Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

The Intel: Chet Williamson

Author headshotYou may have heard of a novel called Psycho. Some fellow made a movie of Robert Bloch’s novel which, arguably, changed the course of movies and horror fiction forever. Without Norman Bates there wouldn’t have been a whole slew of slasher movies, or sly, charming killers such as Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman and Dexter Morgan.

In the years since Hitchcock’s movie, Bates, the nerdy fellow with the Mummy issues, has been reinvented several times — sequels followed, and a TV series. But Bloch’s original novel has remained somewhat under the radar. Now Chet Williamson has taken Bates back to his gritty midwestern roots. He’s written an authorised sequel to Bloch’s book, called Psycho: Sanitarium.

In this terrific interview, Williamson talks about what is like to get his hands on one of the most famous characters in fiction, about how Hitchcock’s Bates swerved from Bloch’s original vision — and how, if you want to be a successful writer, it’s perhaps best to stay pessimistic…

How does it feel to have got your hands on one the most iconic characters in crime fiction – Norman Bates? 

It feels fantastic! The film of Psycho terrified me when I saw it as a kid, and I immediately bought the Robert Bloch book and have been a Bloch fan my whole life. To be offered a character that is such an icon of suspense and horror fiction was a dream come true. Having done some licensed characters in the past, I’d determined never to do so again, but to have the opportunity to create a novel with Norman Bates?

There was no way I could say no, especially since it was an immediate sequel to Bloch’s original novel, and I could tell the story of what happens after we leave Norman (and Mother) in his little cell after his arrest. I’d always loved the character, who is as sympathetic and empathetic as he is frightening.

We’re familiar with Hitchcock’s adaptation, but maybe not so much with Robert Bloch’s source novel – how does it differ from the movie?

For one thing, Norman isn’t nearly as physically attractive as Anthony Perkins. He’s in his forties rather than his twenties, and he’s somewhat overweight, which makes his discomfort with the opposite sex more believable. Also, the original isn’t set in California. Bloch never names a state, but internal evidence suggests somewhere in the Kansas/Missouri/Oklahoma/Arkansas area.

How has Norman changed since we last met him?

Not much, really. Only a few months have passed since his arrest and confinement, and he’s remained almost completely incommunicative. He’s trying to break out of his shell, but Mother’s having none of it.

Cover imageWhat do you think you have brought to the character that wasn’t in Bloch’s original vision?

I may be a bit more sympathetic toward Norman than Robert Bloch was. While Bloch makes you feel sympathetic toward him in the original novel, when he wrote Psycho II, which is set over twenty years later (and which has nothing to do with the Psycho 2 film), he makes Norman quite monstrous, and his initial acts of violence, which are perpetrated by Norman himself rather than Mother, are shocking in the extreme. I’ve tried to elicit in the reader a greater empathy toward and understanding of Norman, the same feelings that Bloch elicited in the original Psycho back in 1959.

Norman’s in a Hospital For The Criminally Insane, which is fertile ground for crime and horror writers – did you have any other favourite authors or movies you returned to for inspiration? 

Nothing fictional, really, though I did turn, for both research and inspiration, to the 1967 Frederick Wiseman documentary, Titicut Follies, set in Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane in Massachusetts. If you think fictional films about early psychiatric care are shocking, the real thing as seen in this film is utterly horrifying.

If you could get your hands on another iconic crime fiction character, who would it be?

Well, I do love villains. I’ve always wanted to do something with a super-criminal along the lines of Fantomas or Dr. Mabuse, which I think would be fascinating in these times when he who controls the Internet controls the world.

How did you start writing?

A: I came to it through acting. It’s a long story, but as an actor, which I did professionally for a time, it wasn’t long before I realized that the true creators were the writers. I started writing for theatre, and then turned to fiction. I still keep my hand in as an actor by narrating audiobooks — in fact, I’ve just completed the audiobook of Psycho: Sanitarium. It’s always a delight for me to record my own work, since I know the characters will sound as I intended them to sound.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

A: Not to give up, and never to expect too much. Stay pessimistic and you’ll never be too disappointed to continue. Write for yourself and for those readers who relate to your work.  It’s a rough way to make a living, even more so now with all the competition from self-published writers on the Internet. Fortunately I’ve had a supportive wife all these years. It’s very tough to survive on your own.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

Of the old masters, Joseph Conrad, for his ability to make readers see,  P. G. Wodehouse, for never failing to make me laugh, M. R. James, for his truly terrifying ghost stories, and H. P. Lovecraft, one of the most alien writers and human beings imaginable. From my childhood, Robert Bloch, whose clean style I’ve always admired and tried to emulate, and Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury, for their unfettered imaginations. Contemporary writers include Joe R. Lansdale, pound for pound the best writer in America today, and the UK’s Ramsey Campbell, a superb stylist and storyteller.

Give me some advice about writing… 

My advice is to not ever take any advice on writing. Seriously. Everyone works in different ways. Be true to your own method of working. If outlining works for you, then outline. If you’re happier just forging ahead without an idea of where you’re going and can fix things during revision, then do it.

The only books on writing I’ve ever read that were worth a damn were the American John Gardner’s trilogy, On Moral Fiction, On Becoming a Novelist, and The Art of Fiction, and Oscar Lee Brownstein’s Strategies of Drama, which is primarily for playwrights but equally valuable for fiction writers. Whatever you do, avoid books that say, “This is what you must do.” No, you mustn’t.

What’s next for you?

It’s been a full year, with the Psycho book and two collections having come out (The Night Listener and Others from England’s PS Publishing and A Little Blue Book of Bibliomancy from Borderlands Press). So after Psycho: Sanitarium is safely launched, I’m planning on doing some reading and research in preparation for a new novel. I have a thematic idea, but little else, and being that I’m an outliner, there’s work to be done!


Psycho: Sanitarium is published by Canelo, price £3.99 in eBook.


The Intel: Gavin Collinson

Gavin CollinsonGavin Collinson’s new novel The Hitchcock Murders is a homage to the Great Man. Published by Cutting Edge Crime, it’s a big, fun story about a serial killer who slays in ways inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic films.

So we’re delighted that Gavin — the Interactive Producer on Doctor Who — is here to tell us about Alfred, his new protag Josa Jilani and what should happen to lazy writers…

Tell us about The Hitchcock Murders…

It’s a contemporary thriller full of big set pieces and characters I hope people will love spending time with. Lots of cliffhangers, personal jeopardy and twists. No-one who’s read it has predicted the final chapters and the sequence of reveals that fuels the second half of the book… But it doesn’t cheat! The clues are all there.

The pitch goes something like this: There’s a psycho out there. A serial killer who strikes every Tuesday, murdering women in gruesome ways inspired by the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. Newly promoted DCI Josa Jilani is given the case because factions within the police service want her to fail, but she’s got too much riding on it, so enlists the help of criminologist Daniel Blake. He’s something of a mystery. A loose cannon, unpredictable and charismatic but frowned on by Josa’s superiors. Together, Josa and Blake must hunt a murderer who is growing in skill and audacity and raising the stakes to make it personal…

Give us an example of one of your Hitchcock-themed murders!

All the famous ones are there, from murderous birds to showers that don’t end well. I needed to cover the killing in Blackmail where someone is stabbed with a breadknife, but if you’ve ever actually tried stabbing someone with a breadknife, you’ll know it’s a tricky business. The way that turns out in the book makes it my favourite murder.

What do you think the great man would have thought of your book?

It’s a little known fact that he’s alive and well and living in Shamley Green. He’s read the book and tweaked a few of the murders but you know what? He loves it. Bloody loves it.

The Hitchcock MurdersWhere did the idea for the book come from?

For reasons I won’t bore you with, I completely understand obsession. And I’m not talking about the perfume, here. Obsession forces us to do mundane things and fun stuff but it can also compel normal people to carry out acts of evil. I’ve seen it happen and it’s terrifying. That was one of the many starting points for The Hitchcock Murders, but another, more obvious trigger was a straight-forward desire to write the kind of book that people will read and then urge their friends to read. That’s a big ask… I hope I succeeded.

What’s your favourite Hitchcock movie – and why?

That changes every day because they’re so different. The Birds looks unspeakably beautiful and if you watch five seconds of North by Northwest you’ll be unable to tear yourself away until the end credits. That’s medical fact. But right here, right now I’m going with Rope because it’s a different movie every time I watch it, yet it never fails to disturb and delight.

Tell us about your protagonist DCI Josa Jilani…

I do worry about Josa. She’s like you and me. Given a raw deal at work and when she finally gets a break – in her case a promotion to the rank of DCI – the powers-that-be want to see her fail so they hand her the Hitchcock Murders, thinking she’ll be out of her depth. And you know what? She is. But Josa has been swimming against the current all her life and will not go down without a fight.

She’s a young, British, Muslim woman with a better-looking sister, whom she adores, and a mother who has elevated criticism to a casual art form. Her dad died years ago but she still misses him and although it might not make sense, Josa desperately wants him to be proud of her. She knows she was the apple of his eye and that he would be rooting for her one hundred per cent.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

That some people, people you thought loved you, will pray that you fail.

How do you deal with feedback?

Some of my colleagues are insensitive to the point of brutality so I’m used to criticism that would drive many people to take their own lives. Having said that, positive feedback still makes my world sunnier and warmer, so I’m fine with both ends of the spectrum. After I wrote The Hitchcock Murders I gave it to several readers and their feedback was priceless. If they thought something jarred or felt lacklustre or they spotted an opportunity to improve a passage, I wanted to know about it. In terms of being an author, top of my job spec is ‘write a cracking thriller’… I’d be a clown to ignore any feedback that helps with that goal.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

I admire every author who works hard and with imagination to craft something that entertains people, whether it’s in a genre I enjoy or not. It’s a tough thing to do. I work on Doctor Who and see first-hand how genius writers like Steven Moffat create gripping fiction. A lot of it is down to innate talent, sure, but believe me, it’s also a question of relentless graft. I despise lazy writers who churn out books that are devoid of wit or surprise or dare. These authors know who they are and when I’m king of this land they will be sent to Strangeways and forced to read their own garbage for at least seven hours a day.

Give me some advice about writing…

Always remember your reader. That sounds obvious to the point of d’oh, I know, but keep this in mind: readers don’t know the next chapter is the best thing you’ve ever written. You must ensure the preceding chapter is strong enough to take them there. We live in a world where distractions are constantly tugging at our sleeves, so your prose must be consistently good enough to overcome that.

What’s next for you?

A large G&T, if you’re asking. After that? Some of the characters who survive The Hitchcock Murders return in They Keep Killing Marilyn which I’m currently writing. This will sound corny and a little bit talkshow, but I absolutely love being back with some of these characters, giving them  dangerous new problems to contend with. Watching them fail, get angry, flirty, win battles, lose face and try to overcome their own frailty to see justice done. The sequel to The Hitchcock Murders will also be published by Cutting Edge Crime and writing it feels fantastic.

You can buy The Hitchcock Murders from Cutting Edge Crime here.

And you can find out more about Hitch right here.

Disorder – Paddy Magrane

DisorderDisorder by Paddy Magrane is the first of a new series of novels to feature damaged psychotherapist Sam Keddie. It’s a rollicking conspiracy thriller in which Keddie goes on the run to unravel the mystery behind the death of a top politician.

The blurb will likely get you lost in the souks:

When Cabinet Minister Charles Scott commits suicide, his troubled psychotherapist, Sam Keddie, is consumed with guilt. But then a shadowy Government official visits, demanding details of his sessions with Scott. Bound by client confidentiality, Keddie refuses to help.

Guilt is soon the least of his problems.

The therapist finds himself threatened – and forced on the run. Digging into the Minister’s death, he follows a trail from London to Marrakesh. There, hounded by relentless pursuers, he comes face to face with Scott’s dark secret – one with the power to topple a Government and ignite a volatile region.

With his enemy closing in, Keddie must expose the truth – before he’s silenced forever.

There’s a real old-school charm to Disorder. I’ve always found chase thrillers set in the south of England are a tough act to pull off. The Home Counties don’t have that epic sense of space you get in the US, of course, everything is too cramped and parochial. But Magrane does well to inject a sense of danger and paranoia into the everyday parts of London and the countryside, and riffs nicely off familiar book and movie sequences.

There are some terrific set-pieces, including a scene where Keddie and his companion Eleanor – the daughter of the dead minister – are trapped in a sinking car, and Magrane always keeps Keddie’s desperate escape from shadowy forces in motion – the action moves to the hot and riot-ridden streets of Marrakesh and even into the heart of Downing Street.

Keddie is a likeable and empathetic hero, thrown into a situation way beyond his control, and I like the way Magrane takes time to develop the characters and motivations of his antagonists, the army man Frears and the hugely-powerful politico Stirling, so that they men who never tip over into moustache-twirling pastiche.

I’ve got a couple of reservations, though. For one, I’d like to have seen some more twists and turns. Disorder is pacey but the story unfurls in a straight line. Magrane sticks to the dead centre of the narrative road and takes his corners carefully. You always get a sense of where the story is heading, where sometimes you’d really like him to jerk the wheel and spin off somewhere unexpected.

Also, having a psychotherapist as a protagonist is a terrific conceit – the details about Keddie’s job are fascinating – allowing his protagonist to dive into the murky terrain of the mind, as well as cover physical ground. I guess the novel isn’t called Disorder for nothing.

But, despite that, the writing doesn’t throw up a lot of emotional heat. You never really get a desperate sense of the anguished turmoil of the characters, despite the painful psychological damage with which Magrane burdens his characters. For example, in one sequence, the claustrophobic Keddie is trapped – but the terror of his response is fleeting and a potentially gripping set-piece is left largely unexplored. In further Keddie thrillers it would really be good to draw out more of that sense of deep-rooted trauma in the prose – and there are some fucked-up psychological revelations in Disorder, that’s for sure. It would really take the writing to the next level.

However, there’s a lot to like here. Keddie is a vulnerable and quick-witted hero, and hardly impervious, and Magrane moves him from place to place, from the streets of London to the angry streets of Marrakesh – the tense descriptions of the chaos and riots there are tasty and atmospheric – with a sure hand.

Other reviewers have mentioned Robert Harris as an inspiration – and there are obvious nods to Hitchcock in the novel –  but you can also sense the presence of the satisfied ghost of John Buchan in Magrane’s tale of a decent man taking his unflinching fight for the truth right to the very top.

Thanks to the author for the review copy of Disorder. Paddy Magrane gives us The Intel on Disorder and his writing regime very soon – so look out for that.

Next week we’ve got more telly news, a review – and one of the biggest names in the writing business gives us The Intel on his writing!

TV Crime Log: Fargo, Jamaica

You’d expect Easter to deliver up some televisual goodies, and next weekend duly serves up the beginning of two very different crime series.

FargoFargo, which begins on Sunday night, is a bit of an oddity. You know Fargo, right? Marge Gunderson, Jerry Lundegaard. Everyone saying yah, and woodchippers, and suchlike.

Well, this series isn’t that. It’s kind of inspired by that, but it’s a whole new story with totally new characters – but still retaining the whole Fargo vibe. So Billy Bob Thornton is the stranger who comes to a Minnesota and sends the life of an insurance salesman, played by Martin Freeman, spiralling out of control.

The Coens are exec-producing, and they’ve written some episodes, which bodes well. The series is produced by Noah Hawley, who’s done some television and written a rather good crimey-tinged novel called The Good Father.

Curiously, this isn’t the first time Fargo was adapted for the telly. The Sopranos’ Edie Falco starred as Marge in a pilot that never went to series way back in 1997.

The first part of this ten-part iteration is on Sunday night, 9pm on Channel Four.

Jamaica InnEaster Monday brings the first episode of BBC1’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s tale of murderous smugglers, Jamaica Inn. Published in 1936, it was filmed only three years later by Alfred Hitchcock.

The blurb occasionally enjoys a tot of rum:

Set in 1821 against the forbidding backdrop of windswept Cornish moors, the story follows the journey of young and spirited Mary Yellan who is forced to live with her Aunt Patience after the death of her mother.

Despite pressure to marry local boy Ned after her mother’s death, Mary refuses to compromise. Though Ned is kind to her, she doesn’t love him and won’t marry without love. Mary declines Ned’s proposal, and journeys to Jamaica Inn in Cornwall.

Mary arrives at the isolated Inn to discover her Aunt is a shell of the carefree woman she remembers from her childhood, and instead finds a tired and anxious woman who is firmly under the spell of her domineering husband Joss.

Joss is the head of a gang of men who smuggle all along the stretch of the Cornish coastline. It’s dangerous and violent work and when Joss isn’t smuggling, he is drinking heavily to forget all that he has seen.

To complicate matters further Mary finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Jem Merlyn, but Jem is her uncle’s brother and therefore not to be trusted in Mary’s mind – although her heart may say otherwise…

Life at Jamaica Inn challenges Mary’s black and white perceptions of morality as she finds herself living among smugglers in a lawless land where no one is quite who they seem. When she thinks she has witnessed a murder, Mary wonders at what cost she will stay silent.

Jamaica Inn is on at 9pm, BBC1, next Monday night and then jollies along for three consecutive nights.

In the immortal words of Mr. Harold Shand: ‘It’s Good Friday. Have a Bloody Mary!’

Criminal Minds: Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was one of the most influential American crime-writers of all time. His battered, moral, cynical detective Philip Marlowe has become an archetype of the genre, endlessly recycled and referenced. Here are ten facts about the writer.

images1/ A quintessentially American author, Chandler spent much of his early life in England. At the age of 12 he moved with his parents to South London, and was educated at Dulwich College, where he resided at, yes, Marlowe House. Becoming a British citizen, he worked in the civil service and as a journalist before moving back to the States in 1912.

2/ Chandler didn’t start writing till he was 44 when he was laid off as an oil company executive for his continual drunkenness. But writing success came slowly. His seven novels: The Big sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady In The Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, Playback and Poodle Springs are regarded as classics (well, the first five at least), but the early novels struggled to sell and it wasn’t until Hollywood started taking an interest that his fortunes changed.

3/ Philip Marlowe – named after the famous Elizabethan writer and secret agent – didn’t appear fully-formed. There were a number of prototypes of the character in Chandler’s many short stories, variously named Mallory, John Dalmas and Ted Carmady. When Chandler later compiled those early stories he simply changed the name of his various protagonists to Marlowe. He was a terrific recycler of his own material. Most of his novels were cannibalized from various short stories.

4/ His essay The Simple Art Of Murder from 1950 is one of the defining texts Unknownabout crime fiction. He extols the virtue of the Black Mask school of hard-boiled detective novels while putting the boot into what he saw as contrived and formulaic English countryhouse murder mysteries. He demands that detective fiction must have a strong moral vision:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.

5/ Chandler’s adventures in Hollywood were unhappy. He was hired to work on the screenplay for Strangers On A Train – and is credited, although the script was largely rewritten– but Chandler and Alfred Hitchcock fell out big time. Chandler hated what he saw as endless script conferences – ‘god awful jabber sessions’ – and called Hitchcock a ‘fat bastard.’ He accused the director of being willing to sacrifice logic and coherence for dramatic effect, although this was the writer who also famously said: ‘When in doubt have a man with a gun in his hand come through the door.’

6/ Chandler also worked with Billy Wilder, with whom he also fell out. Chandler actually makes an uncredited cameo in Double Indemnity, sitting in a hallway reading a book as Fred MacMurray walks past. Astonishingly, this in-plain-sight cameo remained unnoticed by anyone for more than 60 years, until a French film historian spotted him.

7/ His only origjnal screenplay was The Blue Dahlia, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Chandler struggled with alcoholism all his life and during this period was teetotal. He decided that the only way to cure his writer’s block was to start drinking again. Working in a stupor, with limousines parked outside his house to ferry pages of script to the studio and a battery of secretaries on hand, Chandler got it finished. The producer of the film, John Houseman, said of those eight days: “Chandler did not draw one sober breath, nor did one speck of solid food pass his lips.”

images-28/  Like all irascible, insomniac drunks, Chandler liked to write a letter, and they’ve been published. They are by turns acerbic, combative, defensive and highly-entertaining. “When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I intend that it should stay split.”

9/ Riddled by eczema, Chandler typed his novels wearing white gloves.

10/ His final novel Poodle Springs – in which Marlowe is married – was left unfinished when he died in 1959 and was later completed by crime writer Robert B. Parker. Emboldened by his encounter with Marlowe, Parker – brave man – wrote a sequel to The Big Sleep called Perchance To Dream.

And Marlowe, like other archetypes of the genre such as Holmes and Bond, continues to live on long after Chandler’s death. The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black – the crime-writing name of Booker winner John Banville – is published next year.

TV Crime Log: Bates, Blinders & Bradley

The telly schedules will be filling up with crime thriller series over the coming months – The Tunnel, The Blacklist and the return of Homeland, among them – as the networks unveil their autumn goodies. And there are a couple of new series tomorrow night that you must, or must not, watch, as you see fit.

Peaky Blinders is the BBC’s attempt at a period crime drama in the Boardwalk Empire vein. Set in Birmingham just after the First World War, it follows the Peaky Blinders gang – so named for their charming practice of sewing razor blades into their caps – as they make money from illegal betting, protection and the black market.

Here’s some blurb :

Birmingham, 1919. Thomas Shelby is a war veteran, and head of feared gang, the Peaky Blinders. When he comes into possession of a crate of guns from the local arms factory, Thomas sees an opportunity to increase the gang’s power and move up in the world. Meanwhile, tough Belfast copper Chief Inspector Campbell arrives in town, tasked with the recovery of the guns by none other than Winston Churchill. Will Thomas listen to the Peaky Blinders’ family matriarch, Aunt Polly, who instructs him to ditch the weapons rather than take on the police?

At the same time Thomas incurs the wrath of his older brother, Arthur, when he stages ‘the powder trick’: a magic spell which will encourage the locals to bet on a horse. It’s the first step in fixing a race, but Thomas did it without the permission of Billy Kimber, the kingpin who runs the racetracks.

Thomas’s younger sister Ada, meanwhile, is secretly having a relationship with his former best friend and the man who saved his life in the trenches, Freddie Thorne. Freddie is a Marxist, encouraging workers to strike over their recent cuts in pay.

Like Thomas and the Peaky Blinders, Freddie and the Communists are on Chief Inspector Campbell’s list of suspects: organisations he intends to decapitate in his ruthless search for the missing guns.

608There’s Cillian Murphy, looking like he means business – we like him. I don’t know the name of the horse, but I can confirm that Sam Neill is in Peaky Blinders, and we absolutely love him around here.

If you’re still umming-and-aahing about whether to watch it, be aware that it was created by Steven Knight, who wrote Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things. That title, though — I keep wanting to say Pesky Blinders, which makes it sound a bit Scooby-Doo.

Peaky Blinders is on Thursday night – that’s tomorrow for the terminally bewildered among you – at 9pm. It may require an hour of your attention should you intend to watch the whole thing.

Aimages-1nd who, you may ask, is going to fill that loveable-serial-killer shaped hole in your heart now that Dexter is finally going to be put out of his misery – one way or another – in a few, short weeks?

Why, it’s our old friend, Norman Bates, coming out of mothballs, and bringing  his deranged – but undeniably hot – mother with him.

Bates Motel has already been commissioned for another season in the States. I think a lot of people were very sceptical about the idea of retooling Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho, but actually, the reviews for Bates Motel have been very good.

It follows Norma and little Norman’s new life in a small town as they attempt to set up a new motel business and get to know the locals, very possibly by killing and burying them.

Bates Motel clashes – would you believe it! – with Peaky Blinders. It’s on the Universal Channel – there is such a thing, I assure you, check your EPG – at 9pm, tomorrow night. Yes, Thursday. So something, as they say, has to give.


Look, I’m terribly sorry about the photo of Bradley Walsh, but there is a good reason. You see, him off Law And Order: UK presents a new six-part series on Monday called – wait for it – Crime Thriller Club.

It’s a studio-based… hold on, I’m just going to cut-and-paste the blurb to save time:

Bradley Walsh presents this new six-part studio-based show celebrating the very best of crime fiction and television with high-profile guests, quizzes, bluffer’s guides and peeks behind the scenes of popular dramas.

Culminating in the glittering Crime Thriller Awards 2013 in October at the Grosvenor House Hotel, the series gets exclusive access to the stars and sets of some of Britain’s best known crime thriller programmes like Bletchley Circle, Silent Witness and Midsomer Murders.

Each week the programme gives viewers a bluffer’s guide with a short run-down of the key features of a popular crime drama – from Scott and Bailey to Foyle’s War.

A book of the week is featured, focusing on high-profile authors such as Linwood Barclay and up-and coming names like Diana Bretherick. Living legends of the crime writing genre are also profiled, including Martina Cole, Patricia Cornwell and Wilbur Smith.

Finally, the studio guest and viewers are encouraged to take part in a quiz on a popular crime programme – from Sherlock to Inspector Morse.

Face-palm! Can’t they just leave it to excellent and informative blogs to do this sort of thing? I can’t think of any off the top of my head but, I mean, there are a few out there, right?

So that’s it, then. You won’t need the likes of me any more. All you’ll have to do is set your recorder for ITV3 – that’ll be a first, I bet – on Monday night at 9pm.

*Storms off in a huff*

Criminal Minds: Alfred Hitchcock

Born in Leytonstone, East London, in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock directed more than fifty movies across six decades, and is as legendary as anybody in the crime thriller genre. Perhaps the most-famous film director ever, his timeless work is endlessly analysed.

1/ Many of Hitchcock’s films feature heroes who are  wrongly accused. Film historians have suggested this relates back to an incident when the five-year-old Hitchcock was sent by his disciplinarian father, a grocer, to a police station with a note asking that he be locked up for bad behaviour.

2/ Hitchcock always suggested that he found filming a chore, and famously imageslikened actors to cattle – in a sarcastic response, Carole Lombard bought some cows along with her when she reported for duty on set. Hitchcock said he saw the entire completed film in his head before he shot it, right down to the edits, and shooting lost 40 per cent of his original conception of it.

3/ The director’s practical jokes were legendary – he once served a meal of blue food to bewildered guests. But as his reputation has taken on darker hues, many of his more sinister jokes are perhaps more apocryphal. For example, Hitchcock reportedly bet his floor-manager he couldn’t stay handcuffed overnight in an empty studio, and when the fellow agreed, Hitchcock offered him a snifter of brandy to fortify him through the night – however, the alcohol was laced with laxative.

4/ Hitchcock worked with an incredible rosta of writers in his career, including Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker – his cameo in Saboteur was originally intended to be shared with Mrs. Parker – Ernest Lehman, Ben Hecht and John Michael Hayes. A young writer called Evan Hunter wrote The Birds – Hunter later become successful as crime writer Ed McBain.

5/ The director’s favourite of his own movies was Shadow Of A Doubt, starring Joseph Cotton as the sinister Uncle Charlie. Two of the scriptwriters on that film were Thornton Wilder, who wrote the theatre repertory mainstay Our Town, and Hitchcock’s own wife, Alma Reville.

poster_rear-window6/ For Rear Window Hitchcock built an extraordinary indoor set: forty feet high and 185 feet long, complete with more than one thousand arc lights. The courtyard of the five-storey apartment block set was actually the excavated basement of the studio. There were 31 apartments built for the movie, complete with running-water and electricity apartments, and many were fully-furnished.

7/ Psycho was something of an experiment for Hitchcock after a string of glossy, expensive movies such as North By Northwest. He filmed it in black and white to keep down costs, and used the crew of his television show. The shower-scene, perhaps the most-famous scene in the history of movies, lasts 45 seconds and includes 70, ahem, cuts.

8/ His cameo appearances in his own movies are well-known, but he appears in only 39 of his 52 surviving films – the joke really took off when he went to America. His first was in UK film, The Lodger, where he faces away from the camera. The longest appearance is in Blackmail, in which he appears on the London Underground. In Lifeboat, he appears in a newspaper advert, and he often made an appearance with a musical instrument case in tow. In Psycho II, which was made three years after his death, his silhouette appears at the Bates Motel, as a homage. And his daughter, Patricia, often appeared as an actress in his movies.

9/ Hitchcock’s appetite for blonde leading ladies is well documented. His famous quote is: ‘Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.’ Among his most actresses were: Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Eva Marie Saint. Many acres of print have been devoted to his alleged obsession with cool blondes, and his reputed manipulation and control of his leading ladies. Tippi Hedren said that Hitchcock ruined her career when she rejected his affections.

Unknown10/ Hitchcock had always wanted to film a French novel, which became the classic Les Diaboliques. Frustrated, he turned to another novel by Boileau-Narcejac, which became Vertigo. Hitchcock had worked several times with James Stewart, but their last collaboration was on that film. Over the years, Vertigo’s reputation has increased and it’s often cited as one of the best films ever made, but when it was released n 1958, it was reviewed badly and suffered at the box-office. As a result, Hitchcock went out of his way to avoid working with Stewart again, delaying production of North By Northwest until his former leading-man wasn’t available. Vertigo also has perhaps the greatest film poster ever.

Friday Crime Shorts:

Brain frazzled at the end of a long, tedious week? Here’s some short paragraphs about stuff, that won’t tax you too much.

imagesRandom House have released the first of Arne Dahl’s Intercrime books, The Blinded Man, to tie in with the Arne Dahl series currently showing on BBC4 on Saturday night. Those of you who are driven to apoplexy by lazy, cliche phrases may want to look away now… Arne Dahl is the latest, yes, Scandanavian crime sensation. He’s quite a big deal on the continent, where he’s sold two and a half million copies of his books.

The second book in the Intercrime series, The Blinded Man was first published back in 1999 and Dahl – real name Jan Arnald – has written a further nine novels in the series, which is about an elite police team in Sweden.

pi4741629396b5e0f6@largeMeanwhile John D. McDonald‘s Travis McGee novels are slowly being rereleased as e-books. The first five have already been made available, and there’ll be another two released every month – there are twenty-one in the series overall, each with a colour referenced in the title. Each book also features an introduction by die hard fan Lee Child.

The Deep Blue Good-by — or Goodbye. As you can see, the perenially awkward spelling has undergone a tidy-up — was first published in 1964, and the last novel in the series, The Lonely Silver Rain, in 1984. The central character of Travis McGee is a Salvage Consultant — basically, he finds things and people, for half the value of the missing item — who lives on houseboat in Florida called the Busted Flush. In the novels, which span the counter-culture of the 60s and the Reaganite 80s, McGee matures in real time.

The character hasn’t really been well-served in the movies, unless you’re a Rod Taylor fan, but perhaps the books are being reissued because of the news that Leonardo DiCaprio is circling the character for a movie.

But you may be more familiar with a movie based on another of McDonald’s books, The Executioners, which was published in 1957 — it’s been filmed twice, both times as Cape Fear.

images-1With Dexter almost coming to an end, American TV bosses are looking for a new friendly serial killer with which to engage audiences. The TV prequel-series Hannibal is soon to be broadcast on Sky Living — more about that when it comes out — and now Universal has bought the UK rights to broadcast the latest adventures of our old friend Norman Bates, in the A&E show Bates Motel.

It follows the adventures of a baby-faced young man who lives with his mum Norma as they open a new motel in Oregon – the motel seems to have relocated from California. Baby-faced Norman, played by Freddie Highmore, struggles with all the usual problems  that young men do when they move to  a new town — making friends, getting to know girls and getting away with multiple homicides.

I can hear you groaning at the prospect, Psycho is a classic, innit, but actually this TV update has garnered decent reviews and ratings on its, admittedly small, network, and has already been renewed for a second season, so it may be worth – ahem – a butcher’s.

The showrunner is Carlton Cuse, formerly of Lost, and Mrs. Bates looks a touch more glamorous, and certainly more alive, than she did in Hitchcock’s movie.  She’s played by Vera Farmiga – her off Up In The Air and Source Code, but my sources cannot confirm whether her rocking chair makes an appearance.