An Evening of US v UK Noir with Rod Reynolds and Amer Anwar at West Barnes Library

Last week seems a long time ago now after the excitement of a snow day and before that I had a migraine but it really was only last Monday when I took a little trip from Dorset to Motspur Park for an Evening of US v UK Noir with Rod Reynolds and Amer Anwar at West Barnes Library. 

I absolutely loved Amer's book, Brothers in Blood when I read it and have read so many fabulous reviews of Rod's novels - The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky so although it was a cold, dark evening I couldn't miss this bookish night out - especially because it also meant I was finally going to taste the famous cookies made by one of my favourite bloggers, the lovely Joy Kluver who organised and hosted the evening!

Joy kicked the evening off by asking both authors to tell the audience something about their books. Rod's Charlie Yates series is set in America and so he was representing the US and began by explaining what the latest book in the series, Cold Desert Sky is about. Here's the front cover and blurb;

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

Amer's novel is set in and around Southall so he was representing the UK  - here's the front cover and blurb for Brothers in Blood;


Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

As the setting of the books was the theme of the evening, Joy asked both writers why they chose the locations for their novels and about their route to publication.

Rod said that he always found US shows more exciting when he was growing up and compared the everyday grimness of EastEnders to something like The A-Team and so it was perhaps inevitable that he would choose to set his books in America. His first book, The Dark Inside was inspired by a real-life unsolved series of murders, the Texarkana Moonlight Murders which took place in 1946. He took a trip to the area with his wife and then 18-month-old daughter and for research purposes 'treated' them to a visit to some of the murder sites! On their way back to the airport they stopped by chance in a town called Hot Springs which he discovered had links to the mobster, Bugsy Siegel and this became the setting for the next book in the Charlie Yates series, Black Night Falling. Cold Desert Sky sees Charlie crossing paths with Siegel again and is set in Las Vegas, a city indelibly associated with the Mob. It took three and a half years from when Rod first started writing The Dark Inside to when it was published with Faber.

Amer took a little longer to see Brothers in Blood published and it took over ten years before it finally hit the shelves! Originally entitled Western Fringes, the first chapter won the CWA Debut Dagger Award but at that point publishers were reluctant to publish a book they thought might not appeal to a broad enough audience. He went on to self-publish it and it received a wealth of highly positive reviews (including on this blog, I loved it!) Eventually Dialogue Books - a new imprint of Little, Brown dedicated to inclusivity in publishing - signed him and his book was retitled Brothers in Blood and published last year. Amer set his book in Southall and Hounslow because this is the area he knows - specifically the people who live there. As a crime fiction lover, he realised he didn't see the people he knows in the Asian community appear in those sorts of books; he heard the stories in pubs from his friends and thought they'd make a great book so decided he would have to be the one to write it. He didn't know any policemen so made his characters amateur detectives which also meant he didn't have to do too much research!

Joy rounded off the evening with a mystery music quiz and played snippets of the theme tunes to much-loved crime shows from the past set in either the US or UK. It was definitely the highlight of the evening and after twelve intros, Amer won by just one point! However, I think it was really the audience who stole it as we definitely knew more than either of them!

It was a brilliant way to finish and I'd like to thank Joy, Rod and Amer for making it such a fabulous evening. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend coming to listen to both these authors if you have a chance. I can't wait to read Rod's series and highly recommend Amer's book so was delighted to have been able to get books signed by them both. I thought it was wonderful to attend an event in a library and will definitely look to coming back to West Barnes in the future. The next evening takes place on 18th March when the library plays host to Rhidian Brook, author of The Aftermath and Elisabeth Gifford who wrote The Good Doctor of Warsaw.