By Celia Livesey
The new season of the HWS had a fantastic start with 19 competition entries from members and guests. An evening of unbridled gore and crime was promised, and delivered with the choice of crime weapon ranging from death by breast milk to a grapefruit knife. Truly a recipe for murder…
We were very fortunate to have Lindsay Ashford to adjudicate, eminently qualified as the first woman to graduate from Queens’ College, Cambridge in its 550 year history where she gained a degree in criminology. Don’t miss a great opportunity – Lindsay’s latest book Where Death Lies is available as an e-book on Amazon for 98p – a terrific introductory offer for a limited period.
And follow the link to Lindsay’s blog for her top tips on writer’s block
Lindsay said the winning entry hooked her from the very first sentence, and as a reader, she felt immediate empathy with the protagonist. She thought it had the feel of a very promising crime novel. The second prize winner’s entry was atmospheric with a good sense of pace, and Lindsay liked the writer’s use of ‘smell’ to create this. The third prize winner’s entry turns a scene of domesticity between a brother and sister on its head. The very ordinariness of the setting makes what happens feel very sinister.
The three prize winners were thrilled to receive the adjudication from Lindsay, and Barbara Large said that to a writer, this kind of feedback is like gold dust, and very much appreciated.
The winners are as follows:
1st Prize – Susan Piper – Death by Pin
She’d thought that she couldn’t possibly be any more scared. Surely after months of dreading every ring, flash and beep, she’d reached the limit of how frightened she could be. But they’d found her again. It turned out that until now she had only dipped her toe in the acid bath of insinuation, ridicule and hatred that she honestly had no idea what she had done to create. Why? she had asked the policewoman who had taken her old ‘phone. The woman had only been able to shake her head. Sweetheart, there are bullies out there – cowardly bullies – and the answer is probably just because you’re there. We’re going to try and find them and help sort this out. Now her new ‘phone was flashing cheerily in its friendly pink case; her new ‘phone with its new sim, new pin and new number. But they’d still found good old her. Keeping the traitor at arm’s length and holding her breath, she pressed ‘read’. The actual words were quick and clever and pretty. No matter the actual words, the meaning was clear, ‘Gotcha’, ‘Hate ya’, and ‘This will never stop.’ She let the ‘phone slip from her hand back onto the bedside table and her fingers moved a few inches to curl around the small bottle that should be safe in her mother’s handbag. The tablets will help you keep calm, love, just until we get to the bottom of this – we’ll keep you safe. But they couldn’t. Only she could keep herself safe now. The top of the bottle was tricky but she did it in the end. LOL.
©Susan Piper 2013
2nd Prize – Griselda Grimm (Dorothy Collard) – Dying for Love
Someone had thrown a buckled bike wheel into the garden. It was a sign – a gift. Grace picked it up and took it indoors.
Each night that week she shut the blinds in her bedsit, locked the door and checked the tracery of her own rib cage. Then she would switch on the television and do her crafting.
By Saturday she was ready.
Strolling with no obvious purpose after their restaurant date, she led him towards the riverside path. The air was exhilarating, warmed by pungent aromas from Stave Hill brewery. They ambled, beguiled by gloom at the end of the walkway. It was so quiet they could hear the breeze rustling through trees and the river rippling and swirling below. Stars dotted the sky. Lights sparkled on the full-tide Thames. Their dark, secluded corner was a place for lovers.
He nestled against the railings and drew her to him. She reached in under his shirt. His skin was soft and smooth. He giggled with pleasure to feel her fingers exploring. She counted ribs, put her other hand behind his head and enticed him down in an anticipated kiss of blinding passion.
“Oh, Grace,” he murmured, “stay with me tonight.”
She uncurled her middle finger, ringed with a curious strip of metal that drew, unseen, a skewer concealed up her sleeve. She drove the spoke home.
He wheezed as his lung contracted and the sharpened point burst through the pericardium and into his heart. His dark eyes stared at her in disbelief, his mouth open, as if trying to frame a question. He collapsed forward onto her. She staggered under his weight but held him up, like a drunken dance. Then she kicked his feet from under him and pushed him backwards over the railing.
The river closed over him.
©Dorothy Collard 2013
3rd Prize – Paul Beattie – Smoking Kills
Derek’s eyes followed Sally as she walked through the beaded curtain that separated the lounge-diner from the cramped and slightly squalid kitchen beyond. The beads swayed and clacked marking her passage. As Sally started to clatter about filling the kettle and trying to find a couple of semi-clean mugs Derek knew he only had a few moments. He picked up her bag from the coffee table. He was always astonished at the weight of his sister’s handbag, she must have a gun or brick in there to weigh so much. He paused briefly but he could still hear Sally in the kitchen. The craving for tobacco and a complete absence of cash clearly meant it was okay to filch a few cigarettes from your sister. Carefully he unzipped the bag watching for any signs of his sister’s return. Glancing down at the contents of the bag he could see a disorganised mass of half-opened packets of tissues, an over-stuffed purse, old rail tickets, gloves and God only knew what else. He couldn’t risk trying to empty the bag so thrust his hand in hoping for the familiar feel of an open packet of fags. His hand brushed against something cold, metal and solid. Curiosity got the better of him and his fingers curled around the object as he pulled it out. Derek sat back in surprise at the sight of the large grey automatic pistol that he was now holding by the barrel. His surprise turned to fear as he looked up into the impassive flinty stare of his sister watching him from the kitchen.
©Paul Beattie 2013
Gwen Hobbis – A Bit of Stick
Robert Brydges – Recipe for a Murder
Finally, a surprising connection between the winner of our competition, Susan Piper and Andrew Taylor.
‘Last evening was particularly important to me as Andrew Taylor presented me with a book prize for work I had done in his workshop at Writers’ Conference in 2001!! I took the book along that he gave me then and he signed it a second time. What a treasure. I told him that if I was ever lucky enough to be nominated for something, I had better have him there – he obviously brings me luck!’ Susan Piper.