Jack The Ripper: Why The Enduring Fascination?


While true crime stories will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of both the media and the viewing public, with everything from Netflix’s Making a Murderer to the BBC’s retelling of the story of the kidnap of Shannon Matthews in The Moorside, the media, in particular TV and film, has always been obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind cases, but there has never been such a following for any case as there has with Jack the Ripper.

Although there is limited evidence that the five main murders attributed to the Ripper (those of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly) were actually committed by the same man, the tenuous links between the cases (the supposed medical experience of the killer and the geographical closeness of the crimes), coupled with the letter to the media, now believed to be a hoax, caused the birth of the myth of Jack the Ripper.

Over the years, the Ripper has been featured in everything from films, plays, TV shows and books, both fiction and non-fiction. He has become a character in his own right, with many books, films, TV shows and art displays depicting him despite the fact that we have no real idea of what he looked like The Ripper has been everything from a character and core plot point, as in the Jonny Depp film From Hell, to a tenuous link, such as in the BBC series Ripper Street, which uses only his name and brief reference to his crimes.

Recently crime writer Patricia Cornwell renewed her previous claims that artist Walter Sickert was the ripper, reigniting the speculation around who the Ripper actually was. The claims were originally made a few years ago, but Cornwell recently rejuvenated the idea in a new book.

The question remains; why is there this continued fascination throughout the media with the Ripper? Part of it, I believe, stems from his anonymity. As no one really knows (or, let’s face it, ever will know) who Jack the Ripper is, everyone is obsessed with either uncovering him, or, in the case of the books and TV shows, at least lending him a face. The mystery is interesting to people, as they seek to solve the mystery.

Also, his crimes were both horrific and committed against women, who were predominantly, at least the five main victims believed to have been killed by the ripper, lower class women, some with known backgrounds in prostitution. Sex workers and lower class women have always been great media fodder, and their downfall is often vilified and enjoyed by the viewing public as the media looks to blame them for their crimes. Many of the portrayals of the victims, although fewer and far between than those of their killer, show them in an unsympathetic light; for example, Barbara Windsor’s depiction of Annie Chapman in A Study in Terror shows her, during the limited time she is shown on screen, as self involved and slightly obnoxious. The paradox between the media’s love of the Ripper himself and its distain for his victims is probably key to the longevity of their association with him.

Finally, the fact that the crimes were committed so long ago is a big factor in making the media continue to focus on the Ripper. When the BBC’s The Moorside was broadcast, many people questioned the timing, as the crime was only committed a few years ago and the young victim could be affected. However, the Ripper murders were committed around the late 1800s (the five key murders took place around 1888), meaning that none have surviving close relatives to mourn them or openly condemn the constant revisiting of these dreadful crimes. It is my belief that these factors all created the ideal platform for which the media could, and continues to, use the Ripper as the archetypal criminal.

Guy Fraser-Sampson Interview: “a writer has to find and nurture their own voice”


Guy Fraser-Sampson, an author whose Mapp and Lucia novels have all been optioned by BBC TV, and whose most recent novel, Miss Christie Regrets, has achieved critical acclaim (read my review HERE) talks me through his work and the writers that helped shape it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and mystery writing?

I think it’s very important for an author to find their own distinctive voice and stick with it. It’s certainly something I look for when I read other writers myself, and it’s surprising how often I don’t really hear it, perhaps because they’re writing a book which their publishers want to publish rather than one which they want to write.

My own narrative style took shape while I was writing my three Mapp and Lucia novels and I have tried to tinker with it as little as possible when moving on to other things, apart from cutting out as many bitchy asides as possible!

I know that some people will find my style old-fashioned. In particular, many people seem to have a problem with adverbs these days. I have even had reviewers and publishers say they don’t think they add anything to the story, which is so breathtakingly silly as to require little further comment.

It’s only fair to add that I’ve been blessed with two wonderful editors (Olivia Bayes for my Mapp and Lucia books and Matthew Smith for The Hampstead Murders) who have been happy for me to write in my own way and who have never suggested any significant revisions.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?

I have been variously a lawyer, an investment banker and an investment manager. I have also taught for the last ten years at a leading business school. My introduction to writing was along the path of non-fiction, partly with some big publishers such as Wiley and Macmillan, and partly some small independents such as Elliott & Thompson. I have written about finance, investment, economics, and cricket. Olivia, the editor of my cricket book, is a huge Mapp and Lucia fan, which is how I came to launch my career as a fiction writer.

I try very hard to write about things I have experienced myself, places I have been, etc. and so wherever possible my scenes are drawn from life. The courtroom scenes in Death in Profile would be a good example, though one reviewer did suggest I had made the barristers too pompous (not possible, actually).

When writing your Mapp & Lucia novels, why did you choose to undertake the process of taking established characters and reinvigorating them?

I said earlier that a writer has to find and nurture their own voice. I think it’s also terribly important for them to be able to create their own world and draw the reader into it. Again, it’s amazing how many don’t really seem able to do this, at least not for me. If they are really, really good at it then the world stays with you long after the books are finished. This happened to me in particular with the world of Mapp and Lucia (Tilling rather than Riseholme) and the world of Lord Peter Wimsey ,created by Dorothy L Sayers, which I rather cunningly incorporate into “Death in Profile” in a way that will not excite the copyright lawyers.

So the world of Mapp and Lucia was ever present in my head and I’d always regretted that there were only three ‘real’ Mapp and Lucia originals, so once I found a like-minded publisher I leapt at the chance to write some more.

The characters I pretty much took up where Benson had left them, though inevitably with my own subjective gloss; no two people’s interpretations of a book can be the same because they are shaped by our individual imaginations. I did however endeavour to make the subsidiary characters a little less cardboard by fleshing out some back-story wherever I could.

I also took the view very early on that I would not try exactly to copy Benson’s style (nobody could) but to write in the spirit of the originals, which I think I have pulled off. It was nice that people like Tom Holt, Gyles Brandreth and Sandy (Alexander) McCall Smith were happy to endorse them.


Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?

Modern crime fiction seems to resemble a barbell. At one end of the bar is a big ball representing the “noir” world so beloved of the publishing industry and TV production companies, with bleak, desolate locations, graphic gore and violence, and deeply damaged detectives recovering from a nervous breakdown and a failed relationship and suffering drink, drugs or gambling (delete whichever do not apply) problems. Real life isn’t like that. At the other end of the barbell is the cosy crime ball, also beloved by publishers and TV, frequently with a period setting. But real life isn’t like that, either. In between these two extremes there is very little.

I deliberately set my books right in the middle. I want to write about ordinary (though unusual and thus interesting) people doing ordinary things, and I draw deeply on my own experiences. For example, I have worked in many different work environments but I have never once been sworn or shouted at, so why put anything like that in a book? It would be phoney and done entirely to shock.

I also treat my readers as intelligent and well read. There are quirky references back to crime writers of former ages, some explicit, some less so. I expect my readers to understand and appreciate these, and I think they do.

Another big difference about my writing is that I establish fully rounded private lives for my central characters. They don’t disappear from view when they leave the police station in the evening and magically appear again the next morning; you see what happens to them at home. John Creasey was the inspiration for this, first with Inspector West, but even more so subsequently with Gideon. Internal police politics have a role to play too.

So, their popularity is probably due to a number of things: a fantastic location (Hampstead), a cast of likeable central characters about whom you want to know ‘what happens next’, an on going love triangle, and a credible portrayal of ordinary, everyday real life.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I don’t plan my books in advance, I just write them as I go along, so writer’s block is a frequent companion! My approach is to create the characters and then see where they want to take me. That may sound rather anarchic, but it has worked so far up to now. You just have to trust that the “ah, so that’s what happens” moment really will come along. I’m usually writing at least two books at once, so you can always just put something aside for a week or so while you think about it.

I do try to write something every day but I don’t think people realise how much time a writer needs to spend on non-writing activities. As a general rule of thumb I probably spend at least three hours ‘promoting’ for every hour of ‘writing’, and if it’s around the time of a book launch then it may be ten or twenty times as much.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I think the ultimate ‘writer’s writer’ was probably George Orwell. There is a tautness about his prose, and a cadence and rhythm in his sentences that I have always admired. However, another of my writer heroes is Lawrence Durrell, and I suspect he might be rather more fun to work with, provided you could keep him away from wine and women!

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

The third in The Hampstead Murders, A Whiff of Cyanide is due out in June, so I’m already planning some events around that. It features suspicious death at a convention of crime-writers, which meant that I had a lot of fun writing it. Fans of the Peter Collins character will be glad to hear that he plays a more prominent role in this one.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I always look forward to whatever is the next Bryant and May book to be emerging from the pen of Christopher Fowler. He is a true one-off. I love his characterisation, his plots and the intelligent, quirky London references, all of which I would shamelessly copy if I had the ability.

Ruth Dugdall, another writer whom I really admire, also has a new book coming out.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Speaking as someone who has taught at business school for many years, and has also advised various businesses over the years, it does seem to me that there are huge inefficiencies at just about every stage of the book industry’s business processes. Demand for books (particularly physical books) is holding up, which is better than was feared a few years back, but everyone – writers, readers, publishers, agents, and booksellers of all types – needs to find ways to work with each other rather than against each other. I am sure technology points the way here, but it needs the right attitude of mind from all concerned.

Thanks ever so much to Guy for speaking to me. You can learn more about Guy and his writing HERE.

Lost in Static Review: A Thriller in a New Form


Lost in Static has been in my ‘to review’ pile for a while now, but don’t let my laziness indicate that this is anything short of a riveting and inviting thriller. With all the panache and slick plotting of a Hollywood screenplay, this twist on the traditional colliding lives narrative is fascinating and unique.

A thriller that spans the perspectives of four key characters, with the narrative a first person depiction of the thoughts and feelings of Yasmine, Ruby, Juliette and Callum as they battle ever evolving relationships thanks to a variety of secrets, changes and misunderstandings.

The one issue I take with this novel is the issue of information dumping. Considering the first person narrative it should be easy for author Christina Philippou to effortlessly integrate plot points into the narrative; instead, we are regularly given awkward paragraphs of pure info-dump, with the narrators telling the reader stories which are designed exclusively as a fast way to disseminate key knowledge. Whilst I understand that providing vital background information is key to ensuring the smooth flow of any novel, I am not sure it is done with much skill in this instance.

Despite this, Lost in Static remains an interesting read: with an innovative narrative structure, superb dialogue and some brilliant portrayals of relationships and emotions, this smart and creative thriller is something different, and definitely worth checking out.

Markus Ahonen Interview: “where don’t I find inspiration?”

Markus Ahonen

Anyone interested in great Scandinavian Crime Fiction will be pleased to hear that I caught up with Markus Ahonen, the Ireland based Finnish author who created the Isaksson series.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I had written six full-length scripts before my seventh one was published. They were all not crime fiction, but also literary fiction, psychological novels, children’s fantasy and short stories. I did read crime fiction and suspense very early and found my heart and my career through Finnish author Matti Yrjänä Joensuu’s Harjunpää series, which depicted police work and life in a realistic and melancholic way. I’ve had some kind of tendency to twist stories into crime over the years. At one point I was working as a TV scriptwriter and sent a pile of ideas to a TV producer I knew. I got feedback from him telling that the ideas were OK, but one thing: they don’t always have to include a murder.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I was born in Helsinki, Finland and grew up in Martinlaakso, the suburb of Vantaa next to Helsinki, the childhood home suburb of F1 drivers Mika Häkkinen and Mika Häkkinen and heavy metal band Amorphis. I studied Communications and Finnish Literature in Turku and did shorter stints in Upstate New York for a year at 17 and later on for one semester in Holland.

I’ve been working as a journalist already since college times, first as a freelancer, then as Editor and Editor-in-Chief for local newspapers before moving on to TV script writing. I’ve lived in Ireland since 2006 and worked as a flying correspondent, author and also in digital marketing.

I made a decision at age 14 to, at some point, become an author, so I wrote and prepare myself for that silently, then busting myself towards journalism and the book writing.

How do you draw on your experience as a journalist? Do you find yourself using the techniques you learned as a flying foreign correspondent in your writing?

It’s been very fruitful. Journalism has been a good way to gather experience and routine to writing and see life. In that work you hear a lot of stories and meet people from all classes in life. In the latest, fourth Isaksson series novel Sydämenmurskajaiset (Heart Crushing Party), there is lot of documentary material from inside the borders of Syria. I was on a report trip to Lebanon in spring 2012 and met a lot of people crossing the border to North Lebanon. These sad stories stayed in my mind for a long time and made their way into this book, including the things that happened to the people I met and the sad fate of two journalist colleagues who died in shelling in Baba Amr in Homs. Those scenes could be part of some journalistic report also.

How does publishing ebooks differ from printed books? Do you find yourself amending your writing style to suit this more technology based medium?

I started in traditional publishing, having first had two novels published with two separate publishing houses. Then I hit a dead end and decided to go into e-publishing myself. With hard work I succeeded and was contacted by a big publishing house in Finland. The whole series was republished last year in June and the new novel in September. I haven’t changed my writing style depending on the format, but the whole process was different as I gathered an international team to do all the different parts of the process and did the contracts myself. I enjoyed the entrepreneurial period of my life as an e-publisher very much. It was flexible, fast and more easily international. But I don’t want to look at these two mediums competing with each other. Rather filling in each other’s gaps.

As a Finnish author based in Ireland, how do you draw on the dark heritage of both these cultures in your work?

I’m a Finn forever, no matter if I end up living in Ireland for the rest of my life. I grew up there and do get sucked into old memories, music, odd sense of humour, melancholic matters. But Ireland with its friendliness and laid-backness fits me very well as well. I think these things mix nicely in my work. I’ve now started adding more things in my novels from Ireland as well. The last novel has a big story investigation line which takes place in Ireland.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

It’s in a fact the opposite, where don’t I find inspiration? Every day new ideas walk past me, and all my notebooks and computer files are full of ideas and written excerpts or pages. Sometimes things just start rolling in one moment from something someone said, something I saw or something someone I knew experienced. Not only from my own life, but there also. I go well with emotions. If some feeling is deep and strong, it will surely show in the book in the best psychological way. I get ideas when going for super long walks, watching inspirational movies or listening to music that starts drawing pictures in my mind like movies.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I haven’t thought about it, but I wish I had met Matti Yrjänä Joensuu to understand the world and feelings inside of his head: he managed to put so well and in his superb and touching writings.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m now in a good phase writing the fifth Isaksson novel and I also have several other books that have been partially written. Some of them just need more time in the middle to get ready in my head. But I will be happy when they are finally finished. Some of them are very personal and therefore also rewarding.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

In crime fiction, since some of my favourites are not with us anymore such as Matti Yrjänä Joensuu and Henning Mankell, I look forward to Håkan Nesser’s new works. I would also like to see some Finnish authors gather good audience outside of Finland in crime genre, speculative fiction and literary fiction. Maybe that could be the next wave: The Finnish wing of Nordic Noir and other genres.

Do you have anything to add?

Thanks and greetings to everyone. Keep on reading books. And thanks, Hannah!

Thanks ever so much to Markus, it’s been great. To find out more about him and his work click HERE.

The Top Five Edgar Allan Poe Stories to Give You The Shivers


Like many, I suspect, I first encountered the work of Edgar Allan Poe through the TV show The Simpsons; most of the early Halloween specials featured one of Poe’s stories, whether it was the diorama that beat with The Tell Tale Heart or the episode which depicted a humorous retelling of The Raven.

Despite this rather unusual introduction, I did not fully become stuck on Poe until I started specialising in Crime Fiction at University. Poe’s detective Dupin is arguably the precursor to Sherlock Holmes, and indeed Doyle himself once stated “Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”

Therefore, I wanted to celebrate this literary marvel and the truly wondrous stories he wrote. Whether you are interested in learning the origins of the detective story or you simply want to see what all the fuss is about, I have collated five of my favourite stories by Poe that will leave you with fear, fascination and an insatiable thirst for more.

  1. The Tell Tale Heart: The ultimate thrilling tale of deception and destruction, in The Tell Tale Heart a nameless narrator kills his companion because of his freakish eye, only to be tormented by the sound of the old man’s heartbeat after his successful murder. I have always thought that Stephen King could easily have written this; there is something in the plotting and the edge the narrative gets as Poe expertly drives it to its horrifying conclusion that is eerily similar to King’s early work.
  1. The Raven: All right, so this is technically a narrative poem rather than a short story, but nonetheless, The Raven is one of Poe’s most celebrated works, and therefore this beautiful poem definitely warrants a read. Depicted the lovelorn narrator and his quest to find meaning, both in the death of his beloved and the appearance of an enigmatic raven with a limited vocabulary, The Raven is brimming with philosophical allusions and makes a great poem to puzzle over and analyse.
  1. The Pit and the Pendulum: Having been parodied and done to death in popular media over the years, it may surprise some to see what is perhaps Poe’s most renowned short story on this list, however I for one have been utterly terrified by this tale ever since I first encountered it. Although not historically accurate, The Pit and the Pendulum is a beautifully crafted horror story that tells the tale of a man bought in front of the Spanish Inquisition and horribly tortured. It is Poe’s focus on describing the sensations that the man experiences that is truly horrific, and it is this that makes this story so haunting.
  1. The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The first story to involve the great and often overlooked detective C. Auguste Dupin, this brilliant story is both exhilaratingly fast paced and fantastically plotted, with a conclusion so dumbfounding it could almost be true. The murders themselves are enough to get the reader hooked; both shocking and perplexing, they offer the perfect puzzle. Incorporating various explorations of mental ingenuity and social class, the story is fascinating on a number of levels, and makes for both a great study of early crime fiction and a diverting read.
  1. The Purloined Letter: Easily the best short story Poe ever wrote, and also clearly the inspiration behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, this remarkably clever yet deceptively simple tale depicts Dupin and his unnamed assistant as they work to uncover a letter stolen by a blackmail victim. Although a simple premise, Poe weaves intrigue, scandal and audacity into the story, providing a thrilling and enticing tale that makes you wonder why he didn’t write more stories involving his masterful detective.

Book Trailers: Why Are They Still A Thing?


I’ve seen book trailers before, but the recent excitement and hype that has been created by the trailer for John Darnielle’s recently released second novel Universal Harvester (have a look for yourself Here) got me thinking about how necessary this unusual form of book advertising actually is.

Similar to their cinematic counterparts, film and TV show trailers, book trailers showcase a brief example of the novel in question, usually in the form of a reading, juxtaposed with various images and snippets of soundtrack designed to be provocative and both entice the reader and enlighten them on the tone and style of the book in question.

However, whilst film and TV shows are watched on television and in cinemas, books are primarily read, usually at home in privacy or in public, for example on trains where they are often used to avoid human interaction. Whilst the trailers for new films or shows can easily reach TV and cinema audiences, book trailers have a limited appeal and it must be difficult to reach the intended audience. After all, there are various, more effective, ways to publicise a new book; train station billboard adverts, blurbs inserted into the back pages of similar texts by the same publisher and even free extracts given away for free. Each of these methods is more conducive to targeting a reading audience and enticing them to seek out a new particular new book.

So why do publishers and authors continue to create book trailers? Well, for starters their success is easier to monitor. Click through rates and watch numbers are easy to harvest through service providers and website analytics, whereas finding out how many people actually read your extract or paid attention to the advert on the side of a bus is harder to accurately measure. In addition, the rise in popularity of audio books means that trailers can often hit two target markets at the same time, appealing to those who are looking to buy the book itself and those intent on listening to it, as most trailers for new books feature a section of the book read aloud in an attempt to offer a form of introduction to the work.

Also, within the literature market there remains a constant focus on matching and outdoing the film and TV industries. Publishers are constantly seeking to lure readers away from screens and cinemas with the latest craze or fad, such as Kindles, book trailers and weird riffs on literature festivals such as world book night or those book swaps that are sweeping social media.

All of this, in my humble opinion, is both unnecessary and just plain wrong. The market for reading materials will always be separate from that of films and television shows thanks to the marked difference between these two mediums. Whilst films and shows are easy habits that can be indulged both socially and alone, and require minimal skill but with instant gratification, the enjoyment of reading requires both a certain temperament, often honed through background, and the ability to read. Whilst many people have the minimum skills required to read books, a number of people simply lack the interest, and the solitary nature of the hobby means many people prefer to seek out others and watch films instead.

Within the reading market there are also a vast array of variations. Some don’t read for fun but read when something of interest appears, others are fanatical and will read anything and everything a certain author puts out. Whatever the situation, there is no right or wrong way to read (or not read). What matters is the fundamental differentiator between the two markets, and the fact that, therefore, visual marketing tools such as trailers are unnecessary and, frankly, odd for published books.

So, overall, it is my personal belief that book trailers are out-dated and pointless. Whilst I will watch them if someone else finds one on YouTube that they think is a must see, I do not actively seek them out, and I know few who do. I’d be interested in your thoughts on book trailers and whether you think they’re necessary or interesting. Are you a fan or do you think they’re pointless and a waste of money?

Roy Harper Interview: “My background is what brings my stories alive”


An interesting one for you today; I speak to Roy Harper, who has been incarcerated in Mississippi since 1981 for armed robbery. He talks to me about how he uses writing to overcome his difficulties.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and darker writing?

My style? I think that came from Louis L’Amour and his flair for grabbing your attention and holding it.  For taking an otherwise unsavory character and molding him into someone you admire and root for.  They say you should write what you know.  The darker side of life?  Consider my record.  It’s all I’ve ever known.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past and your current situation when writing fiction?

I’m sorry, but my background is criminal- Well, maybe I’m not sorry.  My background is what brings my stories alive and gives you a sense of being there.  I ‘was’ there.  Although names and places have been renamed, many parts of my stories are based on real life events.

How did you come to publish your fiction? Were there any issues you found arising from your current situation?

It is extremely difficult to get published, especially for a convict.  I’ve been very fortunate in this regard.  Jenny Evans produced a documentary about my 2000 escape for National Geographic called “Breakout”.  My literary agent, Chris Roy, took the story to publishers Tom Vater and Hans Kemp.  Tom said I have great ‘credentials’ and he liked my story and writing. Issues from my current situation?  You bet.  When I began writing I was being moved once a week from cell to cell and shook down after each move.  That is only icing on the cake.  Writing? Challenging, extremely challenging.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

So here we are, back to Mr. L’Amour again.  I hope to write a western about my great grandfather and I can think of no greater mentor than Mr. L’Amour.  I’m sure the man could bring great grandfather to life.  But other than Mr. L’Amour, John Dillinger would be my next pick, for obvious reasons.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

In fact I do.  I’m polishing up a prequel right now.  Dusty, or “Dustball” from Heist, had a life before he met the protagonist.  I figured people might want to hear about it.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

Sure.  My agent, Chris, has two novels coming out that I haven’t yet read.  Sharp As A Razor and Shocking Circumstances are novels I look forward to.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

There is one thing I would love to put on readers’ minds.  Never believe or trust the hype an authority figure puts out there for you.  I write to avoid desperation and I continue to write!

Thank you for your time and please:  Read.

Thanks to Roy for taking the time. Check out more about his books HERE.


The Top Five Classic Crime Fiction Villains


I’ve done the detectives in several posts, now I thought I’d do the criminals. There are some cracking villains out there, many of whom are as memorable and relatable as the detectives who hunt them. Here is my pick of the best fictional criminals and how they have helped to shape this popular genre.

  1. Amy Dunne: When I first read Gone Girl Amy terrified me right from the very beginning. At the start of the novel she is the embodiment of everything no girl wants to be: fawning over her idiotic, selfish husband and kowtowing to her boorish and equally self-obsessed parents. Then, during the second part of the novel, we see things from Amy’s real viewpoint, and that was even more terrifying; here was a woman who could see no way out of being what everyone expected of her without concocting a horrific plan to shame her philandering husband and run away from her dull life. By setting up these two options as the only two potential choices for women, author Gillian Flynn makes a truly horrifying point about femininity and the lack of choices women have, and it is that, more than Amy herself, which is genuinely frightening. As such her portrayal of Amy, both the perfect and the flawed sides of her personality, are both equally riveting and spine chilling, making her a great villain.
  1. Samuel Ratchett: Although technically the murder victim in Christie’s iconic (and highly overrated) novel Murder on the Orient Express, Ratchett is undeniably a villain, and even his death causes confusion and problems for the detective. Despite the ridiculous plot and many of the characters being overly stereotypical, the one saving grace of this book is Ratchett and Christie’s depiction of both his life and death. Drawing inspiration from Dickens by giving her villain an evil name, the Queen of Crime creates a vile and disgusting character in her fearful American businessman seeking assistance from Poirot, only to be murdered shortly after being turned away by the astute detective, who dislikes this potential client’s face and manner. When it transpires that Ratchett is in fact Lanfranco Cassetti, the mob boss and child murderer who perpetrated and escaped justice for a horrific crime many years earlier, motives rain from the sky like hailstones.
  1. Arthur Geiger: Again, more of a victim than a villain within the novel’s plot and not the overall murderer in Raymond Chandler’s superb novel The Big Sleep, Geiger is a shit of the first order: a blackmailer, pornographer and general creep, Geiger dies early in the book and his death becomes an instrumental driver for the narrative, steering it towards its climactic conclusion. Geiger and his cretinous behaviour are at least partially responsible for the demented behaviour of Carmen Sternwood; by drugging and molesting her Geiger, who also runs a bookshop selling pornographic material, creates the monster who murders her sister’s husband.


  1. Sebastian Moran: Whilst the modern BBC adaptation makes a big deal of Professor Moriarty, it is in fact his employee, the embittered Colonel and skilled marksman, who has always stood out as the better villain in my opinion. With his sheer grit and determination he is truly frightening, showing utterly no mercy. Ruthless in his pursuit of those who wrong him or threaten to expose his shady dealings, Moran is described as heartless and cold-blooded, and in my eyes he was the real evil villain in Doyle’s stories. Although Moriarty had the connections and the wealth, the real viscous spirit was Moran’s, and he was the one who committed many of the actual crimes, acting as a serial hit man for the psychopathic Professor. In terms of both kill count and sheer murderous nature, Moran beats Moriarty hands down, and is therefore the more worthy of a place on this list.
  1. Carl and Irma Peterson: The perfect counterfoil to Sapper’s gentlemanly solider Bulldog Drummond, Carl is evil personified for the first four novels until his spectacular death, at which point his girlfriend Irma takes over. Irma is equally evil and villainous, embodying the scorned woman as she battles both Drummond and his band of merry men, as well as his wife Phyllis, who acts as the perfect opposite of the vampy and astute Irma. These two career criminals are the ideal nemeses of the Drummonds, and they drive the plot along with their quick dialogue and exuberant evil schemes.

Nigel James Interview: “I have always written about things I know about”


Another great interview for you! This week I spoke to sports fan and author Nigel James, who divides his time between London and Spain to learn more about his work and how he draws on his own personal experiences for his novels. 

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I have always been a fan of crime fiction and action thrillers, maybe as a form of light relief from my day job as a lawyer. Too many lawyers use ten words when one will do whereas I have always tried to be succinct. I think that defines my writing style. I am not trying to write a work of art, just a fast paced story that people can read and enjoy on trains or on their sunbeds. I read a lot of thrillers and find myself skim reading large chunks because authors are padding out their books with admittedly well-scripted prose but not adding to the story. A lot of 400 page books could be scaled down to 300.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?

For years, I had intended to write a crime thriller but when I finally got round to it, it took me ten years to write my first book, Deep Secret. This was largely due to having a full time job but it takes tremendous discipline just to sit down and write and stick at it. There is always that football match on the TV or that gardening that needs doing…Fortunately, having done it once, the next two only took about a year each and if I really worked at it, I guess I could write a book in three months. Because I have had little time to research, I have always written about things I know about. For example, Deep Secret is about the horseracing industry and The Marbella Project is set on the Costa del Sol, which I visit several times a year.

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?

Deep Secret is a story that I had had in mind for a long time and I suppose it comes within the category of crime fiction whereas my subsequent two books could more accurately be described as action thrillers. The Marbella Project is a revenge thriller set on the Costa del Sol in which a former SAS officer, assisted by a former colleague, takes on the Russian Mafia who murdered his son. I would say that anyone who enjoyed the Liam Neesom ‘Taken’ films or the TV series ‘Strikeback’ would like this book. A lot of people have said it would make a great film and so many people asked for another book with the same two characters, Dan and Jimmy, that I wrote The Corsican Project, in which a wealthy Frenchman recruits them to rescue his kidnapped daughter.

What do you enjoy reading personally? Are there any particular authors or books you are particularly engrossed by?

I have always been a fan of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, the Ben Hope series by Scott Mariani and the TV series, 24. I enjoy a relentless pace so that I find it difficult to put a book down and that feeling of anticipation when I pick it up again.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why? 

If I could collaborate with anyone, it would be a scriptwriter who could turn The Marbella Project into a blockbuster movie!

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I am currently writing the third book featuring Dan and Jimmy. This is a lot more topical and closer to home. London is being targeted by a terrorist and the security services are struggling to cope. In desperation, they turn to two people who will do whatever it takes without restraint.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I always look forward to the new Lee Child book, particularly after the last when he was back to his very best.

Thanks to Nigel for taking the time, you can read more about his work HERE.