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Paris in the Dark - Robert Olen Butler

Paris 1915, the United States’ entry to the First World War is eighteen months away. President Woodrow Wilson is committed to keeping America out of the war. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, American correspondent for the Chicago Post-Express and undercover agent for the US government, is resident in the city, ostensibly to tell the story of the volunteer American ambulance drivers helping the war effort, their nightly convoys ferrying French wounded to the city’s hospitals. With war raging, the city’s morale on the verge of collapse and French authorities desperate to maintain control, Cobb the spy is assigned to investigate a wave of bombings of civilian targets. In the wake of one blast, he returns to pay his CafĂ© bill. His waiter catches the prevailing mood: ‘“The Barbarians,” he said. Meaning the Germans. “They are among us.”’ Suspicion falls on infiltrators among the refugees streaming into Paris from Alsace, northern France and Belgium. Cobb picks up the bombers' trail, nav…
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GETTING CARTER: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir

This weekend sees another long-held ambition realised: for Ted Lewis to be a subject on the CrimeFest Authors Remembered panel. As the festival reaches its ten year landmark, it seems timely to be sitting alongside colleagues, discussing the enduring influence of this crime fiction pioneer, particularly with a copy of Getting Carter in hand.

Since publication last year, the response to the book and interest in Lewis and his work has exceeded any and all expectations. Sometimes an untold story catches the imagination, but never without the help of friends. I'm grateful to all those who have supported Getting Carter along the way, particularly Ion Mills, Steven Mair and all at No Exit Press, Cathi Unsworth and the noir family, Paul Oliver at Soho Press / Syndicate Books, and the writers, readers, reviewers, bloggers and festival organisers who spread the word.

A year ago if anyone had told me Getting Carter would have be shortlisted for the HRF Keating award alongside writers whose w…

FACE VALUE: Northern Crime Short Story Winner/FRANK'S WILD YEARS: New Edition/TED LEWIS: Update

"From rural noir to urban terror, high concept drama to blunt force trauma, Moth Publishing presents its first collection of prize-winning short stories." 2015 is about to end with a result. My story Face Value is a winner in the inaugural Northern Crime Short Story Competition. With the winners' anthology released on Monday 7 December in paperback and E-book, it's a great way to sign off after a hard-working but not always the most productive of writing years. I'm especially pleased Face Value made the grade. This week also sees the publication of a new edition of Frank's Wild Years. I'm grateful to publisher, Caffeine Nights, for the opportunity to put right a few of the things which have bugged me since it was originally let loose on the world, and for continuing to show faith in the book. The altogether sharper Frank's Wild Years will be available online, in bookshops and at WH Smiths travel stores from 3 December. This year I made a conscious deci…

James Varda: Chance And Time - One Year On

On his ABC (Australia) radio show The Inside Sleeve last week, Paul Gough introduced a couple of tracks from Chance And Time, the last album from James Varda who died in June this year. He introduced the section with a few words about how he came to know Varda's music in the late 80s through the John Leckie-produced LP, Hunger. He spoke about the strength of the songwriting and how the record had stayed with him over the years. He played Beside The Sea, the haunting penultimate track on Chance And Time, and Only Love, which, in a sense is the centrepiece, closing the Chance section of the album. For me -  and I've listened to the album many times - there was something different about hearing the songs on a radio programme broadcast from thousands of miles away. It lacked the static and hiss of an old time analogue radio show, but felt no less distant. It's a year since Chance And Time was released and nearly five months since James died. He would, I'm sure, have been pl…

JAMES VARDA

JAMES VARDA: PRESS RELEASE
Small Things Records are sad to announce the death of James Varda, one of the most distinctive singer songwriters of his generation, at his home in Sheringham, Norfolk on 12 June, 2015.
James had lived and worked with a rare form of cancer for some time. He had known this day would come and until a few weeks ago was reading and listening to music, as always inspired and inspiring in equal measure. On 2014’s astonishing album, Chance And Time, James turned his songwriting talent to chronicling the experience of confronting illness and death, and in doing so, created a unique language and music of love and pain, family, landscape and loss. It is undoubtedly his best work.
James was the rarest of musicians, always and only making records on his own terms. His 1988 debut, Hunger, marked him out as the original indie acoustic outsider. His gigs in those days were an electric experience and led to invitations to appear on Channel 4’s Night Network, appearances at the…

New Music: James Varda - Chance And Time

If last year’s The River And The Stars was the sound of James Varda’s artistic reawakening, the new album Chance And Time (2014) - released today on Small Things Records - finds him playing with the grace and flavour of an English Elliot Smith. On every level, this is an extraordinary piece of work. Varda has said that things have ‘fallen into place’ on this album. Always a great guitar player, he's on virtuoso form. Every careful arpeggio and minimal lick gives the song what it needs and no more. To paraphrase Townes Van Zandt, Varda has always had to ‘sing for the sake of the song’. Bringing together many of the musicians who played on The River And The Stars, there’s a powerful sense of a band coming together who buy into that ethos. Special mention to Johanna Herron whose vocals melt perfectly into Varda’s on Our Love Will Never End, Fliss Jones whose piano on Beside The Sea is a piece of understated brilliance, and Nick Harper who makes an appearance with some great playing o…

Ted Lewis at the BBC Written Archive