Monday, 15 August 2016

Killer Women newsletter

Here is the latest Killer Women newsletter, with details of the Killer Women Festival, for my followers to peruse:

So, apparently it’s my turn to host the Killer Women newsletter this month, and I would be panicking if it wasn’t August so I reckon everyone is either away or else too chilled to care. A quick introduction. I’m Tammy Cohen and I’ve written seven novels (three as Tamar Cohen, and four as Tammy). My latest is When She Was Bad, a psychological thriller set in the workplace.

First off, welcome to new subscribers to the Killer Women Club. May I congratulate you on your impeccable taste. As a club member you’ll get reviews of forthcoming books, films and TV, insider insight into the crime writing scene, updates on our Killer Women Festival, and the low-down on the scandalous private lives of the Killer Women themselves.* (*that might be a lie).

It’s now the middle of August and I’ve just about recovered from three days drinking attending fascinating panels at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. For anyone unfamiliar with the festival, it’s a brilliant four-day event where the biggest and brightest stars in the crime writing firmament come together with publishers, agents, bloggers and readers in the relaxed and history-steeped environs of the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie was discovered hiding out after her notorious disappearance in December 1926.
This year there was practically a full-house of Killer Women (see photographic evidence) lurking around the genteel streets of Harrogate plotting murder and mayhem in dark corners. One of my personal highlights was the domestic suspense panel, featuring our own Paula Hawkins and Alex Marwood, which explored the darkest recesses of family and marital life. Sarah Hilary chaired the New Blood panel of debut crime writers, Kate Rhodes was discussing her new novel Blood Symmetry, Laura Wilson appeared in The Hard Yards panel giving tips on how to stay at the top in an ever-more competitive industry, while Louise Millar, Alison Joseph and Sarah Hilary all hosted tables at the Murder Mystery night. The rest of us were only there to watch and learn. And socialise. And shop.
Harrogate is a bit like the Sixties – if you remember it, you weren’t really there. However, I’ve brow-beaten a few random Killer Women into plumbing the murky depths of their memories to pick their own top moments from the weekend.

For Jane Casey it was “Gillian Slovo talking about translating the London Riots into a play and now a book - real life into fiction. Brilliant.” Sarah Hilary’s high point was being on the winning team in the quiz along with Laura Wilson (not that she’s remotely competitive or anything). Louise Millar was most impressed by a chance discovery in the beer tent of Louise Voss' encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s pop. Laura Wilson, meanwhile, showcased her inner thespian by performing in the Murdery Mystery play on the Saturday night and even turned out to be the murderer (“much to my surprise”).
With so many Killer Women together in one place, it was a perfect opportunity to get drunk discuss plans for our Killer Women Festival in October. As most of you will already know, we’re holding the first ever Killer Women Festival at Shoreditch Town Hall on October 15th and we’re ever-so-slightly excited about it. The programme includes panels and workshops featuring all the Killer Women plus assorted VIP guests like Val McDermid, Martina Cole, Mark Billingham, Ann Cleeves and actor Douglas Henshall. And as if that’s not exciting enough, it’s also my birthday so there might even be cake. Unsurprisingly, tickets are selling fast, so click here to book your place now.
My panel at the festival is called Inside the Killer’s Head (and no, it’s not the name of a pub).  My fellow panellists are Jane Casey, Kate Medina and special guest Emma Kavanagh, with Kate Rhodes as chair. As Emma and Kate Medina are both psychologists, expect to delve deep into the twisted psyches of fictional killers.  
For me, as a reader of crime, it’s always crucial to buy into the motivation of the killer. I don’t believe that people are ‘born evil’, so when I’m writing a murderer I try to make sure his or her thought-processes remain within the realms of what is relatable. Not that I think crime readers are closet murderers (not all of them anyway) but I want readers to be able to recognise elements of their own worst nature so there’s always that niggling question: ‘if I were pushed to extremes, could I do this? What am I capable of?’ I deliberately set When She Was Bad, in an ordinary office (recruitment) with characters whose concerns will be recognisable to most of us – job insecurity, debt, childcare - because I want readers to be able to envisage themselves in that same position and wonder if, given a perfect storm of circumstances, temperament and past trauma, they or the people closest to them could be driven to commit murder.
Jane Casey, author of After The Fire (the latest in the award-winning Maeve Kerrigan series), agrees fictional killers shouldn’t be too glamorous. “I loved Hannibal Lecter but most murderers are quite ordinary and in its own way that's just as terrifying. The same goes for serial killers with elaborate 'signatures'. The one in Silence of the Lambs is just on the right side of believable because his Modus Operandi is more practical than sadistic. The more elaborate the fictional killer the less I believe in him or her.”
If you want find out more about the making of a (fictional) murderer, you’ll have to come see us on October 15th at 1.30pm. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few recommendations for things to read/watch over the next few weeks. Happy holidays folks!
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is a tense, utterly compelling exploration of the dark heart of suburban American family life. The Knox household revolves around the demanding schedule and needs of 16-year-old Devon, a supremely talented gymnast. But the sudden death of someone close to them all causes the family’s elaborately-wrought fa├žade to come crashing down faster than a mistimed double backward full twist dismount.
Box Set
Sticking with the theme of strange goings on in suburban America, my family and I have spent the past week glued to the sofa watching Stranger Things, an eight-part series on Netflix set in the 1980s that begins with the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old boy and the simultaneous arrival of an enigmatic, semi-mute girl with a shaved head and some very unusual abilities. It would be worth watching for the 1980s hair and fashion alone and for Winona Ryder’s increasingly overwrought performance as the mother of the missing boy (just when you think she’s reached peak hysteria, she ratchets it up a notch further), but on top of that it’s real quality edge-of-your-seat drama. We loved it.

The Blue Room, out in UK cinemas and on streaming service MUBI on September 9th, is a French thriller adapted from a Georges Simenon novel about a middle aged salesman who embarks on an affair with a married woman and finds himself implicated in a mysterious crime.

In a previous incarnation I once wrote a book about John Darwin, who staged a disappearance in a canoe near Hartlepool only to turn up living in Panama under an assumed name, so I was fascinated by
this Guardian article about people who fake their own deaths.

As crime novelists we spend our lives imagining the worst things that could happen, so it’s always sobering to hear from people who’ve experienced those things for real, people like
David Kushner, whose eleven-year-old brother was murdered in the woods near the family home.

- Tammy Cohen
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