scheduled in the next couple of years.

Here’s Laurence to tell us more about the moment he had been waiting for a long while and his evening in the House of Commons.

First off, when did you get your MS accepted?

My MS was accepted in late February 2010.

What were your writing credits prior to that?

This is my first published novel!

I had a short story published in a school newspaper when I was ten. Does that count?

What happened after your MS was accepted. Did you get carried away by the swirling of work I imagine happens when something like this finally turns into reality?
I started laughing a lot and wanted to create lots of visuals in connection with the novel.
I experienced a rush of creative energy I have never experienced before or since.
Was this before or after you had built a platform – your Twitter following is over 10k…
It was well after I had started on Twitter. I had about 3,000 followers then. I have been using Twitter for well over two years.

How did you get to build what is a pretty impressive platform for a writer who hasn’t yet been published?

I believe in simple regular things on Twitter – follow people with similar interests, follow back people with similar interests, keep a steady flow of Tweets in the area of your interest.

I Tweet ten times a day, or more.

Do you think it was the platform you built prior to getting published that eventually impressed your agent enough to give you a chance?

Being able to market yourself is a definite plus. If you have an MS that is well edited and has an interesting theme, then Twitter and a blog give the publishing company confidence that you can help with the marketing.

You spent an evening in the House of Commons. How did you get there?

I spent an evening there as a guest of an MP who was a Chelsea supporter. I was working for one of Chelsea’s sponsors in marketing and he invited a lot of us to come in and have dinner and drinks. I still have the free pen he gave us all to mark the occasion. A scene from The Istanbul Puzzle is set in the House of Commons.

You have a kind of tourist guide at the end of the book, The Istanbul Puzzle. What made you think of such an addition?
The publishing company Harper Collins came up with it.
They have done it for a few of their other authors.
It adds value and I can see how people would like it.
Would you like to tell us what the book is about?
The Istanbul Puzzle is a thriller/mystery novel, which will be published January 19, 2012. It’s the first in a series of novels featuring Sean Chancellor and Isabel Sharp, and will be published by Harper Collins.
The Istanbul Puzzle starts when Sean Chancellor discovers a friend and colleague has been beheaded in Istanbul.

How did you come up with the idea?
I was walking around Istanbul and the beauty and mystery of the city inspired me.

Istanbul, you certainly seem to have fallen in love with the city. Was that before or after you decided to make it the setting of your novel?
I went to Istanbul many times before I thought of setting a novel there. My wife is from Istanbul and we have been going every year for more than ten years.
What are you currently working on?
The Jerusalem Puzzle! It’s a follow up set in ……well you know where! And I will be there in February soaking it all up!

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
Writing novels is a hard road. I spent twelve years writing various novels and struggling with difficult jobs and a young family. But the sense of accomplishment in getting published is wonderful. Truly wonderful!
It hasn’t made me rich, by any measure, but the feeling is among the best I’ve ever had.
Come and visit me on www.lpobryan.wordpress.com to find out more about my advice for aspiring writers and my personal journey, and of course about the secrets of The Istanbul Puzzle!
All the best, Laurence!
Next week our interviewee will be a surprise. Don’t miss it!

REMOVAL – A FILM

In crime on January 1, 2012 at 7:44 am

Removal is, on the surface, the story of a guy working for a cleaning company who comes across a difficult customer.

However, from the start we know there’s a killing spree and Cole is called in to ‘help’ out with the cleaning up.

Towards the end, we also become aware Cole has more than the few mental problems we were originally told about.

And the story kinds of folds and unfolds there for me.

It still keeps me watching, but the ending is a total spoiler.

Still a good entertaining pyschological thriller until it turns into what it was originally announced for, a Gothic horror and a predictable serial killer spook.

Directed by Nick Simon, written by Oz Perkins & Daniel Meersand with Billy Burke, Mark Kelly and Oz Perkins