Today I’m delighted to feature crime author M. W. Craven. The Puppet Show, the first book in his Cumbria-set Washington Poe series, was published by Little, Brown in 2018 and went on to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2019. It has now been translated into twenty-one languages. Black Summer, the second in the series, was longlisted for the 2020 Gold Dagger and book three, The Curator, is out now. The fourth in the series, Dead Ground, is out this June
Multi-award winning author M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full-time author.
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
At The Edge by Stiff Little Fingers. Great song about making a break from the lives of your parents. My sisters and I all fled the nest when we could because our mum and dad gave us the confidence, and encouragement, to do so.
Wasted Years by Iron Maiden. A song about not living in the past and realising that your golden years are happening NOW.
The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ by Billy Joel. This song about an impoverished Long Island fisherman being unable to afford a house in the village he grew up in speaks to me as a Cumbrian. We have far too many second homeowners here.
Crummy Stuff by the Ramones. A superb punk/pop song about getting rid of the clutter in your life.
Which Side Are You On a cover version by the Dropkick Murphys (originally by Florence Reece 1931). The Dropkicks are a high-energy punk band and bring something new to this song about a vicious dispute between miners and mine owners in Kentucky. I grew up in coal mining country and the one thing that was drummed into me from an early age was you NEVER cross a picket line.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Good food (particularly cheese, curry and sausages . . .)
I’m a simple soul really.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Take your a-levels when you’re still in the army rather than waiting until you get out. It’ll save you two years.
Don’t go back out to the pub on February 17th 2017; you’ll break your ankle
Have the nerve to send your writing in earlier
Destroy any and all photographs of you with that perm. Or better yet, don’t get a perm at all.
Don’t stick your head through that railing on the way back from cub scouts. You’ll get it stuck, you’ll have to be rescued by firemen and you’ll be on the news and in the papers.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
I kept Alan Shearer out of the school football team
I used to have a pet crocodile
I used to be a professional snake breeder
I’m a fully-qualified close protection officer
My first Fluke book was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger in 2013 and my first Poe book won the Gold Dagger in 2019
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
I’d like to see Poe through to his retirement
I want to be in the first ever episode of the Poe TV series. Maybe as a corpse.
I’d like to get inside Mick Herron’s head to see if Jackson Lamb really is that monstrous . . .
Own a house/cabin with a wraparound porch.
Travel with the Barmy Army to Australia
Thanks so much for joining me today and sharing with us. I have to thank you for particularly for introducing me to that particular Billy Joel track that had somehow passed me by, I loved it. I understand your frustration at second home ownership and the problems it creates. I love the advice to your younger self. It reminds me that somewhere I have several dodgy photographs of me with a perm that should never see the light of day. I’m afraid I laughed at your ‘railings’ incident, not the best way of getting your name in the papers. Hopefully the next time you’re in the news it’ll be for your brilliant debut in an episode of Poe! I have assumed it is ‘the’ Alan Shearer you kept out of the football team, that’s got to be a story to worth repeating. Good luck with working your way to your dream house with a wraparound porch – I’m sure Poe will help you achieve it.
M. W. Craven’s Books
The Washington Poe Series
The Puppet Show (Book 1)
A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .
Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.
As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …
Black Summer (Book 2)
After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .
Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.
So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.
Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.
The Curator (Book 3)
It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6
Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?
And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.
And nothing will ever be the same again . . .
Dead Ground (Book 4 – due 3 June 2021)
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.
As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .
Cut Short – 3 short stories
In The Killing Field, Poe and Tilly are having breakfast, wondering how to spend the rest of their holiday, when their presence is requested at a Cumbrian airfield. An airfield that, during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, was known as the killing field . . .
In Why Don’t Sheep Shrink?, a global pandemic forces Poe and Tilly to self-isolate together. Things don’t go well. They’re bickering and on the verge of falling out until Poe finds an old case file: a locked room mystery he’s been mulling over for years. Step forward, Tilly Bradshaw . . .
Dead Man’s Fingers sees Poe, Tilly and Edgar, Poe’s English springer spaniel, enjoying a picnic at a nature reserve. When Edgar chases a rabbit, and Poe and Tilly chase after him, they stumble upon a twenty-year-old mystery, a mystery that couldn’t be solved until now . . .
The Avison Fluke Series
Born in a Burial Gown
Detective Inspector Avison Fluke is a man on the edge. He has committed a crime to get back to work, concealed a debilitating illness and is about to be made homeless. Just as he thinks things can’t get any worse, the body of a young woman is found buried on a Cumbrian building site.
Shot once in the back of the head, it is a cold, calculated execution. When the post-mortem reveals she has gone to significant expense in disguising her appearance, Fluke knows this is no ordinary murder.
With the help of a psychotic ex-Para, a gangland leader and a woman more interested in maggots than people, Fluke must find out who she was and why she was murdered before he can even think about finding her killer…
Investigating how a severed hand ends up on the third green of a Cumbrian golf course is not how Detective Inspector Avison Fluke has planned to spend his Saturday. So when a secret protection unit from London swoops in quoting national security, he’s secretly pleased.
But trouble is never far away. A young woman arrives at his lakeside cabin with a cryptic message: a code known to only a handful of people and it forces Fluke back into the investigation he’s only just been barred from.
In a case that will change his life forever, Fluke immerses himself in a world of New Age travellers, corrupt cops and domestic extremists. Before long he’s alienated his entire team, has been arrested under the Terrorism Act – and has made a pact with the Devil himself. But a voice has called out to him from beyond the grave. And Fluke is only getting started…