A couple of years ago I saw a tweet from an author I followed about a literary festival devoted solely to the wonder that is crime fiction. Now I had never even considered attending anything of the like in the past, it really wasn’t in my make up to go and plonk myself in a group of strangers and I honestly had no idea what such a festival may be about. But it sounded intriguing, so intriguing that it seemed worth sacrificing a couple of days of my annual leave to find out what was what. Bear in mind this was before I had started blogging, I had little concept of the world of literature outside of the books themselves and this was going to be way outside of my comfort zone, especially as I had only been reading again in earnest for a couple of years.Now, that festival was, of course, CrimeFest, and in a couple of weeks I shall be attending my third festival on the bounce. This one also happens to be CrimeFest’s tenth anniversary and attendees include some old favourites alongside some cracking new talent. The programme looks amazing and if you want to see just how amazing, you can find all the information you need to know right here.
To celebrate this auspicious occasion, CrimeFest have teamed up with No Exit Press and some of the greatest crime writers of our time to bring us a collection of crime themed short stories, Ten Year Stretch. Now the lovely folk at No Exit were kind enough to send me a copy of the book and so I have made it my mission to read through the stories, one a day, to get me in the mood for the main event. Edited by Martin Edwards and with a foreword by Peter James, this is shaping up to be a cracking collection that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.
Me being me, I got a little impatient and read two stories last night so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you today. Bearing in mind these are short stories, my intro is undoubtedly longer than my reviews can be 😉 but before we take a look at the first two stories in the collection, here is what the main book is all about.
About the Book
Twenty superb new crime stories have been commissioned specially to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Crimefest, described by The Guardian as ‘one of the fifty best festivals in the world’.
A star-studded international group of authors has come together in crime writing harmony to provide a killer cocktail for noir fans; salutary tales of gangster etiquette and pitfalls, clever takes on the locked-room genre, chilling wrong-footers from the deceptively peaceful suburbs, intriguing accounts of tables being turned on hapless private eyes, delicious slices of jet black nordic noir, culminating in a stunning example of bleak amorality from crime writing doyenne Maj Sjowall.
The foreword is by international bestselling thriller writer Peter James. The editors are Martin Edwards, responsible for many award-winning anthologies, and Adrian Muller, CrimeFest co-founder.
All Royalties are donated to the RNIB Talking Books Library.
The contributors to Ten Year Stretch are: Bill Beverly, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Guttridge, Sophie Hannah, John Harvey, Mick Herron, Donna Moore, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin, James Sallis, Zoe Sharp, Yrsa Siguroardottir, Maj Sjowall, Michael Stanley and Andrew Taylor.
The Hired Man – Bill Beverly
Bill Beverly was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He studied literature and writing at Oberlin College, including time in London studying theatre and the Industrial Revolution. He then studied fiction and pursued a Ph.D. in American literature at the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He now teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington D.C. and lives with his wife, the poet and writer Deborah Ager, and their daughter Olive, in Hyattsville, Maryland. He collects beer cans. Dodgers is his debut novel.
The Hired Man is a brilliant little story centered on the days of unnamed Busboy come ‘Ice-Cream’ server in the employ of some serious players in the underworld. An unfortunate event on one of his days bas on table service leaves the poor chap in a very sticky position and it remains to be seen if his talent for two scoops will be enough to save his skin.
Funny and acutely observed, in the rich vein of a proper American gangster style drama such as Goodfellas or The Soprano’s I loved the blend of humour, tension and underlying threat, as well as the poor guys ill fated attempts to woo the girl. A brilliant way to open up the book.
The Last Locked Room – Simon Brett
Simon Brett worked as a producer in radio and television before taking up writing full time. As well as the much-loved Fethering series, the Mrs Pargeter novels and the Charles Paris detective series, he has written a number of radio and television scripts. Married with three children, he lives in an Agatha Christie-style village on the South Downs.
Author Links: Website
Ahhh. I loved this one. The ultimate locked room mystery. An old man, our protagonist, Barnaby Smithson’s, Grandfather, former teacher turned novelist Richard Treeting, was found shot to death in a locked room with no sight of the murder weapon anywhere and no sign of a disturbance. But just how can a man be shot by a third party, in a room with the door locked from the inside and no other means of escape?
Barnaby had always know he wanted to be a police officer, and having climbed to the very top of his career in his retirement he decides to investigate that one great unsolved mystery of his childhood. Brilliantly crafted, with the answer hidden in plain sight, this felt very much of the era and yet also very current. A fantastic read.
I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on the rest of the stories over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you’d like to pick up a copy and read for yourself you can find it at the following retailers:
It’s not too late to make plans for CrimeFest either. Still two weeks to go. It really is a brilliant festival, perfect for fans of the genre, readers, writers (and aspiring) alike.
Might see you there …