Crime Writing Basics

Via Sarah Hilary’s blog:

If you’re an aspiring crime writer, do sign up for Crime Writing Basics, an online course starting 21 September 2015. I’ll be popping in to lend a steer and some cheers, plus a critique for one (or more) of the writers who submit work at the end of the course. The course tutor is Tom Bromley. The first of these courses was run in association with BritCrime and proved a big hit with students. Now it’s time to go around again.

More details about BritCrime can be found here.

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.

Runner-up 2015

Alison Bambridge led us up the garden path with this deceptively simple story.


‘PC Scanlon,’ he says. The woman standing at the park gates, face taut, phone clutched in her hand, gives a tepid smile.

‘What happened?’

‘A man threatened me.’

‘Where? Here?’

‘In the woods.’ she points behind her.

‘What did he do?’

‘He said he needed a victim.’ Her voice catches and she pauses, wrapping her arms around herself.

‘A victim?’ The policeman perks up.

‘Yes.’ She bites her lip. ‘He said if I didn’t find one he’d kill me. That he’d be watching.’ Her voice drops to a shadow.

After manhandling a BMX from a glue sniffer and dragging two drunks out of Asda, Scanlon is pleased to be cast in a more heroic role.

‘Right. Don’t worry. You’re not going to be anyone’s victim.’ He gives her shoulder a squeeze before heading towards the trees.

‘No’, she says, softly, as he disappears into the woods. ‘But you will.’

Runner-up 2015

Jane Parkes caught our judicial eye with this slice of courtroom life.

First Day in Court 

Danny fidgets at his assigned place in the courtroom, anxiously studying the prosecution barrister, resplendent in wig and gown. Danny’s own collar, new and stiff, chafes at his neck and he pulls at it with one hand while scratching his head with the other. His mother insisted on buying him the new suit for his first court appearance. She wants him to make a good impression. She is not here; she is too nervous, but he spots his father in the public gallery and they exchange brief  nods.

The court rises for the judge and Danny’s legs begin to tremble. Whatever happens, today will be life -changing. The imperturbable barrister introduces himself to the jury.

“Members of the jury, I appear for the Prosecution. My learned friend ….” there is a pause as he searches for the unfamiliar name and Danny holds his breath, “…… Daniel Jackson appears for the Defence.”

Runner-up 2015

Sarah Sillars Kane delivered a slam-dunk in this tale of vengeance.

Gospel Girl

Gnarled oak doors slammed shut.

With soundtrack provided by Mendelssohn and atmosphere provided by Déjà Vu the promise breaker entered the cathedral, scrutinised by morning suits and fascinators.

Money, anticipation, and elevation up the social ladder proceeded her. Broken dreams, twisted secrets, and bridesmaids preceded her.

Ahead of her was William, fitting the Bill for perfect husband material. Behind her, an exquisite silk train smoothed over memories of husbands past:

Matt; extra-marital affair. Drowned.

Marc hadn’t been loaded. Suicide.

Lucas; irreconcilable differences. Skiing accident.

As for Jon… Uncompromising. Unreasonable. Irrational. Impossible! Sectioned for psychosis. He deserved it.

“Do you promise to cherish William until death do you part?” The bishop’s words reverberated off ancient stone.

“I do,” she vowed.

Gnarled oak doors crashed open:

Weather provided by gale-force England.

Bullets provided by a Heckler & Koch.

Assassination of the adorable couple provided by Jon the Undeserving.

She kept a promise.

Third prize 2015

Vicky Newham won third prize with this very special story of love and loss.


He’d asked for freesias. ‘They were Jean’s favourite,’ he said.

In the vase by the bed, the buds loosen and release their delicate aroma.

He’s already half asleep. His body, barely a bump under the covers. Eye sockets hollowed out and cheek bones protruding.

‘No-one important,’ was how he described himself. ‘Not famous or special.’ A simple life, of love and loss: fish paste sandwiches eaten on the beach in the wind; an afternoon movie and night-time drive; the death of his wife.

Except – he was no ordinary man. He’d survived the war but was no match for this disease.

Six o’clock he’d requested, the same time he was born.

I glance at my watch and check everything’s in place. Increase the dose into the cannula. And clutching his frail hand, with skin gathered round joints, I sit with him and wait.

And say farewell to my beloved dad.

Second prize 2015

Litty Williams took 2nd prize for her chilling and twisted story.

The Most Important Meal of The Day

Blessed silence filled the kitchen. For the first time in ten months Stella would breakfast in peace.

She picked up a velvety-red peach from the highchair tray. Its aroma triggered memories of freedom. Of youth.

Stella rotated the peach so that each hand gripped one side along the vertical seam. A sharp twist and it split in two. Strands of skin and stringy fibre hung loose where the flesh had ripped. Juice from the tender, yellow pulp dripped down her hands.

The sweet, acidic tang of it filled her mouth as she closed her eyes and gorged – first one half then the other. Satisfied, she dropped the remains onto the plastic tray and wiped her hands on the nearby bib.

She pushed back from the table, walked past the highchair and picked up the phone to report the accident.

Who knew a baby’s skull could be so thin?

Winning story 2015

First prize went to Tracey Walsh for her wicked story of (un)happy families.

Standing Room Only

Front row reserved for family. Awkward. Front rows then.

I once calculated how many weeks, days, hours, minutes until you’d be old enough to leave home. I know exactly when I first set eyes on you. Snub nose pressed against the window. Daddy’s little princess in denim dungarees.

Daniel, proud single dad sharing you with me at last.

I might as well have printed WELCOME on my back so you could break in your new flashing trainers walking all over me.

You nearly won.

But just this side of capitulation I decided. One of us had to die. And shifting the blame? Inspired.

So standing room only, as we say our goodbyes to Daniel. Wish they’d hurry up. Merry Widow suits me better than Wicked Stepmother and they’ll have to get you back to custody soon. Poor princess.

Results 2015

The winners of CrimeFest’s Flashbang 2015 contest were announced live at CrimeFest on 15 May. We were delighted that all three of the winners were able to hear the news of their success at the end of the Crime Writing Day which formed part of their prize. The full results are published below. Thanks to everyone who entered, congratulations to the winners and runners-up, and to all those who made the longlist.

1st Prize

Standing Room Only by Tracey Walsh

2nd Prize

The Most Important Meal of the Day by Litty Williams

3rd Prize

Mercy by Vicky Newham


Victimology by Alison Bambridge
Gospel Girl by Sarah Sillars Kane
First Day in Court by Jane Parkes


Standing Room Only by Tracey Walsh
The Cop and the Killer by Michael Davies
Victimology by Alison Bambridge
The Most Important Meal of The Day by Litty Williams
Sinker by Vicky Newham
The Silent Attack by Keith B Walters
Mercy by Vicky Newham
Single to Gravesend by Dina Greene
The Scrapbook by Sean Carpenter
Gospel Girl by Sarah Sillars Kane
Viral by Angie Williams
First Day in Court by Jane Parkes

Shortlist 2015

Here, in no specific order, is our shortlist. Many congratulations to all who made it through. Winners will be announced live at CrimeFest’s Crime Writing Day on 15 May. Good luck.

Standing Room Only
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Gospel Girl
First Day in Court

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