Tag Archives: Harrogate

Review of 2017: Vic Watson

The turn of the year comes around quick, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday I was telling you all how great 2016 had been! But, here we are, another year older with more experiences under our belts. I must thank everyone who has taken the time to review their year on the blog and to everyone who’s read, shared and commented posts from this blog throughout the last year. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018! 

Professionally speaking, this year has been another cracker. Noir at the Bar has continued to grow, with factions popping up all over the UK. I’m delighted that the one in Newcastle continues to be popular and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be in the Blues Bar in Harrogate on Thursday, 20th July. Presenting Noir at the Bar Harrogate to a packed audience was just incredible. Possibly one of the highlights of that day was a gentleman who asked me at the end of the event how often we ran it as he hadn’t known it was going to be on. I said “Sorry, have we hijacked your quiet afternoon pint?” He laughed and said he was thrilled to have stumbled upon the event and would definitely come to them on purpose in future! 


This year’s Newcastle Noir saw me do my first ever panel. I was on a panel with Susan Heads of the Book Trail, Quentin Bates, Sarah Wood and the powerhouse behind Orenda Books – Karen Sullivan. Our panel was moderated by the wonderful Miriam Owen and I enjoyed that hour immensely.


Another hour that was fun was appearing on the award-winning ArtyParti at Spark FM with Mandy Maxwell, Iain Rowan, Kirsten Luckins and Tony Gadd. We talked to Jay Sykes about writing and events, it was a lovely atmosphere and I felt completely relaxed thanks to the excellent host. 


My writing groups are still going strong and I arranged a stranding retreat on St Mary’s Island in August and the participants gave very positive feedback. I hope to run more retreats next year. 


I’ve had a lot of people asking if I’ve finished my novel yet and when they’ll be able to buy it so that’s very encouraging. I’ve also had a few people tell me they’d like to hear it on Audible which is a real compliment. Thanks to my friend Kay setting me an achievable weekly word target, I’ve almost completed my first draft. 

Hmm, favourite personal memory? Tough one, that. Well, I suppose I’d better say that getting married to the love of my life was the highlight of my year. Just kidding – of course it was! 

I walked down the aisle with my dad to ‘You’re So Cool‘ by Hans Zimmer (featured in ‘True Romance‘) in front of our closest friends and family. 


Instead of going for sugar almonds as wedding favours, we gave everyone a book. The Boy Wonder and I are both bookworms and we therefore wanted to give our guests a personalised gift. We didn’t have a lot of guests and we enjoyed thinking which book to choose for each of the guests – we were like a real life algorithm! 


The day we got married, I was emailed by the production team from ‘The Chase’ to say that my episode – recorded in July 2016 – would be aired on 30th March so watching that was a lot of fun too.


OK, I didn’t mention ‘The Chase’ in my 2016 Review but, contractually, I wasn’t allowed! Watching my episode, despite knowing the result, was nerve-wracking. I actually didn’t mind seeing myself on TV – I was nowhere near as critical of myself as I was expecting to be! I watched with my husband (I love saying that), my brother and three friends. I got lots of lovely messages from friends all over the country.  


I’d also like to say what a special day my hen do was. I never wanted a fuss and opted to go for afternoon tea with my friends and my mum. I cannot explain what a lovely occasion that was. Those wonderful women made me feel like a million bucks. 


My film of the year was ‘Get Out‘, second would be ‘Dunkirk‘. 

I have enjoyed many books this year including ‘Darktown‘ by Thomas Mullen, ‘The Prime of Miss Dolly Greene‘ by E.V Harte, ‘Lost for Words‘ by Stephanie Butland and ‘Small, Great Things‘ by Jodi Picoult. I also loved ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven‘ by Chris Cleave. And a late entry has to be ‘Good Me, Bad Me‘ by Ali Land. However, my top three – in no particular order – are ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski, ‘Yellow Room‘ by Shelan Rodger and ‘The Break‘ by Marian Keyes. 

Song of the year? Hm. Anything that was on our wedding playlist – we chose all the songs ourselves. We tried to have at least one track for each of the wedding guests so either a track that reminded us of them or one we knew they liked.
Other music I’ve listened to this year includes a lot of music from the Nashville OSTs, ‘…Ready For It?‘ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ by Taylor Swift. 

There has been illness and sadness but most of us are still here – and that is wonderful.

However, the death of Helen Cadbury in June was a tremendous loss to many of us in the writing community – and beyond. Helen was a friend to me. She was always kind, supportive and quick with a joke. She pulled out of Noir at the Bar in February because she was poorly but I didn’t know the extent of her illness. In July, we raised our glasses to toast Helen at Noir at the Bar in Newcastle and Harrogate. Helen made such a positive impact on so many that it felt right to dedicate the events to her.

The last time I saw Helen was at Harrogate Festival in July 2016 although I had spoken to her since. She, Lucy Cameron and I joked about having similar hair colours and styles. Helen said we should call ourselves the three northern blondes and take a selfie. For some reason, that photo didn’t get taken and I regret that missed opportunity.

I have yet to read ‘Race to the Kill‘, the final novel in the Sean Denton trilogy, or her collection of poetry, ‘Forever Now‘, because I don’t want to come to the end of Helen’s work. Of course, I won’t put it off forever. 

Resolutions? Just keep on keeping on, I think. I over commit and trying not to do that remains a work in progress. 

I hope that this world will sort itself out. There are so many things going wrong and I hope that things will be put right but in order for that to happen, we all need to engage. 

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Review of 2017: Neil White

*Ne-il, Ne-il, Ne-il, Nei-il…*

Ahem, sorry. Following on from Mr Broadfoot, Mr White joins us to review his year. I’ve had the pleasure on hosting both Neils at Noir at the Bar Harrogate this year so it’s a delight to have them on the blog today.

My thanks to Neil for sharing his year with us. Come back tomorrow for a gift (or three) from me.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
The release of my most recent book, From The Shadows. It felt like a long time coming after the delays in the publication of my last book with my previous publisher. It felt so good to have the new series up and running and in the shops.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Personally, I had some great fun. The festivals were as great as ever, Crimefest and Harrogate, and 2017 felt like it was a fun year. More of the same please.

Favourite book in 2017?
All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker. It was another great book by a fantastic writer. He is also, rather annoyingly, a good bloke, witty and engaging. I could grow to hate him.

Favourite film in 2017?
Can I cheat and pick a TV series? Thought so. Godless, a seven-part western on Netflix. I thought everything was great about it. The visuals, the story, the acting, the scenery.

Favourite song of the year?
I’ve got into country and western a lot more this year, and I confess to liking some of the cheesier stuff, the pickup truck country music. It’s not from this year, but I’ve been playing this song a lot more when I go on my late night Youtube hunts, and it’s Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker. Lyrically it’s very good, but also very singalong

Any downsides for you in 2017?
The only bad experience I can think of is a trip to Stockholm in June, when I headed out for a three-day bender, er, sorry, cultural experience, with an old friend. Unfortunately, my friend had to pull out at the very last minute, so I went anyway, wandered up and down Stockholm for the afternoon, sulked, and got the first plane home.

More widely, the turn taken by social media has been a downside, where Twitter has become just somewhere to avoid. I think the world as a whole would be a better place without it.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To keep doing what I’m doing and have as much fun as I did in 2017.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To be able to answer the same question this time next year.

Review of 2017: Neil Broadfoot

Hold onto your (Santa) hats, we have a double bill to celebrate Christmas Eve. Today we have Ne-il [Broadfoot], Ne-il [White] – sorry, I’m a little giddy thanks to the magic of the season (or maybe the Baileys).

Anyway, our first Ne-il (sorry) is Mr Broadfoot – one of my many crime writing buddies. 

I’m raising a glass of Baileys to you, Mr B!

Vic x


Favourite memory professionally:
It’s been a great year professionally, from signing a new three-book deal with Constable to going to Harrogate for the first time (and reading at Noir at the Bar!) seeing the first translation of my first book, Falling Fast. I’m not sure how professional it is, but my standout moment of the year was the Four Blokes In Search of a Plot panel at Bloody Scotland. It was the first time Douglas (Skelton), Mark (Leggatt), Gordon (Brown) and I had tried out the new format for the panel, where the crowd give us a name and a murder weapon and we try to write a story in 100 word chunks while the other three discuss all things crime with the audience. I was cataclysmically hung over after the infamous Bloody Scotland night at the Curly Coo the night before, but somehow the panel, like the rest of Bloody Scotland, worked. We were the last panel of the weekend yet we still got an audience of more than 60 people, they were totally up for it and it was a great laugh. And sitting there, with a tea cosy on my head, I remember thinking how lucky I am to be part of this brilliant community of writers and readers.

Favourite book:
It’s been another incredibly strong year for crime fiction, with some brilliant work being produced. It’s almost impossible to choose a stand-out from the crowd, but there are a couple that stick in the memory. Craig Russell’s The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid, which was shortlisted for the McIllvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland, was a masterclass in immersive, compelling writing that transports you back to 50s Glasgow and all the dangers and moral ambiguity that lurk there.  Slow on the uptake, but I finally got round to reading Stuart Neville’s The Twelve and was blown away by Fegan and the demons that haunt him. Writing as Haylen Beck, Neville’s Here and Gone was a white-knuckle, read-it-in-one shot of pure adrenaline you can’t miss.

Looking ahead, I’ve been lucky enough to get sneak peeks of two of next year’s biggest books. Luca Veste’s The Bone Keeper is just brilliant – but maybe not one to read late at night. With a real sense of menace bleeding from the pages, this is a serial killer thriller that will linger long after the last page. Meanwhile, his partner in podcast crime, Steve Cavanagh, has produced a masterclass in tight, tense storytelling with Thirteen. With a (serial) killer hook and perfect delivery, his latest adventure with New York defence lawyer Eddie Flynn is the book that will send his career into the stratosphere.

Favourite song:
If I don’t say You’re Welcome from the film Moana, my three-year-old will kill me. She’s obsessed with that song and duets with me when she can. And yes, it is an ear worm and no; I don’t want to talk about it. *Hums what can I say except…*

Downsides:
Life is a series of ups and downs, but you have to keep looking up. One big downside of this year was losing my beagle, Sam. He’d been with me since he was a pup; saw me through marriage, two kids and seeing my lifelong dream of being published come true. Then one day he went off his food, went to the vet and was gone. It’s a cliché, but dogs really are man’s best friend, and I still miss the Old Man – and his snoring from the cushion next to me as I write.

Resolutions:
I need to get rid of my book belly! When I’m writing, I can’t train, my brain can’t cope with running the different mental soundtracks of being physically fit and thinking about plots, characters etc at the same time, so the physical activity and healthy eating gives way to sitting in my chair and endless biscuits when I’m on a book. But now that No-Man’s Land is done (save edits) it’s back to the gym for me!

Hopes for 2018:
The first book in my new Stirling-set series, No-Man’s Land, is due out in September, and I hope everyone enjoys reading about Connor Fraser as much as I enjoyed writing about him. I’m also looking forward to getting back onto the road with the other three blokes for more fun and mayhem, so I hope the crowds enjoy the shows as much as we do.

Away from books, I hope the world comes to its senses a little. There’s a growing feeling that everything is building to a crescendo, from the tweeter-in-chief to the cliff edge of Brexit, and I hope cooler heads can prevail over the megaphone diplomacy and bigotry-as-patriotism crap we’re seeing now.

Review of 2017: Susi Holliday

You’ll have seen from the guest posts in this series, 2017 has been an eventful year for many of us. One of the wonderful writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with this year was Susi Holliday. It was Susi who encouraged me to run Noir at the Bar in Harrogate this year and I am delighted that she did! 

Susi also has the perfect book for lovers and haters of Christmas alike – ‘The Deaths of December‘ – available now. It’s a unique concept and I absolutely loved it! If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? 

My thanks to Susi for sharing her 2017 with us – and for encouraging to run Noir at the Bar in Harrogate! 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Absolutely yes. Live reading a story about torture at Noir At The Bar in Harrogate while Steph Broadribb and AK Benedict taped Neil White to a chair. I can still picture Neil’s face as he realised what we were going to do to him. This was followed by singing with my fab mates The Slice Girls (the two mentioned, plus Louise Voss and Alex Sokoloff), all in a packed bar with a very enthusiastic audience. This was a standout moment for me.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
That would be the birth of my niece, Siena. She lives in New Zealand, so waking up to a whatsapp video call and seeing her little face for the first time was a very lovely moment.

Favourite book in 2017?
Very tricky to drill it down to one, but I am going to say Sweetpea by CJ Skuze. Laugh-out-loud funny and very, very dark.

Favourite film in 2017?
Dunkirk. I cried all the way through it. Being reminded of things like this helps to put life into perspective. Also: Tom Hardy. 

Favourite song of the year?
I just looked up the top 40 songs of the year and I don’t know any of them! Weirdly, one of the songs that I have listened to a lot is Timber by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha because Alexa always seems to play it when I ask for ‘happy songs’. It reminds me of Cotton Eyed Joe.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
There have been some disappointments and frustrations along the way, and some sad and shitty things have happened, both personally and professionally, but I prefer to focus on the positives. I mean, the world has pretty much gone mad, and that’s a massive worry, but I try not to dwell on that and just live my life the only way that I can.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To write more books, spend more time with my loved ones and to worry less about inconsequential stuff. Oh, and to sort out all the crap in our storage unit (although I suspect this one will carry on into 2019.)

What are you hoping for from 2018?
That I will manage to achieve all the things I want to achieve but not to beat myself up too much if I don’t get every single thing done. I wish I was Wonder Woman, but I’m not 😊

Review: ‘Fox Hunter’ by Zoë Sharp

When I was asked to review Zoë Sharp‘s twelfth book in the Charlie Fox series, Fox Hunter, I jumped at the chance. Having heard her read excerpts from this novel at the most recent Noir at the Bars in Newcastle and Harrogate, I couldn’t wait to read the whole thing!

Fox Hunter drops the reader right into the middle of the action in Iraq with the discovery of a body. The body of a man who just so happened to be one of the men that brutally put an end to Ms Fox’s military career. Charlie had promised many years ago that she wouldn’t go looking for them but in Fox Hunter she isn’t given a choice.

Sean Meyer, her boss and former lover, has gone missing and Charlie is worried that Sean may be out for revenge against the men who harmed her. She’s tasked with stopping Sean before he tracks down the other men but must keep her wits about her as she becomes the hunted.

Fox Hunter is a total thrill ride from start to finish. It’s fast-moving and never gives you a second to catch your breath.

Zoë Sharp has deftly weaved a pacey narrative with a compelling cast of characters. I really admire the female characters in this novel, of which there are several: they’re strong both physically and emotionally as well as showing believable vulnerabilities. I loved the juxtaposition between these women and the Muslim countries they visit in their line of work. I thought Sharp also weaved interesting similarities portraying the ways in which women are subjugated in all cultures.

The ongoing love story between Charlie and Sean also twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing whether Meyer is friend or foe.

I’ve heard many people rave about the Charlie Fox books – Lee Child has famously said that if Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Charlie Fox. High praise indeed, and now I see why. If you like your books to be a non-stop thrill featuring flawed characters, the Charlie Fox series is the one for you.

Vic x

Review of 2016: Casey Kelleher

I briefly met Casey Kelleher at Harrogate in July this year. She’s a lovely lass and I’m really happy to have her on the blog to review her year. Thanks for being involved, Casey!
Vic x
Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
In April this year I signed a three book deal with Bookouture, which I am over the moon about. My editor Keshini Naidoo is just fantastic, and she really gets my style of writing and characters. So far we have released ‘The Taken‘ in October ’16, and ‘The Promise‘ is due for publication in February ’17, with the final book looking likely for publication in May.

 

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
We bought a new house! We’re actually moving a week before Christmas so everything is very hectic in our house right now, but I cannot wait. I will finally have my very own office, and room for a gigantic bookshelf, I’m ridiculously excited about that! 

 

Favourite book in 2016?
It’s not out until 2017 but I received an advanced copy of Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Behind Her Eyes‘, and wow! It’s a really great read. Very different, with a mind blowing twist. 

 

 
Favourite film in 2016?
Bridget Jones Baby‘, as I’m a massive fan of Bridget. Helen Fielding is such a fantastic writer, and it’s as if Renée Zellweger was made for the role.

 

Favourite song of the year?
Ohh, far too many to choose from. Anything by Sia. The woman is a genius. I’m loving ‘Human‘ by Rag’n’Bone Man too at the moment.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I’m a bridesmaid next year for my sister-in-law’s wedding, and we’re also going to Tuscany for another of my good friends weddings so I’d like to get a bit more in shape.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I’m hoping that myself and my family have a fantastic year. Lots of quality time together with our friends and family. That we enjoy our new home, and village life, and that my books continue to do as well as they have been.

Review of 2016: Jackie Baldwin

Well, it’s that time of year again! We have a host of guests coming up this month to talk about their 2016 experiences. First up is someone I met earlier this year who has had a hugely positive impact on my writing life. 

I first met Jackie Baldwin at this year’s Crime and Publishment. Since then, I’ve spent time with her at both Noir at the Bar NE events – where Jackie was our first wild card reader – as well as Harrogate and Killer Women. Jackie gave me some phenomenal advice during the second Noir at the Bar NE and that set me on the path to finishing my novel. Since that conversation with Jackie, I have written more than I have done in the last five years combined. 

Jackie’s had a big impact on my 2016 – let’s hear about hers. 

Vic x

Jackie Baldwin

Jackie, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on the blog. Do you have a favourite moment professionally from 2016?
I think it would have to be the moment I received an e-mail dated 8th March from Killer Reads, Harper Collins, offering to publish my book, ‘Dead Man’s Prayer‘. It was so overwhelming and unexpected I didn’t stop shaking until lunchtime the next day!

Dead Man's Prayer

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I was one of 12 Spotlighted authors at The Bloody Scotland Crime Festival in Stirling on 9-11th September. This involved going up on a massive stage before the ‘Into The Dark’ Panel featuring well known authors Craig Robertson, James Oswald and Malcolm Mackay and reading for 3 minutes from my novel. To say I was absolutely terrified is an understatement. My favourite moment was when I finished reading without my voice betraying me and knew that I would never feel that same degree of fear again.

Bloody Scotland

Favourite book in 2016?
Fractured’ by Clar Ni Chonghaile. I found this book incredibly moving. It involved the kidnap of a journalist in war torn Somalia. He is held captive for some time with only fear and remorse to keep him company. His estranged mother, a former journalist herself, comes looking for him. He forms a tenuous friendship with the teenager who guards him and they resolve to escape. It is a novel about survivors and the real cost of civil war to the indigent population. It also helped to educate me a little on a subject I knew next to nothing about. The characters have stayed with me.

Fractured

Favourite Film in 2016?
This one is easy. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘. I am a massive Star Wars fan as you can see from the fact that Darth Vader has pride of place in my living room. I felt so emotionally overwhelmed at the end I burst into tears.

Darth

What was your biggest adventure in 2016?
I went to Russia for a week, so many conflicting impressions to assimilate. Fascinating country and people!

2016-06-26-12-17-42-0100

Any downsides for you in 2016 generally?
I found launching myself on to Social Media from a standing start very challenging. At first I jumped a foot into the air every time my phone beeped but I am becoming more relaxed about it now. Now that I have more followers I hate that I can’t manage to read everything all the time in my Twitter feed because I worry I will miss something that matters, like someone having a wobble and needing support. However, I have started to realise that people retweet their posts at different times of the day so I probably do get to see most of it. And I do love to chat to people about robots and all things sci-fi! My Twitter handle (never thought I would say that!) is @JackieMBaldwin1

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Definitely! The main one is to get the first draft of my second novel finished by mid- March so I can go to India for 16 days. I have never been and would love to go but can’t book it until I feel I am on track to do that.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Good health and happiness for those I hold dear.