For American listeners, perhaps Thomas McGuane requires no introduction. A successful novelist and screenwriter, he is also a regular contributor to the New Yorker. However, part of my motivation in featuring his work here is that he is virtually unknown in Britain.

This episode looks at Tom’s successful move, Missouri Breaks, which starred Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, plus we cover the novel Panama in addition to 92.

For British ears, a “break” is a national monument, or national park, famous for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Also famous for being the route taken by land to discover the Northwest…


I loved this book by Carol Ann Lee. I know a fair bit about the Moors Murders, but only recently did I drag the famous Topping book out of the library. It was an account of a policeman’s re-opening of the Moors case back in the 1980s. It’s gripping, but more than one person had some issues with it. Whenever anyone writes a book or makes some money out of the case, especially amongst the public servants who were involved, it attracts negative comments.

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Carol’s book has no such connections or troubles: she is a proper journalist, a proper writer…


The 1966 murder of Dr Helen Davidson near Amersham, Buckinghamshire, is the subject of Monica Weller’s cold case investigation. To give you half the answer you’re looking for: yes, she solved the case. And no, no spoilers here.

What Monica Weller also discovered, perhaps to her own surprise, was the extent to which a close-knit market town would close ranks over the mists of a local wood to bury the case. Surprising because New Scotland Yard sent a senior policeman to ‘help’ with the enquiry. Even he couldn’t get to the bottom of anything, perhaps because he was pressured by…


I have recorded a podcast episode running through the brief highlights of the Claudia Lawrence missing persons case. I did this, even though it is a comparatively recent case, because I was surprised at how effective the police had been in focusing attention on the Thursday when Claudia’s disappearance was reported to them. All of the evidence the police published leaves open the possibility that Claudia disappeared and came to harm the previous afternoon or evening.

I wanted to put together an alternative timeline. The purpose of this is not to suggest that this matches reality, but that the bare…


Robert Baden-Powell begins his autobiography with a chapter called A Yachting Adventure. Having learned all I know about yachting from my dog, I found this gripping stuff. It is full of typical English gems, like this: When men are nervous under fire the best thing their leader can do is find some petty fault with them — criticize a haversack wrongly fitted or firmly remind them to keep step. That is the first sentence. Brilliant. It gets better.

Things go wrong as soon as page three. Portsmouth harbour proving too safe, too dull, the skipper of their little fun boat…


There is an amazing true story of a man being murdered by umbrella in London in 1978. But is it actually true?

There is a lot about it on Wikipedia, even a separate entry for a device known as a Bulgarian Umbrella that is capable of launching a poison pellet into the bloodstream of your intended victim. There is a replica in the Berlin spy museum. But is it real?

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It is absolutely true that a Bulgarian dissident was murdered using the poison ricin in 1978. It is absolutely true that another Bulgarian had a metal pellet embedded in him…


David Cornwell is the real man behind the famous author, John le Carré. Every few years, John steps back into the limelight. He is either promoting a new book or else talking about his back catalogue, which is not as extensive as you may think. Although, to the surprise of all Smiley fans, Penguin have announced one last Smiley adventure will be released in September 2017.

Le Carré recently got into a minor squabble in the letters pages of the Daily Telegraph, in which someone had accused him of painting a former boss, and the British security service, in an…

CRIME // SPIES

UK Crime & Spies

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