The Thursday Throng author interview with Annie McDowall, award winning author of Charity Begins With Murder

‘Throng’ is n. – A multitude of persons or of living beings pressing or pressed into a close body or assemblage; a crowd.

Welcome to this weeks Thursday Throng author interview with lovely Annie McDowell, in fact it was Anne that (although she doesn’t realise this) spurred me into finally getting cracking on my blog whilst enjoying a wonderful lunch with her and the amazing Tamara Essex discussing all things book and social media. After I’d read her book ‘Charity Begins with Murder’ it got me thinking that perhaps there was something I could do to help other authors along too and so … the idea of the ‘Thursday Throng’ was born.

I worked within the Charity sector for several years in the early part of this century and I also worked before that in higher education as a project manager on some fairly high-profile business development projects too. As a result, this book was a perfect read for me because I recognised all the characters it contained and I could well understand the motivation for murder which occurred. Annie has the politics of the charity and public sectors’ down to a perfect ‘t’ and she crossed all the ‘i’s too. If you have never worked in this sector then you must read the book it is a fantastic insight which will have you astonished at the things that can go on and laughing at the unreality of it all – which I can assure you is very real indeed.

Annie also as a second book out now called Poisoned Pens which is about a writers retreat and I am really looking forward to reading it as I’m sure she will apply the same depth of characterisation and skill with setting as she has to Charity Begins with Murder.

charity begins with murder book cover“South London, 2005, and Nikki Elliot has been spending the best part of a year living on the dole and developing a taste for daytime television. Finding her last boss’s dead body had put her off having a job. But the government is cracking down on the unemployed, and Nikki’s personal adviser at the Jobcentre has given her an ultimatum: go for the job at Action in Caring, a small charity, or lose your benefits. Things start to go badly wrong from Nikki’s first day when her new boss dies at the management committee meeting. Was it an accident, or had someone spiked the sandwiches? And just how true were the rumours that the finance manager had an unhealthy liking for young boys? Or were the only things being fiddled by Gordon Smedley Action in Caring’s accounts? When more people die, Nikki realises that something big is happening. And when she’s beaten over the head outside the Bedford pub in Balham, she starts to feel scared. Working with Suresh Shah, former flatmate and now South London Press journalist, and with the help of a cast of characters including Felicity Balmforth, witchy yoga teacher; Dora Popp, who sees more than people think; and Maria de Souza, visionary leader of Young Futures , Nikki unravels the mystery and unmasks the person responsible for death, corruption, and dodgy dealings in south London.”

And now let’s get on with the interview.

Annie McDowellHi Annie and I’m going to open this week with my favourite question which all authors get to answer;  ‘What is One thing that No-One Normally Knows About You?’

People who know me as a coach or charity chief executive are often surprised to find that I’m a published author.  But I guess the thing that very few people know is that as a student, I sang in bars and worked as a nude life model. (Linda’s aside …. wow!)

What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?

“I don’t know what to call a page-turner on a Kindle, but suffice it to say I kept clicking to the end and would have carried straight on to the sequel – looking forward to it…. the story’s tone is modern, fresh and funny. Don’t let the light touch fool you though; there’s more going between the words than there seems to be in the ease of the read. The political commentary is wry and the art classes, well – sign me up!”

Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?

Imagination and inspiration are essential for fiction, but writing to be read involves honing your craft.  Work with good authors, invest in creative writing courses, find some good critical friends, learn to murder your little darlings, avoid overwriting, and if your grasp of grammar isn’t strong, work on it.

How do you stay sane while working?

Plenty of red wine and chocolate, and a soundtrack to accompany my writing. I listened repeatedly to John Martyn’s “No Little Boy” and Sarah Jane Morris’s “After All These Years” while writing “Charity Begins with Murder”.

What has been the best experience you have ever had in your life?

I’ve been so lucky, it’s hard to choose! Apart from having a wonderful civil partnership day with my partner, Chris, going to Bridport to collect my runner-up prize in 2006 has to be a golden moment. I felt so happy and proud. (Linda’s aside – that’s brilliant, that’s one of the most prestigious writing prizes in the UK, well done).

Are you jealous of other writers?

Not jealous, but hugely admiring. Jackie Kay’s sheer humanity, and the warmth and humour that run through her work; the power, passion, and poetry of Rohinton Mistry’s work…well, maybe a bit green!

What was the most important thing you learned at school?

Grammar, and the difference between less and fewer.

What is the book that you wished you had written?

I’m still a new writer, so the bulk of my work lies ahead. I want to write the story of my maternal grandmother, who died in the 1920s, having eloped with my grandfather, an orchestral leader. It will be largely fiction, but I’m looking forward to writing more in the historical/literary genre, and transporting myself back to a different era.

In terms of other people’s books, it’s a tie between AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, and Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy”.

Where to buy the book and find out more about Annie

You can find out more about Annie on her website at:

You can also buy Charity Begin’s with Murder in either Kindle or Paperback format on Amazon in the UK and on Amazon in the US too. If you prefer to use Lulu to buy your books then you can get them here instead:

PS; Annie is a regular commenter on this blog so you may well see her erudite observations from time to time as she has her own WordPress blog too at: She also inhabits the Twittersphere at and for those of you who are LinkedIn you can find here there too:

PPS: Finally, you can find my reviews of her book, Charity Begins With Murder on  Amazon and Goodreads too 🙂

Why ‘The Thursday Throng’?

These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not email me to find out more.

If you would like to see all the Authors who have been featured on The Thursday Throng you can click here:

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  1. Thank you so much for this, Linda. I hope that anyone reading either of the books (they’re quite different in style and theme) enjoys them: it makes me very happy when I hear that someone’s laughed out loud, or been unable to put the book down.

    Michael: Less coffee, less sunshine, less gravy; fewer chocolates; fewer flowers; fewer potatoes. Less fruit, fewer oranges.