CrimeFest’s Flashbang

Definition #1 n. A hand grenade that produces a very bright flash and a loud explosion, but no shrapnel and minimal explosive force, to disorient the target.

Definition #2 An original crime story in 150 words. A contest judged by international bestseller and gun-slinger,  Zoë Sharp.

Definition #3 Your chance to win a pair of weekend passes to CrimeFest and other fantastic prizes perfect for writers and crime fans.

Go here for details of how to enter and what you can win.

Longlist 2014

Here, in no specific order, is our longlist. Many thanks to all who entered and congratulations to everyone who made it through. Shortlist will be up on or by 21 April. Good luck.

Serial Dating
A Killer Sequel
Zero Tolerance
What You See
Double Whammy
Chipping Away
A Bridge Too Far
Close to Home
Escape Route
A Sawn-off Shotgun Wedding

NEW: Win one of five places on the CrimeFest Crime Writing Day

Great news for five lucky people: that lovely bunch at CrimeFest are once again offering a place on their excellent Crime Writing Day to each author who makes it onto the Flashbang shortlist.

This year CRIMEFEST expands its workshop into a crime writing day made up out of four events. With a mixture of presentations and exercises, authors M.R. Hall and William Ryan present a workshop focusing on character and plot. Two agents and two editors will discuss what services they provide, and how authors might be expected to reciprocate. And with the industry increasingly turning to new media for fresh talent, Joanna Penn offers advice on how to self publish in ebook and print in the current publishing eco-system. Also included, on a first-come-first-served basis, are ten one-on-one assessments of a manuscript. The day starts at 10.30am on Friday 16 May and runs through to 5pm, with lunch included. Tickets cost £150 but will be awarded free to each of our five shortlisted authors. The final winners of Flashbang 2014 will be announced live at the end of the Crime Writing Day.

Full details of the Crime Writing Day are here.

Enter Flashbang 2014 here.

Flashbang 2014: Open for Business

And we’re off. You know the drill, if you don’t check the menu to the left. We’ve excited to have Stav Sherez joining the judging ranks this year – welcome, Stav!

Happy (evil, cunning, stunning) flashbanging, everyone.

Stav Sherez attended Latymer Upper School and the University of Leeds. His first novel, The Devil’s Playground, was published in 2004 by Penguin Books and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger. Sherez’s second novel, The Black Monastery, was published by Faber & Faber in April 2009.

His third novel, A Dark Redemption, the first in a London-based police procedural series, was published by Faber and Faber in February 2012. It deals with Joseph Kony and the legacy of LRA child soldiers now living in London. The second in the Carrigan and Miller series, Eleven Days, was published in 2013.

From 1999 to 2004 Sherez was a main contributor to the music magazine Comes with a Smile. He has also written for various other publications including The Daily Telegraph, Zembla and the Catholic Herald.

Research by Calum Kerr

Fancy swotting up ahead of next year’s contest? We asked Calum Kerr, the UK Director of National Flash Fiction Day, to flash us his credentials and fire off a crime story in 150 words or less.


by Calum Kerr

Sirach stands over the body, the knife hot in his hand, blood dripping through his fingers. His heart pounds in his chest and his breath comes fast and friable in his throat.

The alley is deserted; litter-strewn, smelly and with blood spreading out across it.

He wipes the blade on the body then slides it back inside his coat.

Steadying his breathing he slips back out onto the street and walks back to his apartment. No one marks him.

In the kitchen he opens the dishwasher and carefully places the weapon inside, then washes his hands in the sink.

He bundles all his clothes into the washing machine. Naked and unashamed, he goes upstairs for a shower.

Afterwards he dresses and sits at his desk. His computer hums as he types:

The man stood over the body, the knife hot in his hand, blood dripping through his fingers.

Calum: “In its first draft, this story was nearly 300 words long, but 150 or under was the stipulation, so it was time to get out the blue pencil. I cut and I cut and when I’d finished (including a tense change) I discovered I’d cut it down to 133. I was – as I always am when I edit in earnest – amazed that the whole story could be told in so few words and that nothing essential had been lost. It was still the same story, simply distilled. I tell my students to always write long and then cut back. This is why. You get a chance to tighten, to remove the extraneous, and – if you’ll excuse the crime-related pun – to get to the heart of the matter. If you count them up, you’ll notice that it’s now 148 words long. I didn’t put any back. Instead, my editing had given me the luxury of inserting new words. 15 of them. Bliss.”

Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife – the writer, Kath Kerr – their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is now available from Amazon or direct from the publisher, Cinder House.


Runner up 2013

Our second runner up was Debra Ramsdale for The Laburnum Tree, with its nicely deliberate deployment of words as clues.



by Debra Ramsdale

The trial was finally over and Gillian returned home, acquitted of murder. Her family never doubted her innocence. The death of her partner Vanessa would remain unexplained. But nothing else was unknown anymore. Their civil partnership had been disclosed to all present at the trial. Ace card. Gasps from some in the public gallery. Next of kin. Legal. Vanessa’s mother was powerless now.

Vanessa and her mother were peas from the same pod. Controlling. Obsessive. Suspicious. Interfering. Spiteful. Last word on everything. Sharp tongued. Always right. Sweetness and light to everyone else. Happy. Content. Warm. Generous.

Gillian sat in their garden, tended by a contract gardener now. Everything was finally being given a chance to thrive and grow. She particularly admired the trees. She only knew the name of one. The laburnum looked splendid but needed attention. Beautiful but undoubtedly poisonous.

Just like Vanessa.

Runner up 2013

Technology loomed large in this year’s Flashbang entries. We had two runners up. Both won a place on CrimeFest’s Crime Writing Seminar with Jeffery Deaver. The first was Pauline Wilson for Head Shots.



by Pauline Wilson

The fusty pub was miles from Holly’s regular haunts. In the snug, she scrolled through the images of her husband on JJ’s mobile phone. The bullets had shattered Daniel’s skull, leaving fragments of bone and gaping wounds.

‘And you’re certain the police won’t be suspicious?’ she asked.

‘Don’t sweat,’ JJ said. ‘They’ll think it’s a carjacking gone belly up.’

‘They better had.’ Holly slid the envelope across the table. ‘That’s the balance.’

Poker faced, JJ checked the contents and nodded. ‘Cheers.’ He drained his glass and strode towards the exit.

Holly finished her brandy and smiled. Here’s to a wealthy widowhood.

Outside in the car park, her phone beeped. As she stared at the text message, the words began to swim. Stuck on M6. Home around 9:00pm. Daniel.

‘Nooo.’ She slumped against her car door. ‘I’ll kill you for this, JJ.’

Third Prize 2013

3rd Prize in CrimeFest’s Flashbang 2013 contest went to Cathy Lennon for her chilling story, Expectations. Cathy won a selection of Italian crime books from Hersilia Press and a boxed set of Sherlock DVDs.



by Cathy Lennon

‘Qu’est-ce qu’on va faire avec elle? Apres?’

I waited for Jean-Marc’s reply, while his mother’s knitting needles clicked. He chewed at his thumb without looking at me, shrugged, lifted the bomber jacket from the chair and left the room. I heard the door slam. When I’d fled to France the only words I’d known were oui and non. No money, only the clothes I stood up in, when a man in a bomber jacket offered a place to stay, in words that were just about English, I’d shrugged too. Why not? Turned out I wouldn’t need either of my words.

The pile of hand-knitted baby clothes has grown a lot since then. And so has my belly. It’s getting harder to roll off that mattress on the floor. It’s even a struggle to get off this chair. Pretty soon they’ll have no need for the handcuffs at all. Or me.

Second Prize 2013

2nd Prize went to Hayley Jackson for her cleanly-written yet creepy tale, Local News Quarterly. Hayley won a weekend pass to CrimeFest 2014.



by Hayley Jackson

January 12

Lead theft: Church roof repair fund £250,000 target.

April 12

Accident kills mother and daughter: Level crossing signal failure.

School floods: Copper pipes stolen during Easter break.

Operation ‘Midas’: Police target metal theft.

July 12

War memorial: Bronze plaques stolen.

Scrap metal dealer vanishes: ‘Midas’ police request information on the whereabouts of Richard Bragg 45.

Teenage runaways: Best friends missing after night out.

October 12

Police claim ‘Midas’ success!

Tragic sculptor dies: Prominent art world figure Percy Justice found dead at home. His death is not being treated as suspicious. It comes just months after the accidental deaths of his wife and daughter caused by signalling cable theft at a level crossing. Following active service in the army, he became a successful sculptor depicting contemporary themes. He had just completed his final work, a life sized three figure piece cast in bronze titled ‘Caught in the act’.

Winning Story 2013

1st prize went to Alex Buchanan for his story, Crime Seen. An unusual format for a pleasingly twisted tale.



by Alex Buchanan

Crime Seen @writeaboutcrooks

Announcing the 2013 Crime Flash Fiction Competition. Max 150 words; £10 per entry via PayPal. 1st prize £5000, 2nd £1000, 3rd £500. Closing date 31st March.

Details at

Retweeted 2386 times.

William Anderson @quillbill

Finished story for CFF comp! Edit 2morrow and then submit if not hungover after pubmeet tonight, lol!

Rachel Feldman @cockneymissmarple

@quillbill Wow, that was quick! Need to lose 30 words from my WIP. No wine for me tonight! Xx

Terry Starling @midsomer4ever

Have submitted my story for CFF. Fingers crossed for Bahamas holiday…!

Crime Seen @writeaboutcrooks

Excellent stories being submitted this year! Keep them coming – only a week to go!

Rachel Feldman @cockneymissmarple

@quillbill @midsomer4ever Have you heard re CFF comp results? Thought it was today? :-(

William Anderson @quillbill

@writeaboutcrooks Can’t find results of FF competition. New website?



DELIVERY ERROR: the @writeaboutcrooks account has been closed.

Results 2013

The winners of CrimeFest’s Flashbang 2013 contest were announced by our headline judge, Zoë Sharp, live at Crimefest yesterday. We were delighted that four of the five winners were able to receive the news of their success at the end of the Crime Writing Seminar with Jeffery Deaver who congratulated everyone on their success.  The full results are published below. Thanks to everyone who entered, huge congratulations to the winners and runners-up, and well done to all those who made the shortlist, and the longlist. We’ll be publishing the winning stories here in due course.

1st Prize

Crime Seen by Alex Buchanan

2nd Prize

Local News Quarterly by Hayley Jackson

3rd Prize

Expectations by Cathy Lennon


Head Shots by Pauline Wilson

The Laburnum Tree by Debra Ramsdale


The Laburnum Tree by Debra Ramsdale

Misunderstood by Keith Walters

Crime Seen by Alex Buchanan

Expectations by Cathy Lennon

No Big Deal by J.C. Martin

A Bad Heart by Emma Collins

So Sweet by Su Prothero

Local News Quarterly by Hayley Jackson

No Going Back by Dave Sivers

Final Demand by Andrew Kells

Disassembly by Thomas Guest

Ghost Chilli by Andrew Lavender

Head Shots by Pauline Wilson

Nightmare on Wall Street by Pauline Rendall

Corpus Delicti by Iain Paton

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