Peter Jukes is a British author, screenwriter, playwright, literary critic and blogger. He has written for both The Independent and the New Statesman on themes as diverse as nationalism, art in the computer age, and apocalyptic religion. Jukes is also a regular drama writer for TV and radio, having started award-winning shows like Waking the Dead and the acclaimed Lenny Henry drama Bad Faith.

For his live Twitter coverage of the phone hacking trial in London, Peter was named the best reporter on social media by the Press Club, and his blog nominated one of the three best news websites by the Press Club this year.

New Book: Beyond Contempt: The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial
Press Gazette’s UK Reporter of the Year on Social Media

Author, screenwriter, playwright, critic, blogger, and Twitter journalist – where are you most comfortable?

Somewhere in the spaces in between, probably with a guitar in my hand. I think we’re all probably more eclectic than modern professions allow us to be, but my fiction has always been driven by research, and my drama background certainly helped with the theatrics of the Old Bailey.

Why did you decide to devote seven months of your life to live-tweet the phone hacking trial?

As my haphazard career amply shows, I’m more of an improviser and adventurer than long term planner, and the hacking trial coverage was completely unexpected. I’d originally planned only to cover the opening the of the trial, and had no idea that the whole thing could be live tweeted, or that my coverage would attract so many followers wishing to fund me for the duration.

You’ve written about the Murdoch empire before – is the chief reason that it’s a fascinating story?

I’ve spent my whole adult life with Murdoch as a major figure, and his impact on Britain combines my interest in culture, politics and business. He’s an iconic if polarising figure, and his successes and failures tell us so much about the modern world – from the Freudian dynamics of rich dynasties, to the future of newspapers and digital media.

Conventional reportage versus new media. What are the pros and cons?

New media tends to be more narrowcast, and focused on a group of aficionados who want all the gory detail. It requires the audience to tune in and out, and forces them to make editorial decisions. It’s more interactive and direct, especially for British courts which don’t allow cameras. But the downside is apparent in my book about the hacking trial, Beyond Contempt. Rarely did a day go by without one of the defence barristers making some point about ‘prejudicial tweets’. In real time, with so many reporting restrictions, it’s hard to avoid pitfalls. And the level of vitriol and prejudice on Twitter would never pass muster in a printed newspaper.

How were you viewed by broadcast and press journalists covering the trial?

At first I think I was treated with a mixture of pity and bewilderment. Why would anyone want to tweet out such a long and controversial trial? Most the reporters were, however, extremely helpful and supportive, pointing out potential dangers, and retweeting me a lot. I have some residual guilt that – because many news agencies were following me – I might have put some other court reporters temporarily out of a job.

My own gripe with the way the trial was covered would be about the verdicts. The three major newspaper groups immediately went for the same line – £100 million wasted on one guilty verdict – overlooking the fact there were actually 6 convictions for phone hacking, and vast bulk of that cost was the corporate defence. I don’t blame the reporters at the trial though for this spin, but editorial agenda of their editors and a defensive mind-set in much of Fleet Street.

Tell us why you opted to crowd-fund the live tweets.

Because I couldn’t afford to stay the duration. I was broke. People offered to pay. It was completely improvised and accidental. There was a demand. I had the ability to meet it. Though I think my followers might have been a bit paranoid in this regard, many truly believed that only an independent blogger could cover a big media trial because – from the BBC to News UK – most news organisations could be seen to have a vested interest in the result.

Can you give an example of the kind of thing you were not allowed to report at the time?

My book covers much of the legal argument, fascinating and often extremely contentious which could only be reported after the trial – this ranged from sudden discoveries of thousands of emails, to how much of the Brooks’ love letter to Coulson we could report, to constant complaints about prejudice in the rest of the press. With many trials still pending, there are a dozen or so names we still have to redact when writing about the hacking trial. It’s a minefield, and one false step can blow up a trial.

As Nick Davies says, there’s never been a trial like it. Newspapers, celebrities, politicians and politics, tragedy and farce. Were there any laughs?

It wasn’t just Nick who said this – everyone, particularly the lawyers, knew this was a trial of century in terms of cost, number of high profile defendants, and length – it was officially the longest concluded trial in British criminal history. But fortunately, there were a lot of laughs. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, has a keen wit. Sienna Miller and Rebekah Brooks had us rolling in the line – especially a Brooks comment about Tony Blair (more in my book – a whole chapter of which is called Commedia dell’Arte). And ranging from lesbian soft porn to Pizza deliveries, Charlie Brooks’ appearance was a comic masterpiece.

Do you feel justice has been done?

How long have you got? I feel that, in terms of the evidence the jury, they could not be sure Rebekah Brooks knew about phone hacking. Another jury might have gone another way, but the corporate defences were brilliantly mounted, and the burden proof for a criminal trial is very high. That said, I never particularly wanted people to go to prison – I wanted the truth to come out – and on that standard, the trial has seen transparency and accountability. Daylight is the great cleanser, and the mere fact the trial went ahead should prevent excessive privacy intrusions in the future. I also hold the higher ups more accountable than the foot soldiers for the toxic culture that developed among sections of Fleet Street. With the CPS still considering corporate charges, this might be the most effective way of ensuring these practices never become endemic again.

Where do you stand on the various options for press regulation?

My main feeling has always been that most the problems stem from concentration of ownership in the British press and media, and that where monopoly power accumulates, abuses will always follow. The fact that Rebekah Brooks was close personal friends with three successive prime ministers is just one example of the problem.

Despite its famed first amendment, the US actually has much more stringent laws governing press and media ownership: that’s the reason Murdoch is a US citizen (he had to be to buy the Fox network) and wasn’t allowed both newspapers and TV stations in the same city. But until we have better trust-busting laws, I think some kind of quick and cheap system of arbitration and redress needs to be instituted to protect the public from the more feral side of the press (the rich can always sue) IPSO promises this – but is still heavily indebted to the three main newspaper proprietors.

Beyond Contempt is out now. What can we expect?

Thrills, scoops, all the humour, legal manoeuvres, court gossip – dodgy hearts, burst appendices; me getting harried by Louise Mensch and Guido Fawkes, attempts to investigate my finances by the Daily Mail: and of course a running commentary (verboten during the trial) of how different lawyers, defendants, and witnesses fared under pressure.

What are you working on next?

I’ve been out to Ukraine to cover the role of social media both in the Euromaidan uprising and then in the war in the Donbas region. There’s also the up and coming panel in the murder of private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987: this is the deadly heart of the phone hacking scandal, and the corrupt collusion between police and press, the cradle where the ‘dark arts’ were born.

Who should play you in the film?

Neil Pearson from Between the Lines, Drop the Dead Donkey, and Waterloo Road has just recorded a play about my coverage of the trial, and played me (an odd experience). It will be broadcast on October 10th on BBC Radio Four. I hear George Clooney is unavailable because he’s directing the film of Nick’s book Hack Attack. So, given the more comic mishaps during the trial, perhaps Rowan Atkinson.



By JJ Marsh

First published in Words with JAM magazine

Yesterday I went to the Zürich Film Festival to see The End of the Tour, a film about writers. How fitting I should go with my colleagues from The Woolf, both of whom are authors, journalists and interviewers.

In 1996, over five days, journalist David Lipsky did a road trip/interview with author David Foster Wallace. After Wallace’s suicide, Lipsky turned his notes into a book, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, upon which the film is based.

Two people: Rolling Stone journalist Lipsky, profiling the most talked-about author that year, DF Wallace, and accompanying him to the last stop on the book tour for Infinite Jest.

Two people, just talking.

the end of the tour

I was enthralled. The performances were outstanding, the script (by Donald Margulies) is witty and well-paced with plenty of laughs at the beginning and philosophical insights towards the end. The direction (by James Ponsoldt) is so smart it’s almost invisible. Moments of awkwardness stretch until they began to affect the audience; motifs such as snow ploughs, seatbelts, Pop-Tarts and electronic key-fobs plumb deeper themes; and the delicate transactional dance between these two men: interviewer/interviewee, success/wannabe, older/younger writers is like watching a fencing match.

I’ve interviewed a few of my literary heroes and recall that suspicious stand-off while you try to use every minute to build a short-lived relationship and get the story, while dealing with a person who’d be much happier sitting alone with a piece of paper. For all the uncomfortable silences, the fidgety PR people, the interruptions and distractions, there have been some perfect moments of connection, when you see each other as people, not opponents.

It’s all there in this film.

Wallace, played by Jason Segel in a phenomenal performance, delivers his own shambling theories about writers, writing, intelligence and feeling a fake. His weaknesses and pleasures not to mention addictions are both endearing and puzzling.

the end of the tour 2

The film places us in Lipsky’s shoes. He’s out of his depth, and we all know it. Jesse Eisenberg puts in another impressive turn as Lipsky, the insecure, resentful, not-as-successful-as-he’d-like author, with a giveaway giggle and a grubby urge to dig. His ego is his worst enemy, but unlike Wallace, he doesn’t yet know it.

106 minutes well spent, leaving me with thoughts about the nature of satisfaction, writing, success, journalism, ambition, and connecting with other minds. Despite the sad reality of Wallace’s suicide, the final scenes, including the one after the credits, ensured a smile remained on every single filmgoer’s face as they left the auditorium.

A film for writers of all kinds. And if nothing else, this will make you want to read Infinite Jest. I’m tempted to call that book the authors’ Everest, but the metaphor doesn’t work. For even if you conquer this incredible work by reading all 1000+ pages, it’s still there, towering above you, making you feel like an ant.

Watch the trailer here:



IMG_1106I’ve just finished book five! Yes, by the end of November I will publish the fifth in the Beatrice Stubbs Series – Human Rites.

Writing a crime series is a curious endeavour. There’s all the tricky stuff of how much backstory, as each book is a standalone adventure, yet there must be an overall arc for those following the series. Each plot needs to be new and different, but bear the hallmarks of a Beatrice Stubbs novel.

As luck would have it, my Triskele Books colleagues and I have recently embarked on a creative writing course. We decided that amongst all the practical elements of publishing as a collective: writing, reading, critiquing, blogging, reviewing, marketing and networking, we had precious little time to focus on improving our writing.

So we scouted around and collected our favourite writing exercises to flex some writing muscles we might have neglected. We published one of the first in Words with JAM: A Character Interview

Not only has it been great fun, but interesting to see what the others thought and extremely helpful for my work. As I wrote the last scene of Human Rites, I reflected on the importance of character development over a series.

Despite the hefty cast of characters in each of these novels, only certain people remain constant in all. And they are the drivers of the overall arc. It is the interaction between individuals the reader knows and loves/hates that creates dramatic tension. I like Yvonne Grace’s visual analogy of a bicycle wheel, where you need to plait the spokes to make the characters’ stories intersect. Another successful writer I know uses grids to plot the development of character over a series. Maybe because I have a musician husband I found the system of musical notation a handy tool.

orchestral score

Like an orchestral score, each character has five horizontal stave lines while vertical bar lines represent the books. Usually, I allow three bars per book, indicating the three-act structure. I plot the emotional journey of every character over the course of each book, which gives me an easy overview. That enables me to see where one character is left stagnating in misery and needs some light relief. Or where I’ve played treble notes throughout and forgotten my bass line.

It’s also a good way of keeping track of the harmonies. Who’s up when the other is down? Where do they collide on the same note?

Another benefit of those whole book-in-three-bars system is the degree of change from the start of each adventure and the overall rhythm of ups and downs. If DI Stubbs starts each story full of enthusiasm and ends embittered and sad, the pattern becomes monotonous. Vice versa, where the reader leaves one book and begins the next should not have a jarring discord in character outlook.

Character relationships play a huge part in subtext. By doing in-depth character work, such as Beatrice Stubbs Box Set One_KINDLE KOBOthe questionnaire above for all your key players, you can use the detail only you know about these people to drop little breadcrumbs across the stories. So that when a secret emerges, the loyal reader is rewarded with a join-the-dots moment.

Lastly, how do they grow? What has changed between Books One and Two? How would s/he do things differently after the experience of Book Three? Use your reader’s emotional intelligence and memory. Of course he’s afraid of the attic after that spider episode in Book Four. Naturally she’s gone off rare steak because of what happened at the end of Book Two.

As I said, I’m curious. If you are writing a series, be it crime, fantasy, sci-fi or any genre at all, how do you track character development?


Orchestral score image courtesy of Creative Commons


egypt mapFiction can transport a reader in many ways, but one of the most powerful is through time and place. How does a book lift you away from here-and-now and take you to there-and-then?

My memories of real experiences bump and blend with stories. Recollections of a childhood tangle with those of Michael Ondaatje (The Cat’s Table), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) and Dylan Thomas (A Child’s Christmas in Wales).

Books have taken me places I’ve never been. Moscow feels familiar thanks to Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park). Susan Barker (The Incarnations) showed a China I could never experience and Barbara Demick (Nothing to Envy) lifted the cover off North Korea. Tim Winton (Breath) illustrated the other side o f Australia, while Alan Duff (Once Were Warriors) shone a new light on New Zealand.

Books take you places you could never imagine, inviting a selective perspective via sensory immersion. You feel the dry wind off the desert, see the exotic blooms, hear the cicadas. You’re there.

How? Through the senses.

A Taste of Triskele Cover EBOOKTriskele Books built our reputation on a sense of time and place. Embarking on a journey is always a risk. So try a trip first.

Our sampler of eight short stories set in a distinct time and place. And to complete your sensory immersion, each story is accompanied by a local recipe. All for less than the price of an ice-cream.

A Taste of Triskele: adventures through time, place and taste.

A little of what you fancy does you good.

A Taste of Triskele
A tale, a place, a time, a taste.
Eight delectable short stories, each set in a distinctive location, accompanied by a local dish.
Fall in love with honey, bite into bitterness, sweeten the secrets, indulge your excesses, tickle your palette and free your imagination.
Whether you’re on a beach or in your own back garden, escape into extraordinary worlds.
Bon voyage. And bon appétit.

Available at Amazon

Available at Smashwords


Louise O’ Neill is from Clonakilty, in west Cork. After graduating with a BA in English Studies at Trinity College Dublin, she completed a post-grad in Fashion Buying at DIT. After a year in New York working for Kate Lanphear, Senior Style Director of ELLE magazine, she returned home to Ireland to write her first novel. Only Ever Yours won the first Bookseller YA Prize in 2015. From hanging out on set with A-list celebrities to spending most of her days in pyjamas while she writes, Louise has never been happier.
Photo by Paddy Feen

By JJ Marsh

I want to tackle some chunky subjects with Louise, but so as not to overload her and keep this entertaining, I’ll chuck in a random lightener* every now and then. Now let’s talk to herself.

Congratulations on winning the Bookseller’s YA Prize. Did you set out to write fiction for young adults?

Thank you! I was thrilled to win, especially in its inaugural year.

I first came to YA fiction as a reader in my twenties. The YA market as it exists today wasn’t anywhere near as extensive or as popular when I was a teenager, I went straight from Narnia to reading Margaret Atwood and Jeffrey Eugenides (with a brief detour to the magical land of Sweet Valley). In my final year of university, I took a module in children’s literature – as you can imagine, my parents were delighted at the thought they were funding my efforts to analyse the subtext in picture books – and that was my first real introduction to how powerful and subversive fiction for young adults could be.

That being said, I didn’t necessarily intend to write for young adults. The voice of the main character, Frieda, came to me as a sixteen year old girl’s, and I wrote the story the way I felt it should be written. It was only when I started approaching agents that it became clear that Only Ever Yours was going to be targeted at the Young Adult market. Of course, very often there is a crossover where adults pick up a YA novel, and I have definitely seen that with my novel – so much so that my publisher has decided to re-publish it and re-position it for the adult market. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

By all accounts, this was your third attempt at writing fiction after abandoning two others at the 10K words mark. Why did it work this time?

When I tried writing before there was always something to distract me. University, a boyfriend, trying to build my career. When I left my internship at ELLE in New York in 2011 to return to Ireland, I had made the decision that I was going to take a year out to attempt writing my first novel. A long term relationship had broken up, I was living back at home with my parents, and I had a rather desperate feeling that it was either going to be now or never. I knew I would never have the luxury of this much time and space, unencumbered by responsibilities. I could be, and I was, completely obsessive about this book, giving it 100% of my energy and focus. I’m aware that for other people that this isn’t possible because of children to feed and mortgages to pay. I know how incredibly lucky I was to have the emotional (and fiscal!) support of my parents.

An observer might see elements of your background as affecting your fiction: a Catholic education, an all-girls school, media pressure on teenagers of both genders, competition and cruelty, an eating disorder and working in the New York fashion industry all as formative factors – but in your opinion, is there a dominant authorial experience driving Only Ever Yours?

You’re correct in saying that a myriad of my personal life experiences have affected and shaped this novel. I think the most dominant of these would probably be my experience of the ‘Beauty Myth’, as coined by Naomi Wolf. (The basic premise of The Beauty Myth, as outlined by Wikipedia, is that as women have gained increased social power and prominence, expected adherence to standards of physical beauty has grown stronger for women.)
I was very focussed on my appearance for a long time. When I admit that, I often fear that people will think I’m vain or self-obsessed but I think it’s important to understand that women are often told that our very value as human beings is directly linked to how attractive we are to men. I wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to look like the models I saw in my magazines. I would look at the fashion editorials and want their bodies, their hair, their faces, and of course, their clothes. I felt like a bottomless pit of need – a need for validation and approval from other people, usually connected to whether or not they thought I was attractive. It’s an exhausting way to live.

It was as I got older and read more and began to understand exactly the sort of pressure that this ‘Beauty Myth’ exerts on women, I could more clearly see how our culture constantly reinforces the idea that women have some sort of responsibility to be beautiful. That became a central theme in Only Ever Yours.

*Summer barbecue and you’re in charge of the cocktails. What are we drinking?

Grey Goose vodka and soda water with freshly squeezed lime juice. I try to pretend this is relatively healthy – I am just doing my best to avoid scurvy, one cocktail at a time.

You’re vocal, and very funny, on the subject of feminism. One comment struck me – you call your friends on casual comments which compound gender inequality. Why pick up on all those ‘only a joke, love’ comments?

Photo by Miki Barlok

I know some of my friends roll their eyes at me at times, in a ‘here she goes again’ type of way. But it’s never just a joke. As a feminist living in a first world country, I often hear people tell me that I should be grateful for how much better it is for women here than in other countries, as if I should be sending out thank you cards every time I’m allowed to vote. (Don’t worry, I ask my dad which way I should vote beforehand. My little lady brain can’t handle the pressure otherwise.)

Leaving some of the bigger issues aside, such as the fact that women still don’t earn as much as men for doing the exact same job, casual sexism, mildly sexist jokes, comments such as ‘Don’t be such a girl’, all of these add up to an environment in which being female is seen as inferior, as less than. That is never acceptable. The more you point out sexism, the more others notice it too – and we need as many people as possible to be aware of how inherently patriarchal our world is if we ever want to enact real change.

*If you had the choice of any fictional character, who would you be?

This is so difficult! Jo March from Little Women has always been a role model for any bookish child, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter is a badass, and Susan Pevensie from the Narnia series as I still think it’s incredibly unfair that C.S Lewis dismissed her once she became interested in makeup and fashion.

I found it significant that the ‘designer’ girls in the book have no parents whereas I get the impression your family is extremely important to you. Was that a deliberate decision to leave those girls adrift?

That’s an interesting observation. Yes, my family is extremely important to me as anyone who follows me on Twitter will recognise. They have been an unwavering source of support and understanding, which has anchored me in ways that I will be eternally grateful for. Home, both mine and my grandparents’ house, was a safe haven, in a way that school never was. This is why I set the entire narrative of the book within the confines of the school, I wanted to create a sense of claustrophobia, of being trapped, a sense that the girls couldn’t escape. They didn’t have a family that they could ‘retreat’ to. One of the biggest blessings in family life is a sense that you are loved unconditionally – and those girls have never experienced that.

When I reviewed your book, I compared it to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Many differences between the two, but there’s a sense in both that cruelty and competition between young girls will last long into the future. How can we, all of us, change that?

Firstly, thank you so much for comparing my novel to Ishiguro. I can die happy now.

That sense of competition has lessened as I’ve gotten older. Many of my female friendships now are supportive and loving and I cherish that sense of sisterhood. This is the example that we need to set for younger women. If you have a daughter, don’t bitch about other women behind their backs, don’t tear down other women based on their looks, don’t be cruel. Obviously, I’m not going to like every woman that I meet and I may have valid reasons for criticising their behaviour at times, but there are ways to do that which are not toxic. We also need more positive representations of female friendship on TV, in movies, in literature.

You’ve another book on the way. Can we get a tiny teaser as to what it’s about?

My second novel is called Asking For It and it’s going to be published by Quercus on September the 3rd.
It’s about a girl named Emma, beautiful, manipulative, demanding. She wakes up the morning after a party on her front porch with no memory of how she got there. It’s only when she sees photos on social media that she realises that she’s been assaulted.
The book deals with issues of rape culture, victim blaming, and consent, and has been inciting very strong reactions from all those who have read it so far.
I’m hoping it will start a conversation about the idea of the ‘perfect victim’ and how we as a society actually support rape culture, unknowingly or otherwise.

*A woman’s best friend is:

  • A small dog with a huge personality
  • A great gang of mates
  • A laptop and an idea

I’m lucky enough to have all of the above and I love all of them. However, I think a woman’s best friend should be herself. That sounds trite but women need to learn to treat themselves with as much compassion and understanding as they would their closest friends. You’re stuck with yourself for a lifetime, may as well start liking yourself as soon as you can.

Since this interview was printed, Asking For It has been published to passionate reviews.

Interview first published in Words with JAM

Photo by Salman Raza

Photo by Salman Raza

I like Kamila Shamsie. I enjoy her writing and admire her as a person. This week in The Guardian, she condensed her National Conversation with Writers’ Centre Norwich into a ‘provocation’. Her challenge was this: in 2018, the publishing industry commits to a year of publishing only work written by women, literary critics review only female-penned work and booksellers, bloggers and festivals refuse to include books by men.

She quotes a list of statistics which amply demonstrate “the gender imbalance that exists in publishing houses, in terms of reviews, top positions in publishing houses, literary prizes etc”. Her position was designed to create discussion and it succeeded. Comments erupted and arguments flared. I listened to both sides and to my own gut feeling.

I’m a feminist. Of course I am. I’m a woman. Sexism, just like any other form of discrimination, is unacceptable. Battles have been won but the struggle for equal rights is far from over. Especially as we’re still fighting our enemies (FGM/unequal pay/rape as weapon) and, on occasion, our friends (lazy terminology such as MILF).

As a female writer in a gender-skewed business, I agree we need creative ideas to right the balance. For example, the Women’s Prize for Fiction (was Orange, now Baileys) is controversial in its exclusion of men but something I welcome as a positive affirmation of the exciting achievements of women writers. The A Year of Reading Women concept was an extraordinary door-opener to the wealth of novels, short stories, poetry and non-fiction overlooked by mainstream media. Mslexia, a magazine aimed specifically at women writers is another example of adding, rather than taking away.

Hence I applaud Shamsie for making us think harder about how best to take affirmative action. But I cannot agree with a year of publishing only women.

I believe the way forward is not by excluding, discriminating or preventing any group of people from publishing their work. When faced with a wall, you have more options than knocking it down. Scale it alone, make your own door, tunnel under or do what women do best. Lift each other up.

In the UK/Europe, we have prizes, magazines, websites and a readers’ initiative to promote women’s writing. Why not an international literary festival to do the same? Inclusive: embracing women writers of all backgrounds and genres, inviting supportive male writers, showcasing the prize-winners, the risk-takers, the experimenters, the cutting-edgers of right now and the female icebreakers who first took up their pens to chip away at the glass ceiling.

So taking offensive terms and turning them upside down, I’d like to suggest the very first WiLF – Women in Literature Festival – in London next year. In 2017, the project could spread across Europe with mini-WiLFs on International Women’s Day. And in 2018, we can have a celebration of how much women and men have promoted the range and diversity of writing by, about and for women.

Kamila Shamsie – how do you fancy being keynote speaker?


Joanna Penn nailed it at our CrimeFest panel and summarises it all again here.

Team Indie at CrimeFest15

Team Indie at CrimeFest15

A perfect, energetic, brilliant summary of why we do it our own way.

Yes, that grinner in the middle is me.


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