Crime Writing Competition: MJ Ford wants to be hooked from the first page

Entering The Big Issue's Crime Writing Competition in partnership with HarperCollins imprint Avon? Read what judge MJ Ford is looking for when it comes to the perfect crime novel

Crime fiction, along with romance, fills the shelves. What is that pulls readers towards these two genres?

My theory is that it’s roughly the same impulse – a triumph over adversity, a sense of the universe finding its rightful place. In romance, love is the prize; in crime, it’s justice. Two sides of the same coin. The machinations of how we get to that happy end-state involves great plotting, and I do love a clockwork of perfectly oiled moving parts, preferably with a few surprises along the way.

But what really makes the journey worth my while is a truly great central character (or characters) to share it with, and a feeling their victory is earned. Academic, aloof, or uninvolved protagonists have their place in crime fiction, especially with the gentleman detectives and ladies of leisure who typified the genre’s golden age.

You all know who I mean: rarely touched by peril, they waltz in upon a scene (or they’re invited), and using inexplicable psychological acuity coupled with preternatural insights, they untangle the crime and receive the applause. I prefer a character who grabs me from the opening, with a voice I want to stay with until the end. I don’t have to like them, but I need to ‘get’ where they’re coming from and feel their struggle for a novel to satisfy.

MJ Ford, who launched his debut crime novel Hold My Hand with Avon last year, will sit on the judging panel for the competition alongside Julia Silk, agent at Kingsford Campbell, Sunday Times best-selling author of The Teacher Katerina Diamond, and Big Issue books editor Jane Graham.

Find out more about The Big Issue’s Crime Writing Competition here

Submissions will be open from March-May 2019, with a shortlist being announced in September and the winner’s announcement to follow in October. The books will then be scheduled for publication in 2020 and onwards. All terms and conditions can be found on bigissue.com or avonbooks.co.uk.