books, crime fiction, writing, Writing and books

A walk on the dark side with Dr Noir

Writers wishing to get published in crime fiction have great opportunities to get involved in the crime fiction scene.  This blog aims to help you get to know who’s who and what’s what. 

 Let me tell you a secret… 

My crime writing colleagues might prefer me to keep this one under wraps, because it taints the image somewhat; so, on pain of death (and they really do know how to kill people) – I can tell you that … the crime writing community is an incredibly friendly and supportive one, full of fantastic people.

However, lurking in the centre of the dark and dastardly world of crime fiction, there is one.Jacky Collins

One that ought to be singled out.

And if you’re new to crime writing, it’s only fair that you should know.

We call her Dr Noir.

Scary, huh?

But here’s the real secret: Dr Jacky Collins, affectionately known as Dr Noir, and never far from new crime writing developments, is one of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  I’m delighted, and indebted to her for agreeing to take part in my first blog post.

Loitering with intent

Aside from her day job as a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, where she has a particular research interest in Icelandic crime fiction, film and TV, Jacky is involved in a number of crime fiction initiatives that, while being based in the North East, have a reach that is far wider.  Among these is Newcastle Noir, which she set up in 2014 along with Newcastle’s Lit & Phil Society.  Now an annual festival well established on the crime fiction calendar, this year’s Newcastle Noir featured more than 50 authors in 16 events (plus a programme of fringe events as well as the launch by the wonderful Denise Mina).

In addition to Newcastle Noir, Jacky is involved in Noir at the Bar (more about that in a moment), crime fiction collective the Bloody Marys (concerned with Noir, workshops and events), as well as running a European Crime Fiction book group at Newcastle City Library.  She’s also to be found volunteering at the annual Bloody Scotland in Stirling

it’s great to be part of and support someone else’s crime fiction festival

and has moderated panels at Iceland Noir and Shetland Noir, and will be doing the honours at Hull Noir in November.

Whew, did I say there was a day job?

When she gets the chance to be in the audience at a crime writing event, Jacky particularly loves to hear foreign authors read aloud from the original text.

it’s wonderful to hear crime fiction in other languages.

But crime writing events aren’t only about the Noir … the Scotland v England football match that they played at Bloody Scotland, and the bus tour that they organsied at Iceland Noir to see some of the locations where Yrsa Sigurdardottir had set her Thora Gudmundsdottir series have been enjoyable out-of-the-ordinary experiences.  (But let’s not mention the Scotland v England score.  There’s really no need for that).

On the crime scene

Jacky agrees that there’s a vibrancy around the crime writing scene, and puts this down to two fundamental aspects.  One of these is the tremendous support and encouragement that is shared between authors, readers and bloggers.  The other she attributes to the focus of the writing:

…crime fiction allows for a safe exploration of and treatment of some extremely difficult social, cultural, political and economic questions. Whilst these issues may not be the primary focus of the novel, they give the reader pause for thought in perhaps a less hectoring way than can happen with news programmes, documentaries or articles.

Amidst all this vibrancy, I was curious to find out what Dr Noir is reading at the moment (a girl’s to-read pile can never be too high, and it’s always good to get the nod to some new crime fiction).  She is, in fact, reading Arnaldur Indridason’s The Shadow District.  She has recently interviewed the author at Forum Books, Corbridge…

He’s one of my all-time favourite crime writers…

… and describes the event as a dream come true.  If you haven’t already discovered Indridason’s Detective Erlendur, a whole series awaits.  What could be more exciting?

Jacky is also about to begin the 25th anniversary edition of Martina Cole‘s Dangerous Lady, and declares,

What an utter privilege it will be to interview this bestselling author and queen of UK crime drama next month at the Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne (26/06/17).

Quick, there’s still time to get that date in your diary.

Watch out!

So, what’s next for crime writing?  Jacky is very excited about about the next wave of crime fiction in translation that’ll be coming our way in the next 12 months,

especially Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir and The Man who Died by Antti Tuomainnen (both published by Orenda Books).

There’s certainly a lot happening, and plenty of action for new crime writers to get into.  However, writers can be a shy lot, and I asked Jacky what she would say to new crime writers who might feel a bit bashful at taking part in events.  Her advice is,

find yourself the nearest chapter of Noir at the Bar (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Carlisle, Newcastle) a fun, supportive gathering where you can just be and also exchange ideas, tips and concerns about your writing and getting published.

Noir at the Bar events do what they say on the tin.  They are a get together of readers and writers in a pub, and give new and experienced writers alike the chance to read out their work in front of an enthusiastic audience.  Alcohol may be involved.  Good humour is always in abundance.  Look out on FaceBook and Twitter for dates – each one tends to take place once every two or three months.

Jacky also advises getting along to Newcastle Noir, as a very friendly festival and

the perfect opportunity to get to know the crime writing community.

The final word

To finish up, I asked Jacky what question she really wished she’d been asked but wasn’t.  Her response?..

Who would I like to see at Newcastle Noir – Sarah Lancashire & SallyWainwright to discuss Happy Valley.

Wow, can we do it?  Pretty please?

My thanks to Dr Jacky Collins for taking the time to talk Noir for Toxic Jackie.  Please do check out the various links throughout the post and here below.  I’d love to hear from new writers what advice they’d like to see covered in future blog posts.