Susi Qs – Week 6 – William Shaw

Hello and welcome to my blog series – Susi Qs – where I will be quizzing some of your favourite crime fiction authors, in the style of the Smash Hits Biscuit Tin. For those of you unfamiliar/too young – this involved a celebrity choosing some very random questions from a biscuit tin. I’m using a virtual tin (let’s imagine it was one like this…), and instead of a celeb, I’ve got an author…

This week’s guest is William Shaw, who has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, the Barry Award and The Golden Bullet and longlisted twice for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year without actually winning anything. He was on the staff of Smash Hits for several years (in fact, he probably invented this whole concept).

So, without further ado – let’s find out what wisdom Will would like to share with us…

Where’s the worst place you’ve been sick?

On the ceiling. True story. Though the ceiling was actually quite low. I was a 14-year-old on a family canal boat holiday with my family and my mum, who was quite the forager, thought it would be a nice idea to try some puffball mushrooms, fried in red wine. The vomit was projectile. In the cold light of morning it was also purple. 

How often do you change your sheets?

Weekly on a Sunday. From when I was 19 I lived for a couple of years alone for a in a house half way up a Welsh hillside with no heating apart from a coal fire and a single electric heater that I wired in almost killing myself in the process – and no running hot water. I used to have to heat water on a Baby Belling cooker or on a coal stove to wash anything. Occasionally I took a tin bath in front of the fire. I shudder to think how often I must have washed my sheets back then.

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

Actually no. It sounds really boasty, but I’m really good at taking criticism from people I respect and admire and even better at ignoring it from people who I don’t.

Who do you love?

Jane McMorrow who I fell in love with in September 1990 at a party thrown by Mary Loughran. We were both advantageously drunk and somehow I managed to persuade her to come to a contemporary classic concert by Olivier Messiaen at the South Bank the next evening, deeply weird but beautiful stuff. She was so hungover that evening she couldn’t even bend to tie her shoe laces but that weekend somehow set the tone for the next thirty-two years. I love the children we have together too who are far cooler than we ever were.

Who’s your favourite cartoon character?

Grommit. My sister used to be in animation and worked on The Wrong Trousers – and for Aardman’s Animated Conversations series. She is also the author of Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation. Beat that.

Do you worry about swallowing spiders in your sleep?


Do you have any weird habits?

Sometimes, rather than looking for the glasses cleaner, I lick my glasses and wipe them with my shirt tails. This is not a good look when you’re on stage at a book event.

Have you ever had your fortune told?

In The Belvedere on Brighton seafront – now The Tempest Inn – there used to be a man who always sat in the same chair and would do graphology for the price of a couple of pints. He looked at my handwriting and told me I was a bum and breast man because of the roundness of my ‘w’s. I told him he was an old perv.

Would you rather give up washing, smiling or reading?

Washing, all the way. Under lockdown I’ve mostly given it up anyway. We wash way too much. It’s really bad for your health and the amount of soap we pour down the drains is insane. Seriously. I gave up shampooing my hair six months ago because I looked like a snow globe whenever I wore a dark shirt and my scalp is now perfectly fine.

What are you wearing?

It’s mid January* and I’m wearing a Christmas jumper. That says everything we know about lockdown, doesn’t it?

*It’s nearly March. I suspect he’s still wearing it…

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Thank you, Will. I have to say, that glasses licking thing is actually quite weird…


Find him on Twitter @William1Shaw



Latest Crime Reads: Coming Soon in 2016

I’ve got the year off to a great start by picking up early copies of these four beauties – all crime, but all very different. If you’re looking for books to add to your wishlist and you want to topple that TBR pile over once and for all, take a look at these:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 13.43.38‘The Birdwatcher’ by William Shaw

This is the first of Shaw’s books I’ve read, and I was intrigued by the title and the blurb… “Police Sergeant William South has a reason for not wanting to be on the murder investigation. He’s a murderer himself.” As it turns out, this is a read-in-one-sitting standalone mystery surrounding South’s dead neighbour and fellow birdwatcher, Bob. The slightly bleak south coast setting draws you deep inside, and the parallel story about South’s early years in Northern Ireland is equally compelling. Excellent characterisation brings this neatly woven tale to life, and I kept imagining it on screen. Don’t miss this one.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 13.45.29‘In her Wake’ by Amanda Jennings

Oh my God. THIS BOOK. I’d heard so many good things, but I didn’t expect it to blow me away quite in the way that it did. It’s a psychological thriller, but mixed in with the intrigue, pace and clever reveals, there is the incredibly beautiful writing. I’ve read and loved all of Jennings’ books, but in this one she has upped her game considerably. A heartbreaking story of a missing child and the horrific consequences for all involved, this is a book to be read in one sitting, in a state of total immersion. Deserves to be huge.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 13.49.24‘Viral’ by Helen Fitzgerald

This is the story of Su-Jin, who after being coerced into a trip to Magaluf with her sister, ends up doing something that is set to ruin not only her own life, but that of her high-profile mother, and destroy the family as a whole. Based on the controversial first line (which you’ll have to discover for yourself) the rest of the book came as a bit of a surprise. Fitzgerald’s trademark caustic wit prevails, and yet it is really a story about discovery, about finding out who you really are. Although devastating in parts, it is an expertly written, cautionary tale and it more than deserves to go the way of its title. Fantastic. Check out the fab promo video HERE.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 16.30.58‘Bad Samaritan’ by Michael J. Malone

I’ve only read one of Malone’s books before – the excellent Beyond The Rage, featuring Kenny O’Neill. This book is part of the Ray McBain series (also featuring O’Neill), and at first it seems to be a fairly straightforward procedural – a girl has been murdered… and there’s a creepy killer on the loose. BUT this book is so much more than that. McBain and O’Neill are fantastic characters, as are the whole plethora of supporting cast. I flew through this, thinking I had it all worked out, and then… I didn’t. With some excellent twists and turns and an ending that will leave you quite literally stunned, this is one to seek out. Fast.

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What have you been reading this year so far? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be sharing some exciting news about my forthcoming novel, Willow Walk, very soon… Sign-up HERE for occasional updates, exclusive giveaways and competitions