Today I’m delighted to feature crime novelist William Shaw. I had the pleasure of meeting William last month at a Waterstones author event, and it would have been remiss of me not to ask him to join us. William has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Gold Dagger, and nominated for a Barry Award. His DS Alexandra Cupidi series – and the standalone bestseller The Birdwatcher – are set in Dungeness Kent. He also writes the acclaimed Breen & Tozer crime series set in sixties London. He worked as a journalist for over twenty years and lives in Brighton.
Over to William:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
In My Life by The Beatles. The Beatles were our childhoods and this song was one of the moments when they turned the subject matter of pop music around completely.
Happy Survival by Eddie Okwedy. A lot of my happiest times as a kid were spent in Nigeria. We returned there after the Biafran war. I bought this song in Enugu market aged about 13. It’s a song for those who survived one of the worst conflicts Africa saw.
Love Shack by the B52s. A family favourite. We have our own love shack and, always, at some point in the journey down there in the car, we play this song very loud.
Uptown by Sunday League. My son’s band. They’re fantastic.
War Requiem by Benjamin Britten. Love a bit of Britten. I took my mum to see this. The last concert we went together before she died.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My fiddle. It was bought for me by my mother when I was about 12. I still play it on stage in our ceilidh band. I’m a really terrible fiddle player, mind you.
Any keyboard based computer. I think with my fingers on a keyboard. My brain doesn’t seem to work any other way.
Baths. Useful for keeping clean, and reading.
Bicycles. The future of transport.
Onions. The basis of all my cookery.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Don’t buy the yellow loons. You’ll always be too embarrassed to wear them. Rightly so.
Have confidence in yourself and work hard.
The love you take is equal to the love you make. Obvious, but true.
The English middle classes know almost nothing of the wider world and as a result their opinions are not trustworthy.
Don’t fall in love with lesbians; it’s not a recipe for happiness. (Don’t worry, you’ll find someone fab in the end.)
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I’m a member of Brighton Ceilidh Collective, a six-piece ceilidh group, and it’s about the best fun ever.
I once joined six different religious cults to write a book about them.
I knit. It’s true. I’m not bad, either. My granny taught me to stop me fidgeting.
My brother chopped the end of my finger off by mistake. It grew back funny.
I was almost killed when a scaffolding lorry unloaded its contents into the car I was driving in.
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do/achieve?
To build something really big out of wood.
To go on a long sailing trip.
To have grandchildren.
To get into the Sunday Times Top 10.
To learn Norwegian well enough to actually converse in it.
Many thanks for joining us today William. I suspect hearing the War Requiem now will be bittersweet, but a lovely memory to have of your mum. I love the fact that you’re a member of a ceilidh band (poor fiddle player or not). We had a ceilidh band at our wedding (I married an Irishman) and it was the best fun ever. We had a fabulous caller who helped everyone to join in and have a good time. Aways good to meet another knitter too. I’m not the best but I can knock out passable beanie hat per night for charity Christmas boxes. (Always a good excuse for watching telly as well by claiming you’re knitting!) Good luck with achieving your goals. I’m sure that Sunday Times Top 10 can’t be far away and fingers crossed your Norwegian goes better than my Spanish!
DS Alexandra Cupidi series
SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR
DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.
SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS
The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.
AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER
It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
YOU CAN RUN
The two boys never fitted in. Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.
YOU CAN HIDE
On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law.
YOU CAN DIE
But as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide.
A BIZARRE DISCOVERY
An unidentified cadaver is found in a freezer in an unoccupied luxury house. No-one seems to know or care who it is or who placed it there. When DS Alexandra Cupidi is handed the case, she can have no idea it will lead her to a series of murderous cover-ups and buried secrets. Namely the discovery of the skeleton of public-school boy, Trevor Wood, beneath a housing development.
A HISTORIC CRIME
His disappearance twenty five years earlier had almost passed unnoticed. But as evidence surfaces that his fate was linked to long suppressed rumours of sexual abuse, Cupidi, her teenage daughter Zoe and her friend Bill South find themselves up against powerful forces who will try to silence them.
A BURIED LIFE
Digging deep into the secrets that are held underground leads to Cupidi’s realisation that crime and power are seldom far apart. There are dangerous connections between the two cases, which are complicated by Constable Jill Ferriter’s dating habits, a secret liaison and the underground life of Trevor Grey’s only friend.
Breen & Tozer crime series
A nameless young woman is found naked and strangled in an alley on Abbey Road.
DS Cathal Breen, an outcast in the Marylebone CID, struggles to make sense of the case.
Until new recruit WPC Helen Tozer – the first woman to join the team – makes a breakthrough.
And as hippies slam doors in their face, and locals suspect the new African neighbours, Breen and Tozer tread down a perilous path, closing in on a cruel conspiracy that goes far beyond class, colour and creed.
The Black Sheep
The wayward son of a rising MP is mutilated and burnt in suspicious circumstances.
The Honest Detective
DS Cathal Breen dodges political embargo and death threats to pursue the case.
The Rolling Stone
Notorious art dealer Robert Fraser may provide the only clue – if only he will talk.
And as Breen slips deeper into London’s underground of hippies and heroin, he edges nearer to the secrets of those at the very top. Banished from a corrupt and fracturing system, he will finally be forced to fight fire with fire.
Teenager Alexandra Tozer was murdered on her family’s farm. Five years later, her sister Helen will return.
As soon as DS Breen tracks down the original investigating sergeant, the man goes missing. And so does Helen.
The only connection between the suspects is the Kenya Emergency – a nightmare that Englishmen prefer to forget.
But others remember. Every bloody detail. And when another woman is taken, Breen fears that history – in all its shame and horror – is coming back to haunt them.
London 1969: A detective in love. A crime of passion
The devil: She made a profit from rich men. They paid for her youth. She paid with her life.
The angel: To investigate the prostitute’s murder, DS Cathal Breen isn’t scared to question powerful suspects.
The fall: But when a mysterious man from MI6 calls, Breen begins to fear he’s uncovered a spy scandal.
And then Breen’s girlfriend Helen Tozer, with her ex-copper instincts, gets dangerously involved. Right or wrong, Breen knows he has too much to lose. He can have no sympathy for the devil.
In the first three novels of the Breen & Tozer Investigations, an outcast detective fights crime and corruption in sixties London.
‘An outstanding storyteller’ Peter May
William Shaw grips the reader by the throat from page one, and never lets go’ Independent
‘Superb crime novels . . . combines nostalgic period detail with an emotional intensity found only in the very best crime fiction’ Sunday Times
Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.
But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South’s detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft – it seems that there’s a connection between the suspect and himself.
For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.
Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.
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