books

We Begin at the End – Chris Whitaker – winner of Theakstone Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year

I read this incredible book what feels like a million years ago in June 2020 and sent my copy to my Grandad, a big thriller fan, to enjoy in lockdown, you can read my thoughts on this book from way back then here.

It’s a powerful story of crime, punishment, love and redemption set in coastal California – and one that Whitaker credits as saving his life after being brutally mugged and stabbed as a teenager (he tells the story here).

 Chris Whitaker said: ‘I began writing this book as a form of therapy after being mugged and stabbed. Without doubt this story saved my life, so to win this award feels like the most wonderful, dreamlike end to a journey that has been twenty years in the making. I have read the shortlisted books, so know with some certainty that I’m not a worthy winner, but I am a grateful one, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling now.”

Whitaker has clinched the title on his very first nomination after being chosen by a public vote, the prize Academy and a panel of expert judges, receiving £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

An unprecedented decision has been taken to recognise Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway’s exceptional political thriller The Last Crossingas Highly Commended. McGilloway will also receive a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier for his novel which explores The Troubles from the perspective of former operatives who like to think they have moved on.

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said“The contest for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award has been fiercely fought – a reflection of the outstanding quality of all the longlisted and shortlisted crime fiction published within the last year. I offer Chris Whitaker my hearty congratulations for clinching the title on his first ever nomination for his powerful and insightful We Begin at the End.”

Gary Jones, Express Editor-in-Chief, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be associated with the world’s most famous celebration of crime writing and we’re thrilled the Theakston Old Peculier Festival is back this year in the flesh and better than ever. Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors for crime book of the year and especially to winner Chris Whitaker.”

Special presentations were also made to Ian Rankin OBE and Mark Billingham, the winners of the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award for 2021 and 2020, respectively.

Simon Theakston added: “It was an absolute pleasure to award crime fiction legends Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham with the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award 2021 and 2020 respectively. They are two titans of crime fiction and richly deserving of this latest recognition of their mastery of the genre.”

Ian Rankin OBE, recipient of Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award 2021, said: “It’s such a privilege and an honour to receive this award, and especially to be in Harrogate to receive it in person. I’ve been a published writer for over thirty years but this past year has been uniquely challenging – for writers, readers and booksellers. It’s heartening to see the Theakston Festival rise like a phoenix. Books continue to provide us with that wonderful mix of food for thought and escapism. I couldn’t be prouder to be a crime writer.”

Mark Billingham, recipient of Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award 2020, said: “It goes without saying that – presuming it’s not some sort of administrative error – this is an enormous honour. I’m as gobsmacked as I am grateful to be joining a list containing the likes of Ruth Rendell, PD James and Lee Child and while there are many individuals to whom I’m hugely indebted, first and foremost I want to say ‘thank you’ to the readers. Without them, there’s no point to any of it.”

This year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival continues until Sunday at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate. Special Guests this year include Mark Billingham, Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths, Mick Herron, Clare Mackintosh, Val Mcdermid and Richard Osman, curated by Festival Programming Chair Ian Rankin OBE.

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021 by UK and Irish authors. The longlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith.

**this post was created using material provided by a press release and is not necessarily representative of the opinions of ramblingmads.com**

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Burning Ambition & Takeaway Terror – B.L Faulkner*

Burning Ambition cover.jpg

Cases 7 & 8 from the DCS Palmer and the Serial Murder Squad series. In Burning ambition an organised crime gang leader wants one last big heist as a signature to his career. He chooses the Royal Mint in Wales. But other criminals have learnt of this planned heist and want ‘in’. The answer is ‘no’ but the arguments develope into murders which brings in Palmer and his team. Will they be in time to stop the job and prevent any more murders?

In Takeaway Terror two organised crime families fight over the lucrative London West End drugs trade. Are the fast food delivery lads on their mopeds delivering more than takeaways? Why have three been killed by a hit and run driver? Old school gangsters go to war with an incoming foreign drugs lord family. Palmer needs to get inside, but once inside will he get out? alive?

B Faulkner Author picture .jpg

Barry Faulkner was born into a family of petty criminals in Herne Hill, South London. His father, uncles and older siblings ran with the Richardson Crime family from time to time. At this point we must point out that he did not follow in that family tradition although the characters he met and their escapades he witnessed have added a certain authenticity to his books. He attended the first ever comprehensive school in the UK, William Penn in Peckham and East Dulwich, where he attained no academic qualifications other than GCE ‘O’ level in Art and English and a Prefect’s badge (though some say he stole all three!)
His mother was a fashion model and had great theatrical aspirations for young Faulkner and pushed him into auditioning for the Morley Academy of Dramatic Art at the Elephant and Castle, where he was accepted but only lasted three months before being asked to leave as no visible talent had surfaced. Mind you, during his time at the Academy he was called to audition for the National Youth Theatre by Trevor Nunn – fifty years later, he’s still waiting for the call back!
His early writing career was as a copywriter with the advertising agency Erwin Wasey Ruthrauff & Ryan in Paddington, during which time he got lucky with some light entertainment scripts sent to the BBC and Independent Television and became a script editor and writer on a freelance basis, working on most of the LE shows of the 1980-90s. During that period, while living out of a suitcase in UK hotels for a lot of the time, he filled many notebooks with DCS Palmer case plots; and in 2015 he finally found time to start putting them in order and into book form. Six are finished and published so far, with more to come. He hopes you enjoy reading them as much as he enjoyed writing them. If you do read one please leave a review as your comments are very much appreciated.
You can find out more about Barry Faulkner and the real UK major heists and robberies, including the Brinks Mat robbery and the Hatton Garden Heist; plus the gangs and criminals that carried them out, including the Krays and the Richardsons, on his crime blog at http://www.geezers2016.wordpress.com. Faulkner also regularly gives illustrated talks on that era to WI and other social clubs. barryfaulkner1@btopenworld.com for details.

 

My thoughts:

They don’t make criminals like they used to. The ‘faces’ in these stories hearken back to a time of gangsters and heists that you just don’t really get anymore, which makes sense when you learn about the author’s background. He knew some of the most infamous criminals in London history.

I really enjoyed these two novella length stories – DCS Palmer and his team of two (plus a few others drafted in) know the score and combining Palmer’s old school boots on the street policing with Gheeta Singh’s IT wizardry means taking down the bad guys has never looked so easy.

With a direct no-nonsense tone to match Palmer’s character, these stories crackle along, towing you in their wake. You know they’re going to get the bad guys, but how many bodies can they rack up before the cuffs are on?

Definitely for fans of British crime writing and especially for those of you who never miss a Martina Cole as these fit alongside, but from the copper’s perspective, not the con’s.

Burning Ambition BT Poster .jpg

 

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour, however all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Driven – Dane Cobain

This is the first book about private detective James Leipfold and his tech savvy assistant Maile O’Hara.

A young woman is killed by a car, a car that doesn’t appear to have had a driver. So who killed her?

Leipfold is a down at heel gumshoe, picking up this case on a whim, no client needed. Along the way he recruits an “intern” to complement his old school methods with newer ones. But is he going to solve the case or end up a casualty of it?

I wasn’t sure about this at first, while the initial set up was intriguing, it wasn’t until the plot picked up pace and the case began to unravel that I really got into it.

The characters are interesting – I am looking forward to book 2 and hopefully more back story about the team that now comprises Leipfold Detectives, especially computer genius but enigma Maile.

I love the little details like the way Maile and Leipfold complete crosswords without speaking, and Leipfold’s relationship with police detective Jack Cholmondley (pronounced Chumley fyi).

The London setting is of course familiar to me – from the run down cafe, endless miles of Underground and leafy suburbs around its edges.

The author, Dane Cobain, is something of a literary polymath, having written novels, poetry, non-fiction and edited anthologies, although this seems to be his first detective novel.

Driven is available now.

books, reviews

The Hog’s Back Mystery – Freeman Wills Croft

The British Library has released a collection of crime novels from the Golden Age, when writers like Agatha Christie were at their peak. Freeman Wills Croft, who knew Christie, wrote more than 30 novels during this time.

Dr James Earle disappears from his house one Sunday, Inspector French is called in to locate him. Soon other people are disappearing and French is embroiled in a web of romantic entanglements and intrigue.

I really enjoyed this book, I’m a big fan of Christie and other writers of the period, like Raymond Chandler, so I was really pleased when a kind friend sent me this book.

Sometimes I can guess whodunnit, but I prefer it, when like this one, I can’t guess at all how it will unravel.

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