A Crime in My Stockings #2: Graham Smith

fearlakesThe second in my series where authors choose the one book they’d like in their Christmas stocking this year, and it’s the turn of Graham Smith. Graham writes crime novels that are mostly set in the English Lake District and his latest, ‘Fear in the Lakes‘, is no exception. Here’s what Graham chose, and I must admit I’m intrigued by his description…

“I am going to choose ‘The Accident Man’ by Tom Cain. The first in his Sam Carver series, The Accident Man is by far the best conspiracy theory I’ve ever read and tells the story of a hitman paid to take out a target travelling through a Parisian tunnel in a black Mercedes. I’ve read the entire series and I still think about the events depicted in the final book.”

Crime and Publishment time again…

I’ve had a super time in Gretna Green this weekend, at the annual Crime & Publishment writing weekend. It’s hard to believe this one is my fifth in succession, but the event is such good value that it keeps many of us going back time after time. Partly that’s for the “crack”, of course – a chance to natter with like-minded authors, published or otherwise, about the whole business of writing books. Partly it’s the talks, on a wide range of crime-related subjects including choreographing fight scenes, making characters believable, getting information about police procedure, or sources of new ideas. And partly it’s the chance, every year, to meet a different but well-known publisher or agent, find out what they’re looking for, and then pitch a book (or even an idea) to them on the Sunday morning.

This year, owing to a sudden outbreak of workmen, I couldn’t make the full weekend, so I just dashed up for the Saturday and Sunday. It made it feel like more of a rush – I’d no sooner arrived than I seemed to be packing to come home again – and I didn’t get a chance to chat to everyone I wanted to. But it was still a rewarding event, with old friends to catch up with, new people to meet, and a load of useful information from the sessions run by organiser and author Graham Smith, author Doug Johnstone, and agent Mark Stanton.

As usual I’ve come away inspired, with ideas for at least two new short stories as well as vague thoughts on how to unblock my latest work-in-progress. And as usual, I’m thoroughly looking forward to next year and whatever gems of subject matter Graham decides to throw at us! (And hopefully next year it won’t chuck blizzards at us on both the journey up and the journey back home again…)

Where the Heck Wednesday: Graham Smith

Wednesday has rolled around again and this week I’m delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow Caffeine Nights author Graham Smith, who shares some fascinating facts about Cumbria.  Thanks for taking part, Graham!

Book titles: I Know Your Secret and Matching the Evidence

Author: Graham Smith

Setting: The English county of Cumbria

http://grahamsmithwriter.blogspot.co.uk / Facebook / Twitter

secret  matching

Location Location Location…

Apologies for the somewhat cheesy headline, but for this guest post I thought I’d talk about the locations I’ve chosen for my DI Harry Evans novels, novellas and short stories.

I’ve set them in Cumbria which includes the fantastically beautiful Lake District, the Northern Pennines and hundreds of miles of coastline. Cumbria is home to the city of Carlisle, countless small towns and villages, a plethora of wide open spaces consisting of moorland, rolling fells, deep lakes and small forests. (Many of these are good places to dump a body which is always important for us crime writers.)

Stepping outside the City of Carlisle, the towns and villages are tourist traps, ports, market towns. Tourism is huge business in the Lake District, but Cumbria also plays home to a nuclear power station, a naval base and factories which produce everything from crisp packets to biscuits via tyres. Farming is a huge part of the community and there are many dairy, sheep and cattle farms throughout the region although the hills do mean there’s a distinct lack of arable farming in the area. (This diversity of location gives me the opportunity to write a rural or city based story without having to move my characters away from their usual stomping ground as the whole of Cumbria is their patch.)

The M6 motorway and countless A and B roads afford access around the county, but there’s also many single track roadways when you get off the beaten track. (For a crime writer these are great for allowing speedy progress or causing tension-inducing displays as required by the story.)

Cumbria has an amazing history which includes the Romans, the reiving families of the borders and the many wars between Scotland and England. All of this makes for a landscape which is rich in varied influences and ancient cultures. (West Cumbria had its own unique language which still shows in the speech patterns of those local to the area.)

Another governing factor in my choosing Cumbria and the Lake District as my location of choice is the fact it is an area which many readers from the north of England and Scotland are likely to have visited. Most readers like to read about places they know and as such it was something of a no-brainer for me to choose to write about and area I’m local to and fairly familiar with. (Don’t tell anyone, but one of the main reasons I chose Cumbria is so I can have a nice day out in the Lake District and call it research.)

A lesser but still important consideration was that very few people are setting crime stories in Cumbria. All the other cities close to me have already been claimed by those who know them far better than I.

With all these attributes available in a location so close to my home in Scotland (I live just three miles from Cumbria) I’d have had to have been very brave or foolish to choose anywhere else.

I might be a coward, but I’m not an idiot!


Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner, he has built bridges and houses, dug drains, and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

 An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

Football, dead priests and nail guns

That’s a typical night out in Carlisle.

Or at least, it is if you’re going along to a book launch by crime writer Graham Smith.  I did, yesterday, and had a great time.  First I met a couple of friends for a meal at Nandos, then we headed for Waterstones for the launch itself.  And what fun!

secretNot content with launching the usual single book, Graham had gone for two.  His latest novel, ‘I Know Your Secret’, and a novella which fits between the events of that and his first novel ‘Snatched From Home’.  The novella is called ‘Matching the Evidence’ and there’s a pun involved in the title since the plot revolves around football.  However Graham was at pains to point out that you don’t need to be a fan of the beautiful game, or even know much about it, to read/enjoy the book.  I might just take him up on that, since it sounded quite intriguing.

The launch featured an interview by fellow author Matt Hilton, and various hilarious and/or hair-raising stories involving crucifying people to the floor with a nail gun and getting thrown out of churches.  It was all thoroughly entertaining and I was really sorry I had to leave early to run for a train as I was enjoying it immensely, dammit!  There wasn’t even time to buy a book, something I hope to put right very soon.

If you like crime, or books set in Carlisle, or football and dead priests, then be sure to pay Graham a visit at his Amazon author page here.  Just watch out for the nail gun!

Snatched in Carlisle…

snatchedNo, this isn’t some nasty news item from the north-west of England, or even the title of a kidnapping drama on tv (although… watch this space on that one!)  Thursday evening saw me pottering over to Carlisle on the train, first to meet writing friend Lucy Cameron for a meal and mooch round, and then to attend Graham Smith’s book launch/party/general knees-up for his debut novel, ‘Snatched From Home’.  Hence the title of this post!

The launch was amazingly well-attended, with upwards of 50 guests crammed into the upstairs of Waterstones book shop in Carlisle city centre.  I’ve been to some launches where it’s not much more than the author, his mother, a couple of friends and the publisher who turn up so this was a refreshing change – and no more than Graham deserves, both for the quality of his writing and for his ceaseless hard work in promoting crime fiction in general.

The session took the form of a mini-interview between Graham and Cumbrian crime writer Matt Hilton (which was a fun idea and less prone to lengthy silences than when the audience are asked for questions…), followed by Graham himself reading the first few pages of his book.  I haven’t read it myself, but it involves a gang kidnapping a couple’s children because the father owes them money, and sounds thoroughly tense and gripping.

Here’s to the success of both the book and Graham’s future writing career, and here’s hoping for a few more equally enjoyable launch parties in Carlisle in the years to come.  Mind you, the less said about my train journey home again, the better…