Crime fiction authors unite to fight for Wales

Welsh DragonFirst came Tartan Noir – a gritty form of crime fiction said to be particular to Scotland and Scottish writers but which borrows from American crime writes of the second half the twentieth century. Then Nordic Noir was born, taking us into bleak landscapes, dark moods and moral complexity with authors like  Henning Mankell, Steig Larsson and Arnaldur Indriðason. There’s even Irish Noir which covers a broad range of crime writing by Irish authors, from historical crime fiction set in Belfast to modern procedurals engaging with first world problems and psychological thrillers. 

Even if you subscribe to the view held by a number of authors and critics that these terms are meaningless and little more than marketing gimmicks, the reality is that they sell books. And in doing so they’ve helped raise the profile of many authors.  

But so far there’s no sign of Welsh noir. In fact about Welsh crime writing in general there’s been hardly a peep. 

And yet there’s a growing number of crime fiction authors based in Wales or who choose to set their work in the country. 

Why haven’t you heard of them? 

Partly I suspect because many of these authors have associations with small, independent publishers who don’t have as much sway with the purchasing teams in large bookstore chains. Nor do they have the kinds of budgets necessary for national ( UK-wide) promotion. Even trying to get attention within Wales is tough when the so called national newspaper of Wales The Western Mail, pays scant attention to arts coverage and still less to book reviews. 

But there is a group of writers resolved to change how Welsh crime fiction and non fiction is perceived. 

Crime Cymru was formed in 2017 to promote Welsh crime fiction with a mission to challenge the perceived belief that  that ‘nobody who wants to be read sets their books in Wales’. 

Crime Cymru started with just three members: Alis Hawkins, Rosie Claverton and Matt Johnson. But it’s grown to become a consortium of more than 25 authors. Some were born in Wales. Others have chosen to settle here. Some members live in the UK or further afield in North America but chose to set their work in Wales. What unites them is their feeling that Welsh crime fiction has a unique dimension that deserves more attention. 

Author Pic Alis Hawkins

Alis Hawkins, a founding member of Crime Cymru

“We believe that Wales is under sold: by publishers, by booksellers, even by authors and readers,” said Alis. “And we’re determined to change that. Crime Cymru authors are proud to set our fiction in Wales. We don’t feel the need to move our characters to London, or to make up fictitious cities to police.”

In support of their objective of promoting Wales and Welsh crime writing, Crime Cymru members have carried their message direct to readers via appearances at a number of literary festivals and a Coffee and Crime Weekend partnership with the county library service in the capital city of Cardiff. They’ve even taken the battle across the border, to Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s premier crime fiction festival. 

Future plans include the establishment of a crime writing competition in line with another of the group’s other objectives – to help nurture new writing talent. 

“You could argue that until now we’ve been our own worst enemies: falling into a trap of assuming that anything coming from Wales is somehow less noteworthy than the output from England or Scotland,” said Alis.  “It’s time we changed this attitude. We’re determined that Crime Cymru will play a real and tangible part, alongside higher education and cultural bodies, in raising the profile of Welsh writing in general and crime fiction in particular. “

Alis herself is suiting her actions to Crime Cymru’s words this May. To celebrate National Crime Reading Month and to publicise both Crime Cymru and the publication of the second in her Teifi Valley Coroner series, Alis – supported by local Crime Cymru members – will be visiting every independent bookshop in Wales – 32 at the last count. 

The Crime Cymru authors cover a wide variety of styles and interests. They range from Cathy Ace whose Cait Morgan Mysteries  feature a globetrotting sleuth who is a professor of criminal psychology to Philip Gwynne Jones who writes thrillers from his home in Venice. I’ve read a few of the group’s members although I wasn’t aware that Crime Cymru’s existence at the time.

My reviews are via these links:

Dylan H Jones: Doll Face and Anglesey Blue

Thorne Moore: A Time for Silence

Following shortly will be my review of None So Blind, the first book in Alis Hawkins’ series featuring a coroner in nineteenth century Wales.

Learn more about Crime Cymru and its authors via their website http://crime.cymru. You can also follow  on Twitter @CRIMECYMRU 

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on March 1, 2019, in Crime and thrillers, Welsh authors, Writing Wales and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. You could also try The Hagar Trilogy by Welsh writer Dave Lewis. Three great crime / technothrillers based in Wales. The first one is Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

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  2. I’m intrigued by these books! I love a good historical mystery, so I’ll check out None So Blind. I’m not sure I’ve read anything from Wales, so it’s time to add that to my Around the World list.

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  3. This sounds good and exciting. I just did a brief on-line study about Wales. I did not know it is a country of its own, not part of Great Britain. I have read Jo Walton, Susan Cooper, Philip Pullman, who are named as Welsh authors on Wikipedia. Does Wales claim them? Were you born in Wales? If not, how did you come to live there? Looking forward to more news about Welsh Noir.

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    • Yes I was born in Wales and still live here. It is indeed a country in its own right but is still part of Great Britain and the UK. We have some independence in terms of government through powers granted by the central government but taxation is still central as is policing for example. We have a language which has equal rights with English but is spoken only by less than 20% of the population. Jo Walton was born in Wales so would qualify but neither Susan Cooper or Phillip Pullman were and I’ve never heard either of them being ‘claimed’ as welsh. If you’re looking for ideas, on my site I have a section on Welsh literature which has some names …

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  4. Thanks, just added None so Blind to my list! I actually have personally met a Welsh author. He’s a monk poet living on Caldey Island. His poems are amazing: http://www.davidhodgespoetry.co.uk/

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  5. It’s hard to imagine noir from Wales. More vert maybe. Not that I’ve ever been there.

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  6. Excellent piece, Karen! 😊

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  7. You’re right about the marketing of these crime books.

    Somehow writing it as #WelshNoir doesn’t do it for me, it feels too soft, like the lyrical lilt of the Welsh tongue. #DragonNoir perhaps, but then it might confuse the fantasy readers who love dragons.

    I’m sure there will be something for the Welsh crime community soon.

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