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CRA Case files
Issue 24
CRA
Dear <<First Name>>,

Kicking off the year’s first Case Files is a colourful selection of crime stories. We have England covered by ingenious plots in settings such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. Look further afield and you’ll find post-war Berlin alongside present day Afghanistan. Throw in a drama set in Ohio, America, and that’s the next few weeks’ reading taken care of.

Enjoy!


Chris Simms, Editor.

All eight books in Chris’ highly acclaimed DI Spicer series are now available to download on Amazon. Discover more about each title on his website - www.chrissimms.info 

The Daily Grind
Writer: Chris Simms

(Due to a last-minute cancellation, I’ve had to stand in for this feature. It’s quite strange to interview yourself.) 

Workspace:   
This is inside my writing shed. It’s seven steps from the back door of my house and – after commuting on the Northern line for several years – I always pause before opening the door and remember the misery of that journey.  

Take a closer look: 
The pot is full of pencil shavings. I write with a Blackwing – a superbly smooth pencil that an American writer tipped me off about. The shavings from each novel are all collected and, eventually, are sealed in a test tube. After a dozen novels, I have quite an impressive rack! 

How long do you write for each day?
Until hunger forces me out of my shed and into the house. I start as early as possible – which, having four school-age kids, is rarely before 8:30 am. I stop mid-morning to grab a snack and then plough on until stomach pangs force me to stop. Usually, about 1:30 pm. 



How many words do you aim to get down?
I’m a splurger – filling page after page with my spidery scrawl. That can be over 5,000 words if things are flowing. I’m happy with 2,500 to 3,000 though.

Longhand or straight-to-screen?
Longhand, in pencil, on a lined A4 pad. And I only fill the left-hand page. This leaves the opposite one free for later additions, amends and notes to myself. I find typing is too much of a temptation to produce perfectly formed sentences: it snarls up getting the story down. 

Do you have a time when you’re most productive?
Mornings, as you’ll have gathered. After lunch, the urge vanishes. I’ll get a bit of plotting done, or some research, or I’ll start reviewing what I wrote in the morning. But new material rarely appears after I’ve eaten. 

An internet connection – good or bad when you’re writing?
My glorified shed would make a prison cell seem luxurious. No internet connection, though I do have a PC that is only loaded with Word. No docking station, no radio and no landline. I keep a mobile with me in case school needs to get in touch, but that rarely happens. So really, it’s just me and the scratch-scratch of pencil on paper. Eventually, that’s offset by the sound of my stomach rumbling.

Death Games is by Chris Simms and is available on Amazon.
Forgotten Classic

Luke McCallin talks about Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-1995, by Joe Sacco – a book he thinks everyone should read.

Having worked myself in Goražde – one of the five safe areas created by the UN during the Bosnian wars, and the only one of the four that survived – I know of few more interesting or addictive places. This graphic novel captures the experience of that city under siege by Bosnian Serb forces brilliantly, as well as the wider war in all its internecine fury and tragedy. Mr. Sacco's artwork and text are insightful, trenchant and acerbic (no pun intended...!). Bosnians' sense of humour shines through, such that you find yourself giggling at what seems like the most inopportune moments. But then, isn't that also part of war, and isn't that also part of literature's role to find those moments in the human experience...?

Luke McCallin’s latest novel, The Ashes of Berlin, is out now.

Which CWA member?

Which contributor, while working as a TV reporter, ‘captured’ on film a ghost that haunted a Lincoln Bomber at RAF Cosford?

Which contributor is married to writer Zillah Bethell, whose children’s debut was one of the Telegraph’s Best Children’s Books of 2016?

Which contributor (who has also written a book on cricket), once dropped Mike Gatting at Lord’s?

Which contributor, while at a meeting of twelve professional psychologists, noted that eight of them - including herself - were left-handed. Sinister!

Which contributor once saved a dachshund from a pair of irritated emus at an alligator farm in Florida?

Which contributor took up boxing with a group of former soldiers in order to better research a plot?

Which contributor went to school in Botswana? And Zimbabwe. And then France. And also the United States and Turkey.

Which contributor cites Shakespeare as her ‘favourite crime writer’ and says her work is influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle?

Which contributor was once ranked 24th in the world for women’s snooker, before being banned for life for bringing the game into disrepute?

Which contributor, while creeping around the chicken sheds of a battery farm in order to research a novel, was cornered by the farmer and his very aggressive Alsatian dog?

The Low Down
The Mean Bone In Her Body

Writer:
Laura Ellen Scott
Area: Northern Virginia, USA
Day job: English Professor, but not the sad kind 
 
The Mean Bone In Her Body is by Laura Ellen Scott. Here, we take a look at both the writer and her forthcoming work. 

So, why should we read it?
It's an edgy, psychological mystery set in New Royal, Ohio, a college/prison town where a crime writing program is linked to the deaths of a young widow and her children.  

Did it take much research?
Just a little. I have "English Professor from Ohio" down cold, but my 20th century knowledge about mental illness and the corrections industry required a 21st century update. 

In 3 words, how will it leave us feeling?
 Disturbed, Puzzled, Satisfied – in that order. 

What sparked the original idea?
When we lived in Athens, Ohio, a true college town, my husband taught Freshman Composition at a prison in nearby Chillicothe. New Royal is a mash-up of those towns.  

What’s your 5-year plan?
Vanquish my foes. Buy an oysterman's cottage on Chincoteague Island and become a cat lady. Write a couple more New Royal Mysteries.  

Do you vote?
Yes, indeed. I love it. They give me stickers. 

Tell us your favourite type of cheese.
I would say a strong cheddar, but the last time I asked for that the sample slinger gave me something akin to a teaspoon of manure. 

Which superpower would you choose, and why? Invisibility, flying or reading minds.
Flying, of course. I'd settle for hovering, though. With invisibility or mind-reading you risk finding out the truth, and that's more trouble than it's worth. 

Your house is on fire. Which book do you save?
My photocopy of Oley Odin Jensen's journal. He was a relative who moved to America from Denmark in the 1850s. I'm stealing background and names for my next book. 
Which CWA member? (the answers)

Which contributor, while working as a TV reporter, ‘captured’ on film a ghost that haunted a Lincoln Bomber at RAF Cosford?
Answer: Maureen Carter

Which contributor is married to writer Zillah Bethell, whose children’s debut was one of the Telegraph’s Best Children’s Books of 2016?
Answer: Mark Lock

Which contributor (who has also written a book on cricket), once dropped Mike Gatting at Lord’s?
Answer: Guy Fraser Sampson. (Happily this had no effect on the outcome of the game as he was sitting in the grandstand at the time.)

Which contributor, while at a meeting of twelve professional psychologists, noted that eight of them - including herself - were left-handed. Sinister!
Answer: A.J Cross

Which contributor once saved a dachshund from a pair of irritated emus at an alligator farm in Florida?
Answer: Laura Ellen Scott

Which contributor took up boxing with a group of former soldiers in order to better research a plot?
Answer: Matthew Hall. (He has a broken nose as a memento.)

Which contributor went to school in Botswana? And Zimbabwe. And then France. And also the United States and Turkey.
Answer: Luke McCallin

Which contributor cites Shakespeare as her ‘favourite crime writer’ and says her work is influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle?
Answer: Leigh Russell

Which contributor was once ranked 24th in the world for women’s snooker, before being banned for life for bringing the game into disrepute?
Answer: Jane Holland

Which contributor, while creeping around the chicken sheds of a battery farm in order to research a novel, was cornered by the farmer and his very aggressive Alsatian dog?
Answer: Chris Simms

ABOUT THE EDITOR

CHRIS SIMMS

Along with nominations for the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year award and Crime Writers' Association Daggers (for his novels and short stories), Chris was selected by Waterstone's as one of their '25 Authors For The Future'. He continues to feverishly scribble away in a small hut behind his house.

WWW.CHRISSIMMS.INFO
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