Part of the annual crime fiction festival Noirwich, the event Fresh Blood was an engaging, funny, and honest discussion featuring Imran Mahmood, Joseph Knox and Steph Broadribb. The authors presented their work and emphasized on their subversion of the limits of crime writing, acquiring new perspectives that shine a light on those who not often have their voices heard.
Being a criminal barrister, Imran Manhood based the start of his career on the advice “write what you know” – and he did it quite literally. Written from the perspective of an accused, his book, You Don’t Know Me, is designed to put the reader in the jury box and act as a comment on the trial process itself as they decide if the narrator is reliable or unreliable. His book gives a voice to those marginalised in society, suggesting that there is always a story, often one of social circumstance, as to why people are drawn into the world of crime.
Joseph Knox also questions the established labels of winners and losers, good and bad, in his novel where “none of [the characters] are winners, kingpins, or champions of what they do”. Inspired by his time as a bartender in Manchester, where he ‘first had both his heart and nose broken’, the writing of his novel Sirens is heavily influenced by noir, becoming the equivalent of The Great Gatsby married with crime – a young detective, seduced by the shady world he finds himself in, replaces Fitzgerald’s narrator Nick Carraway. Self-confessedly disorganised and chaotic, Knox describes himself as neither a plotter nor an outliner on his writing process, but rather an incessant re-writer who attacks his novel “until [he] can’t look at it anymore”.
Although admitting to have tried to write ‘chick-lit’ which dabbled in thriller and crime, the long-time Sherlock fan and a crime fiction blogger turned author Steph Broadribb found out that she was better at the genre of crime. Her novel Deep Down Dead is the result of an imaginative train of thoughts she had when she was driving through America and her tail lights went out. The novel is a fast paced thriller which Broadribb describes as a mix of ‘Thelma and Louise’ and ‘Diehard’, led by a strong female protagonist grappling in the male dominated profession of bounty hunting.
As three debut crime writers, the authors had some advice for their audience about the journey to being published authors. Working on what you’ve got, making the best it can be, immersing oneself in the writing community and a positive approach to failure were some of the tips the writers had to offer.