Tag Archives: noir

I review my 2016

I really enjoy running the annual reviews, they get wonderful feedback from readers and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with the participants so thanks to everyone who’s taken part this year. Here’s to a wonderful 2017!

Victoria

In 2016, I have had some really cracking professional successes. Noir at the Bar is a real highlight for me, having run two in Newcastle and participated in ones in Harrogate and Edinburgh. I have Graham Smith and Jay Stringer to thank for encouraging me to set up the Newcastle chapter. Special thanks must also go to Jacky Collins – organiser of Newcastle Noir – for assisting me with the running of NatB NE. The turnout for the events in Newcastle has been fantastic and it’s really gathering great support, it’s a really wonderful thing to be involved in. I’m really looking forward to the next one on Wednesday, 22nd February.

My friend Luca introduces me

Elementary Writers continue to go from strength to strength. This year, we’ve released a book – Blood from the Quill – and a pamphlet – Wish You Were Here. We’ve also done performances for Burns Night, Heritage Open Days and Halloween. It is a pleasure to work with such talented writers.

The writers that I’ve worked with as a copy-editor this year have had some great success. I loved going to Chris Ord’s book launch for his excellent novel Becoming and it’s great to see that Nicole Helfrich’s book Descent to Hell has been released internationally. Similarly, it’s great to see Paul McDonagh and Graham Bain‘s books available to buy now.

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Oh, and I started working on my novel again. I’ve written more in the last three months than I have done in six years. That’s a pretty good feeling. The feedback I’ve had from performing extracts and sharing the work has been awesome and has really spurred me on to actually finish it. It’s not easy but I’m actually really enjoying spending time with the characters and delving deeper into their lives. A couple of weeks ago, Mike Cockburn of Sogno Ltd did a session with Elementary Writers on Myers-Briggs Personality Types and that’s given me a lot of food for thought.

Personally, I’ve also had one of the best years of my life. The Boy Wonder and I moved into our first house together in August and, on 14th November in Oman, he asked me to marry him! I honestly couldn’t be happier.

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It was a true thrill going to see my dad be awarded an MBE for services to welfare reform and charity. It was such a special day, going to Buckingham Palace with my parents and brother to see my dad’s hard work rewarded. I’ve never felt so proud in my life. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at the Grosvenor Hotel in London afterwards.

A very proud day

In other news, I finally hit my Slimming World target as well as being nominated – and winning – Woman of the Year and Miss Slinky at my group. I’ve made some great friends at the group and I will continue to go in order to control my weight.

Favourite film by a country mile was GhostbustersI didn’t want to see it as I was worried it would be a disappointed but I loved it. Kate McKinnon is my hero!

I’ve read so many fantastic books this year in a range of genres. I loved Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories which was a collection of his favourite chilling tales. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a real inspiration – any creative person should read this fantastic book. I read my first ever Agatha Christie this year and I’m proud to boast that I guessed who was responsible for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd very early on. The Yellow Wallpaper was an utter revelation. There are loads of other wonderful books that have stayed with me this year – you can check them out on my Goodreads page.

That has got to be Formation by Beyonce although I have been known to sing it as ‘Ok, ladies, now let’s get information’. The Boy Wonder and I went to see Hans Zimmer Live and that concert just took my breath away. Seeing him perform the music from The Dark Knight as well as being introduced to The Electro Suite and other incredible compositions has stayed with me ever since.

At the start of 2016, I’d been made redundant and a house purchase had fallen through. That was not a great start but since then, I’ve never looked back. Looking outward, I’m devastated by the events all over the world. Syria, the US election, the EU referendum in Britain and the fallout have just been terrifying. Every year, I worry that we – as humans – are losing touch with humanity. I can’t believe the way people are behaving towards one another – usually because of difference. That’s just heartbreaking.

My resolutions for 2017 are too try not to over-commit. I get very excited by the opportunities offered to me and find it difficult to say no but sometimes that negatively impacts on me.

I’m hoping 2017 will be a better year for people. I really hope we can find a way to work together to bring about positive change in the world – regardless of difference.

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Review of 2016: Jacky Collins

Over 2016, I’ve met lots of fantastic people. Jacky Collins, organiser of Newcastle Noir, is one of those people. Jacky not only assists me with the hosting of Noir at the Bar, she is a wonderful friend who is enthusiastic about crime fiction. Jacky has given support and encouragement to hundreds of writers and I find her energy a great source of inspiration.

I’m so thrilled to have Jacky on the blog to review her 2016. Thanks, Jacky, for being a fabulous friend, here’s to many more happy years! 

Vic x

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When considering a favourite memory to do with the professional, rather than focus on the murky waters of Higher Education, I’d prefer to look back on all the exciting things that have happened through the amazing world of crime fiction. Although the hosting of a very successful Newcastle Noir crime writing festival in April was, without doubt, a major high point in the year, my favourite memory came from another similar event at the end of the year – Iceland Noir. I was thrilled when the organisers of the festival had invited me to moderate 2 panels – Dangerous Nordic Women (Jónína Leosdóttir, Sara Blaedel, Sólveig Pálsdottir and Lena Leetolainen) and Queer Crime (Mari Hannah, Lilja Sigurđardóttir and David Swatling). Of course, without hesitation, I said ‘yes’, especially relishing the opportunity to discuss crime writing with an alternative focus which the 2nd panel provided. Little did I know that I was in for an even bigger surprise with this session – both Val McDermid (Queen of Tartan Noir) and Yrsa Sigurđardóttir both wanted in on the debate. I have to confess that the inclusion of two such world-renowned crime writers made me rather nervous. However, the skillful interaction of the panellists and the warm reception of the audience made this the highlight of my year in all this noir.

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If I’m allowed, I’d have to say there have been a series of special moments with one common denominator – the meeting of like-minded women around creative projects. So I have to say a huge thank you to Vic Watson, Shelley Day, Donna-Lisa Healy and Sue Spencer. Not all our ventures are focused on crime writing, but the opportunity to channel my energies into culturally creative endeavours really helped me get over what had been a difficult time emotionally and professionally.

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This is an even more difficult decision to make what with my own private reading and the books that we read for Newcastle City Library’s European Crime Fiction group. Nevertheless, I think I’d have to say Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice since it reunited me with my all-time favourite crime fiction character Icelandic police officer Sergeant Gunnhildur and also because the novel offers a very interesting portrayal of the mother/daughter dynamic. If you’re not familiar with this author’s work, and you’re into Nordic Noir, I highly recommend his Gunnhildur series to you.

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As part of my job as Senior Lecturer in Film and TV studies at Northumbria University I often include Latin American cinema in my modules. So when the Tyneside Cinema approached me to provide the introductions for a short season of New Argentine Cinema, I leapt at the chance.  Amongst the works screened was an earlier Pablo Trapero film Lion’s Den (Leonera, 2008). Filmed inside a real prison, with real inmates, this hard-hitting film explores motherhood as experienced behind bars and also questions the lack of equality found in Argentina’s justice system. As ever, Trapero uses his work to ask deeply probing questions of society, the unexpected ending providing much cause for contemplation and discussion.

I can identify 2 downsides, these were juggling too many balls and not being able to let go of the past. Why I have mentioned both these aspects is because I reckon they have both prevented me from making all the progress that I could have this year. I’m hoping for 2017 that I can prioritise better and cut the ties to those aspects of my life that no longer serve.

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As well as what I’ve said above, I’ve also determined to focus on something blogger Noelle Holten posted this month on Facebook: ‘If you’re doing what you love, everything in the Universe will gravitate towards you. This is how the world works. Don’t waste time impressing others or doing something that doesn’t feed your soul. Take a leap of faith and jump into your passion’. That passion for me is crime fiction, film & TV drama.

More than anything from 2017, I hope to take steps that bring me closer to changing careers paths and also to be able to spend more time in Iceland, a country that I believe holds the key to that change.

Noir at the Bar NE

Noir at the Bar NE

Over the last couple of weeks, you’ll have read guest posts by Tess Makovesky and Lucy Cameron about the first Noir at the Bar in England, which took place on Thursday, 10th March 2016.

When I told Graham Smith – one of the organisers – that I couldn’t make N@tB in Carlisle due to prior arrangements, he suggested that I set up the North East chapter of N@tB. Initially, I scoffed, telling him that I wouldn’t know where to start but with support and advice from Graham and Jay Stringer, I started to believe that it could be done.

Within a day of Graham suggesting it, I’d contacted North East writers and had arranged a line-up. Then I contacted the wonderful Jackeeta Collins, the brains behind the fantastically successful Newcastle Noir, and asked her to co-host with me. Thankfully, Jacky jumped at the opportunity. During my meeting with Jacky, it became apparent to me that noir and crime fiction inspires such enthusiasm in people, further reinforcing the idea that N@tB NE could be a success.

So I had writers and a co-host, all I needed was a venue. The Town Wall in Newcastle welcomed us with open arms and its cinema room downstairs is a perfect place to host Noir at the Bar NE.

Noir at the Bar NE will have its first outing on Wednesday, 1st June. We’re very lucky to have Graham Smith and Tess Makovesky coming across from Gretna and Carlisle respectively to pass on the N@tB baton. Janet O’Kane and Bea Davenport are travelling from Berwick to participate and Sheila Quigley is representing Sunderland.

We will be picking names from a hat for the line-up and there will also be a wild card round where a member of the audience is chosen at random to give a reading (obviously, those who want to be in with a chance of this must put their names down) so it’s a great opportunity for up and coming writers too.

1st June can’t come soon enough!

Vic x

Guest Post: Graham Wynd on Noir in the Desert.

I’m really happy to have Graham Wynd on the blog today to talk about an unusual setting for noir… Please feel free to comment beneath the post. Thanks again to Graham for being involved.

Vic x

Noir in the Desert. 

My story ‘Bonkers in Phoenix’, published in Rogue by Near to the Knuckle, steps outside the usual noir sort of setting. When you think noir, you think darkened city streets, rain falling incessantly and tough men and women skulking in the shadows of doorways as neon signs flash through the murk of the evening. There might even be a little fog hovering around.

Rogue

But the desert isn’t without precedent as a noir setting.

All the way back to the classics like Ida Lupino’s Hitch Hiker, a low budget noir that sweats through the Sonoran desert on the Mexican border, finding all the shadows that the bright sun brings (she was a genius after all) and then there’s Dorothy Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse, that got the movie treatment, too. It takes place in New Mexico, but it’s got a the weight of the mythic past of the desert, an inexorable weight that spells doom for anyone who tries to face it. Sailor learns that power as he hunts down the Sen.

Who can forget A Touch of Evil, with Welles’ tour-de-force opening tracking shot that seems to go on forever—alas, if only it didn’t have Charlton Heston playing a ‘Mexican’ in a perma-tan, because it’s got Welles himself hamming it up large and the one and only Marlene Dietrich stealing the film.

In more recent times, Robert Rodgriguez has brought the thrill back to the desert with From Dusk ‘til Dawn and of course Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which have stolen the western back from the spaghetti westerns of Italy, putting them into a thoroughly modern context.

Maybe the ultimate desert noir these days is the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. The relentless Chigurgh stalks the wide open spaces, meting out his own idea of vengeance at the flip of a coin. The baking sun of the desert becomes oppressive, a trap—leaving you exposed and vulnerable.

The desert of “Bonkers” is the strip mall ugliness of suburban sprawl. The two strippers at the start just get fed up with the boredom their go-nowhere life offers. So they go a little bonkers and do the things that make life more exciting if dangerous. I haven’t been to Phoenix in years, but I hear the stripmall-o-rama has got worse. The endless strips of hair-nails-tanning places, endless parking lots baking in the sun, and tacky tourist trade trying to capitalise on the people passing through continue to thrive.

Sounds noir enough for me. Check out Near to the Knuckle for all kinds of hard-hitting, hard-boiled stories, especially ROGUE, their second anthology, which includes my story.

Is it hot in here?

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