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April Book Club Choice

The Picasso Scam by Stuart Pawson

Cover of The Picasso Scam

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Freshly reissued with a stunning new cover design, this is the first book in the hugely popular crime series featuring DI Charlie Priest (aka "Yorkshire's answer to Inspector Morse"). Sheep stealing and shop lifting may be the day-to-day crimes to contend with in Heckley but this time Charlie has his eye on a bigger fish. get to know this likeable hero as he investigates a now-respected businessman with a shady background - who he suspects is involved in international art fraud. But taking on an enemy with friends in high places comes with risks...and threats. But Charlie can be persistent, and often reckless - and, once he’s realised that there’s a link to the lethal doctored heroin that’s striking down the local kids, nothing will stop him.

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. Why do you think Charlie Priest has become such a popular character?
Hugh Peters, Yorkshire

A. I’m staggered by Charlie’s growing popularity, particularly amongst a certain gender-stroke-age group. One day perhaps I’ll analyse every word I’ve written about him and condense it into one of those “How to…” Until then, Charlie brings order to the increasingly violent world we live in, using a mixture of guile, charm and humour to rise above the evil that threatens to submerge us, while keeping faith in his fellow men.

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Q. You always hear authors say “write what you know”. Do you take inspiration from things in your own life when developing characters, scenarios or plotlines or do you like to explore things that are entirely new?
S Mayors, London

A. As always, it’s a bit of both. Some of the more interesting sections of my dialogue are lifted from overheard conversations between walking colleagues while “putting the world to rights”. All I have to do is lay on the censor’s pencil. At other times I have to stray into unused territory and delve into my imagination. Fortunately many of my readers probably have a similar criminal record to me (parking and speeding) and therefore accept what I write as being a reasonable representation of the truth. I have a thing about originality and like to keep Charlie one step ahead of his fellow cops, where possible, but I don’t overdo the technology. Throw in a couple of technical terms, perhaps have an expert add his pennyworth - no more than that - then leave it to the reader to work out the significance of it all.

Q. I am a wannabe writer with a penchant for crime fiction. Do you have every inch of the plot already firm in your mind before you begin writing the novel?
Clifford Grantham, Hull

A. If only…When I wrote the first book, The Picasso Scam, (which I consider to be a learning experience) I had the story in my head and the hardest part was keeping going and managing the word count. For the next one (The Mushroom Man) I had a serial killer on the loose and it was relatively easy to plot his demise. I wrote a skeleton of the plot on 40-odd Post-it notes, which left me with the task of writing 2,000 words per Post-it note. (40 x 2,000 = 80,000 words). No problem. Writing a story about a serial killer is much easier than trying to maintain the reader’s interest with a one-victim murder. That’s my piece of advice for today. Since The Mushroom Man I’ve had to explore every which way there is to plot a crime novel. The fall-back position is to have someone find a body and call the police. Then all that’s left for you to do is knock on a few doors and hold a big meeting.

Q. Did you ever consider setting the Charlie Priest series anywhere other than Yorkshire? And were you to write another series or book, is there another setting that draws you?
Lauren Hanzel, Warwick

A. Yes. Somewhere warm. Like Arizona. I love everything about the American South West:- the red rock desert scenery; the crystal clear air; the general laid back attitude; the Grand Canyon; the big hats. Charlie would be at home there.

Q. How hard to read other crime novels without it influencing your own writing?
F. D., Yorkshire

A. I’d find it impossible not to be influenced, so I try to stay clear of them. There are some books (or writers) that I feel I ought to read, so I save them for the fallow period when I’m between stories and have submitted my own annual offering.


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