M.W. Craven Day – Who is Mike Craven?
Hi, my name is M. W. Craven, although please feel to call me Mike (it’s my name, I’m not that weird), and I’m the author of Black Summer, published over here as Zwarte Zomer, the second book in the award-winning (the 2019 CWA Gold dagger, just in case you were wondering . . .) Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw series. I’ll get onto to Tilly and Poe soon but first, a little bit about me (lifted straight from the bio on my website because I’m lazy). . .
I was, and remain, a happy person. I love to laugh and I’m forever on the lookout for new and innovative ways to do this. Other than my father dying when I was fourteen, I had a brilliant childhood. I was born in Cumbria, but grew up in Newcastle, Northumberland (Cumbria is in the North West of England and Northumberland is in the North East, both counties are on the Scottish border). When I was sixteen I joined the army by accident (may that wily recruiting sergeant have a lifetime of TV programmes with incorrectly synced audio . . .) and I spent the next decade travelling the world, sweeping leaves. When every leaf was off every tree in every barrack in Germany, and safely in a bin liner, I dug a tunnel with a reconditioned mess-tin and escaped. At a loose end, I considered becoming an expert in otters (sadly this is true). To further this aim I did a degree in social work. Thirty-one years after I’d left Cumbria as a babe-in-arms, heralded by the seven farting trumpets of the apocalypse, I returned to take up a probation officer role in Whitehaven. It was . . . boisterous. Sixteen years later, and at the rank of assistant chief executive, I made the jump and became a full-time author. As one half of Mr and Mrs Craven, I am contractually obliged to say that getting married is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. With this in mind, a job you can do in your pyjamas comes a pretty decent second . . . So here I am. Living in a beautiful and historic part of the country. Fells and mountains to pretend you’ve climbed. Forgotten villages to explore. Lakes to swim in and rivers to kayak down (I’ve done neither and I never will.). There are castles and mazes to get lost in, Roman ruins to scramble on (don’t do this, people will shout at you), and, if you’ve read The Puppet Show, sixty-three Neolithic stone circles to run around naked (again, don’t do this; people really shout at you). I’m happily married to a beautiful woman (Jo) and, like Poe, I have a mischievous springer spaniel (Bracken – who once ate my cheese muffin when I wasn’t looking). When I’m not out with Bracken, or talking nonsense in the Kings Head, I can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country. I’ve written several books now. The Puppet Show has been optioned for TV and translated into twenty foreign languages and several more territories. I really can’t complain. And I’m not. Really I’m not. Writing for a living is the best life I could have imagined for myself. So, I’m happy. And I often think about where the darkness comes from. Put me in front of a blank screen and the laughter stops, immediately replaced by sinister thoughts. It’s just as well someone pays me to write them down . . .
Anyway, now we have the narcissistic bit out of the way, let me tell you about the Poe and Tilly series. Again, this is (mostly) taken directly from my website as it seems to be comprehensive:
Meet Detective Sergeant Washington Poe. Dark, cynical, ruthless; he lives a monastic existence in a shepherd’s croft on the most desolate moorland in Cumbria. Even his secrets have secrets. He has a past he keeps there and another past he doesn’t yet know about . . . He’s misanthropic, incredibly loyal to the few friends he has and he has an English springer spaniel called Edgar.
And now meet civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. Brilliant, adorably awkward, a social hand grenade; she lives at home with her parents and isn’t allowed out on her own. She has three PhDs but doesn’t know how to boil an egg. Meeting Poe will be her first step into the non-academic world. The world might not yet be ready for her . . .
And finally there’s Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn. Poe used to be her boss, she’s now his. She heads up the National Crime Agency’s Serious Crime Analysis Section – the unit charged with apprehending serial killers and solving apparently motiveless murders. It’s the country’s last line of defence and although Flynn knows managing Poe and Tilly will be like herding cats, she also knows she’s the only one who can do it .
The Puppet Show was the first case they worked together, and, although Poe and Tilly didn’t initially like each other, they are now close friends. The Puppet Show went on to win the 2019 Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Gold Dagger so expectation was high for Black Summer. I didn’t want to be known as the writer who can only do serial killer novels so I decided to put Poe through the wringer for book 2 (which would also mean putting Tilly and Flynn through the wringer) by having a cold case crop up and bite him on the arse: the victim of a murderer Poe helped put in prison turns up alive and well . . . I also wanted to give Tilly a puzzle even she couldn’t crack, and it doesn’t get more difficult than Black Summer’s central premise: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time. So with Poe safely in the shit, it was time to introduce a couple of new characters (now recurring characters): Estelle Doyle, the goth forensic pathologist who scares the hell out of Poe, and Jefferson Black, the ex-para turned chef. Estelle has been in every book since (Poe 5, The Botanist, is an Estelle Doyle story) and Jefferson crops up in Dead Ground (Poe 4), although he’s had a bit of a career change . . .
Black Summer was a lot of fun to write and I’m delighted to say that it has just been longlisted for the 2020 CWA Gold Dagger. Fingers crossed for two wins in a row (it’s only ever happened once before in 1968 and 1969).
I really hope you guys enjoy the Poe books as much as readers in the UK seem to. And if enough of you buy it, it may just persuade my Dutch publisher to fork out a bit of cash for the next in the series, The Curator 😉
Have a blast, guys.