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Noireland International Crime Festival, Belfast

Noireland International Crime Festival, Belfast

If you’re a fan of the crime genre, whether you enjoy reading the books or aspire to be an author, then Belfast’s debut crime festival is a must attendance.

Noireland (great name by the way) will be running from 27-29th October and taking place in the Europa Hotel.

Organised by the people behind the amazing bookshop ‘No Alibis’ which is situated in Botanic in Belfast, this festival celebrates the island’s love of crime fiction.

The 3-day event will be showcasing the amazing talent emerging from Ireland currently as well as some of the popular authors from all over the world, such as Sophie Hannah, Arne Dahl and Benjamin Black, to name just a few.

Noireland International Crime was organised to provide a platform for the wealth of crime writing talent emerging from Ireland, showcasing it alongside some of the biggest international names in crime and thriller writing.

With a jam-packed programme of great authors plus a selection of entertaining events, this debut festival is an exciting introduction to Northern Ireland’s love of all things crime and suspense.

As a very new and independent organisation they rely on partnerships, sponsors, donations, ticket sales and volunteers to support their work.

If you are interested in partnering with Noireland or sponsoring them you can contact them at

For more information and updates about the events plus tickets, go to

Ross Armstrong

Ross ArmstrongRoss Armstrong is a British stage and screen actor who has performed in the West End of London, on Broadway and in theatres throughout the UK. Among others, he has acted opposite Jude Law (Hamlet), Joseph Fiennes (Cyrano de Bergerac), Kim Cattrall (Antony and Cleopatra) and Maxine Peake (The Deep Blue Sea). His TV appearances include Foyle’s War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and most recently, Ripper Street. After gaining a BA in English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University, Ross joined the National Youth Theatre where his contemporaries included Matt Smith and Rafe Spall. A three year course at RADA followed and whilst there he won the RADA Poetry Writing Award. The idea for his debut novel ‘The Watcher’ came to him when he moved into a new apartment block and discovered whilst looking at the moon through binoculars that he could see into his neighbours’ homes.

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I studied English Literature at Warwick University and acting at RADA and for the past ten years have been an actor in TV shows like ‘Ripper Street’, ‘Foyles War’ and ‘Jonathan Creek’, and on stage with the RSC amongst others. But I’d always kept writing in one capacity or another. Finishing a book was something I only managed to get the time and mental alacrity to do a few years ago. Then I threw that one away and wrote a better one. I was lucky to have a lot of interest in it, the wonderful literary agent Juliet Mushens took it on and it’s being published by HQ (Harper Collins) in the UK and Harlequin in the US. And is being translated into many languages including, most recently confirmed, Hebrew.
  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    I’ve been thinking recently that crime stories are tales told backwards. I don’t know whether this has been said before and more eloquently, but I feel like someone like Chekhov told stories by showing you the surface and then delving into its darker elements, crime stories start with darker elements and then try and reel back and show you the seemingly innocuous surface. With ‘The Watcher’ I came to a way of doing things which starts with creating a setting and a motive which has some kind of resonance to modern trends, like the gentrification of London in this case, and then tried to figure out the most enjoyable and instructive way to tell that story structurally.

    In this case, we go in at the middle. Then go back to the start. Then move past the middle and drive on to the end. But then the process of writing any novel is all about dashing around in terms of timeline. The challenge I set myself was to do that in a clear but beguiling way, and by staying with one viewpoint while I did that. Creating an obsessive tension caused by never moving from a close up on the central character. Like a movie like ‘Buried’, or even ‘Son of Saul’ does.

    As for figuring out where that original idea comes from, usually I see an image, in this case the view of a distant apartment from mine and then figure out a plot point, from there I imagine a character that might do the most interesting thing with that plot. Then go from there.

  3. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    Firstly, I just love reading, I write in my second book about the pure process of reading is enjoyable in a way that watching a screen can never be, somehow chemically, something my central character can never have, because he can’t read. That’s a long winded way of saying I almost always enjoy a novel. I do however often have trouble with short stories. I’m sure it’s my particular view on things, but I feel like I don’t understand the format. So often stories from the American short story tradition leave me cold. However, I’m enjoying Shirley Jackson’s collection ‘Dark Tales’ and I loved David Eagleman’s ‘Sum’, a series of virtually one page visions of the afterlife written by a neuroscientist. I love Eagleman and he’s been a big influence on my next book.
  4. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I suppose I would’ve started writing thrillers earlier because I feel I’ll never have enough time in my life to experiment with all the stories I have in my head in the genre, and to read all the wonderful books out there, in all genres, that I want to. I really get so inspired by other writers, the choices they make that take you out of your usual way of doing things.
  5. Why did you decide that you wanted to write crime?
    It took a while for me to realise it was my favourite genre. I think it has a simplicity but sense of constant mystery which I can’t stop going back to the well for. My favourite movies are mostly Hitchcock or David Fincher movies, and I wanted to see whether I could write something that people couldn’t help but consume, but also has a kind of weight to it that those directors, and writers like Gillian Flynn and Harlan Coben create too.
  6. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    I think there is a point where story relevance meets absolute irrelevance, in terms of pure enjoyment and escapism. If that’s not too elliptical. I think a lot of my favourite crime writers seem to do that naturally.
  7. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    Great question. John Doe in Seven comes to mind. The way he comes into the story. The absolute relentless darkness. So brilliant, empty, unusual, and superbly played by Kevin Spacey.
  8. The Watcher

  9. If you were to start your own bookclub, what authors would you ask to join?
    Chuck Palahniuk, Teju Cole, Stephen King, Lee Child, Jessie Burton, Deborah Levy, Paul Beatty, Harlan Coben, Gillian Flynn, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Franzen, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patti Smith, Haruki Murakami, Lena Dunham, the poets Derek Walcott, Kate Tempest and Adam O’Riordan, the ghosts of Patricia Highsmith, John Williams, Charles Bukowski and Phillip K. Dick. I think we’d have a good time.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Stoner’ by John Williams. ‘Freedom ‘by Jonathan Franzen. ‘The Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace; at over a thousand pages it’s probably the perfect length for the occasion.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Throw out the idea of writing a great line. Come up with a great structure. Test it over and over again. Chip away at it until it’s a perfect statue. Make sure it’s clear but surprising. Then write a clear and surprising first chapter. Re draft it a hundred times until it’s the most clear and surprising and enticing and true to you it can be.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I can start writing anywhere, then I kind of wake up eight hours later, like someone that can fall asleep anywhere. It’s very weird. But I also need coffee and water to make it happen.
  13. And finally Ross do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m in a great TV show called ‘Will’ about the early writing years of William Shakespeare, made by TNT, which will be arriving soon in 2017. It’s a spikey, punk version of his life, but I play the least rock n’roll character of all time, and I loved every second of it.

    Then I’m working on my second book which is about a man who survives being shot in the head, leaving his brain irrevocably altered, and how he awkwardly tries to solve a crime no one has asked him to get involved in, while negotiating a new way of looking at the world. It’s ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ meets ‘Seven’.

Follow Ross Armstrong on Twitter Ross Armstrong for updates

I Let You Go By Clare Mackinstosh

I Let You Go‘I Let You Go’ is Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel.

In a spilt second Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

Again this was a much hugely anticipated debut of 2015 and Kirsteen Astor at Little Brown Books had nothing but good reports about it. The story starts right at the moment when an accident happens and tragically a little boy loses his life. The story is then spilt into two parts, part one and two. Primarily the story is seen from the perspective of Jenna, a woman who flees to the Welsh wilds, where no one knows her and she hides herself away in an old run down cottage which has only the basic commodities. She has suffered a great tragedy and is trying to move on, she is often hunted by nightmares, but with the help of her canine companion Beau, vet Patrick and new friend Bethan, Jenna begins to find her place in life, until one day her past catches up with her. The story is also seen through the eyes of Detective Inspector Ray Stephens who was working on the case where a little boy was killed in a hit and run, unable to find a suspect for the crime, they decide to reopen the case, on the anniversary of the death. The second part of the story, follows in the same vein but also features another character who gives the story an added twist.

The bleakness and sadness of this story, makes the book completely gripping and impossible to put down. The lead characters are intriguing and relatable people, who want to either have their happy ending or finally find justice and found the person who killed Jacob, the little boy. The two types of people intervene seamlessly from the human interest part where we join Jenna on her path of self discovery and starting over and the police/investigation side, as the police, work tirelessly to bring the person to justice. As a former member of the police force, Clare writes fluidly and convincingly from Ray’s side and doesn’t over pollute with the police terminology.

The story is an incredibly strong debut and has such an amazing twist, that it was impossible to believe that it actually happened. A strongly written, believable and intensely thrilling book about guilt and where fear jumps off every page, ‘I Let You Go’ is a stunning introduction to a fabulous new voice in psychological thrillers.

You can buy I Let You Go from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Little Bookshop By Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ is Nina George’s debut novel.

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

This story is a story that reads as beautifully as the books cover which is presented with a pretty illustration and swirly font. It follows on the life of Jean Perdu who never recovered from his lover Manon leaving him. Heartbroken, he dedicates his life to his barge bookshop called the Literary Apothecary, where people from all over come to look for the perfect book. But Jean isn’t any ordinary bookseller, he doesn’t try to fob people off with the latest bestseller, instead he observes them and their situations before suggesting the perfect book that will help their lives.

But when Catherine, a new neighbour moves into his shared apartment, Jean feels his heart shift and he begins to think of Catherine in a new light but first he must fully get over Manon, the woman who broke his heart many years ago and he finally plucks up the courage to open the letter he received from her over 20 years ago.

And it’s with opening up this letter and discovering its contents, that Jean suddenly packs up his book barge and travels to Provence to finally get closure. With no money or supplies, Jean sells his books along with his travelling companion, Max Jordan. A young bestselling author who is struggling to write his second book and hopes the adventure will inspire him and write the brilliant follow up book that everyone is expecting.

A story spanning over many towns and rivers, this book is a beautifully written tale about friendship, love and self discovery, it makes for heartwarming reading, as the two men bond a strong paternal friendship and are there for one another when realisations are made. Although the story is mainly seen from the perspective of Jean, there are he inclusion of diary entries from Manon and this gives us a wonderful insight into the woman who broke Jean’s heart over 20 years ago.

Filled with intriguing characters, that will make you giggle and smile along the way, ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ is a tender and quirky story that like the Literary Apothecary, flows at lovely, gentle pace that will have you gripped along the way.

You can pre-order The Little Paris Bookshop from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 23rd April 2015.

The A -Z Of You And Me By James Hannah

The A -Z Of You‘The A-Z Of You And Me’ is James Hannah’s debut novel.

Ivo fell for her. He fell for a girl he can’t get back. Now he’s hoping for something. While he waits he plays a game: He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away. He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her. But he doesn’t have long. And he still has one thing left to do …

So far, 2015 has been a year filled with tremendously good books. Books that made me giggle, gasp at the intrigue and ‘The A – Z Of You And Me’ was the book that made me quietly sob one Sunday evening when I should have been getting ready for the following day.

The story is seen from the perspective of Ivo, a man who is spending his last days in a hospice. To pass the day, his nurse, bubbly and kind-hearted Sheila suggests that he should play the A-Z game, coming up with parts of the body with the alphabet. It’s with this game, that Ivo finds himself travelling down memory lane, remembering happier times and he was surrounded by people that he loved. The story is written in both the present and in flashbacks and from the very beginning, this book broke my heart.

Ivo is a destructive lead, after dabbling in drink and drugs, he finds himself diagnosed with diabetes and he doesn’t look properly after himself, much to my frustration and was more interested in hanging out with his friends who were a bad influence and are the reason why Ivo has so much sadness in his life.

The only time Ivo is properly happy is when he meets Mia, who he refers to as ‘You’ in the story, from the mention of the body parts to a memory that it brings, the book is filled with many tender and sweet moments as Ivo reminisces on a life that might have been better from his hospital bed.

This book is a beautifully written and emotional story that literally left me in pieces. With a charismatic lead, a caring nurse and just the right amount of humour and love ‘The A-Z Of You And Me’ is a stunning debut that stayed with me long after I finished the final page.

You can pre-order The A to Z of You and Me and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 12th March 2015.