Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Radio 2

Today I was on Radio 2 (the Jeremy Vine show) talking about happiness. Which is rather ironic when my career as a social worker / probation officer / crime writer is not exactly the most cheerful occupation!
But, okay, happiness is important. Happy means healthy, productive - better for the individual and the community, so I was glad to throw in my views.

And, yes, after a day at the computer, talking only with the characters in my head, I'm happy to talk about anything! Do other writers feel like that??

Keep happy!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Crime Time Review!

Crime Time Home Latest News Reviews Features Interviews Profiles CrimeSpace Crime Time Magazine

The Woman Before Me Ruth Dugdall
Giles Morgan
Rose Wilks has spent nearly five years in prison accused of the murder of a child. It is now up to her probation officer Cate Austin to help determine whether she should be released or is still potentially a danger to others.
This apparently straightforward decision is the starting point for a complex and often tortured enquiry that reveals a succession of damaged and painful lives whose paths end in tragedy. It is revealed that Rose comes from a broken home in Lowestoft with a mother who suffered from severe depression who ultimately took her own life. Rejected by her father and his lover she is handed on to her Auntie Rita who though supportive dies when she is still only sixteen. Having lost so much at such a young age she becomes insular and withdrawn and develops obsessive relationships over which she is desperate to gain some sense of control. When she embarks on her first serious relationship she becomes involved with a young man who has recently split from his wife but is still intensely in love with her. It is this potentially dangerous situation that leads to the horrific death of a child in a house fire which Rose is accused of starting.

The Woman Before Me is a harrowing portrait of personal trauma and dysfunctional family life and provides an authentic and believable portrait of life within the prison system. It is a novel that reveals its secrets slowly as probation officer Cate Austin builds up a picture of the chain of events that have defined Rose Wilks' personality and ends with a final shocking conclusion. Author Ruth Dugdall does an impressive job of creating complex characters who are capable of terrible actions but who also remain human and sympathetic. Indeed, many of the prison staff emerge as more morally corrupt than the inmates themselves in this intelligent and realistic depiction of life within the penal system. The Woman Before Me has generated praise as a debut novel winning the CWA Debut Dagger Award. The author was also the winner of the 2009 Luke Bitmead Writers Bursary. Impressive in its unflinching realism, this is a dark and haunting psychological thriller that possesses both depth and sensitivity.

The Woman Before Me

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press, £7.99, 9781907461156

Giles Morgan

Posted at 12:54PM Friday 05 Nov 2010

Monday, 1 November 2010

Feeling it...

I went to see a jazz singer at the weekend. She's internationally known and has won many accolades, so it promised to be a good night. I settled down to listen, and she could certainly sing. The musicians were equally lauded, and I could hear the talent, the skill, the training...
But I felt nothing.

At the interval I got chatting with another woman in the audience, who said it left her a bit cold too. I spent the second half watching, listening, and wondering how it is that someone can have such ability yet still miss something.

It reminded me that at the moment I'm reading a book by an award winning author. Her language is beautiful, her images astound, yet I close the book and forget about it until I next go to pick it up. It hasn't moved me. Like the jazz, I can appreciate the skill, but my heart is untouched.

That is why computers can't do art. Technical ability is all well and good but for an artist to really reach an audience they have to invest a little of their soul.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

As posted on Authonomy today

Writing a novel was the easy bit. It was finding a publisher that nearly sent me off the rails….

Winning the Debut Dagger in 2005 was a watershed moment for me. Until then I had thought of writing as a hobby – I’d self-published my first novel (The James Version) but was still working as a Probation Officer. The Dagger gave me the confidence to resign and dedicate myself to writing full-time.

The day after the Dagger awards I signed with a top agent and the novel was going to be submitted to six major publishing houses. I thought I had made it…

But that would have been just too easy. The Woman Before Me didn’t get picked up by the major publishers. They worried that it was ‘not commercial enough’, and that it didn’t fit neatly enough into the ‘crime novel’ box. It went into the bottom drawer and I started to write my third novel, The Sacrificial Man (still posted on the site).

I joined authonomy when it first began, and receiving feedback from fellow authonomites gave me the confidence to keep going. Having my novels posted on the site has helped me develop as a writer and I made several friendships that extended beyond the forums.

A few of the writers on the site were already with Legend press and last summer one of them posted a thread about the upcoming Luke Bitmead Bursary. It seemed perfect for The Woman Before Me. The bursary aims to promote and publish a new writer each year, and was set up in memory of Luke Bitmead, a talented writer who sadly committed suicide.

I won the award last October. I cried through much of the ceremony, knowing that I would finally see my novel in print. (The second place winner and two runners-up are also authonomites.) A few days later I signed a publishing deal with Solidus Press for The Sacrificial Man.

So, after waiting nearly five years, I finally achieved my goal.

To be a writer you have to be tenacious and dogged – having a strong support network helps. If I had one piece of advice it would be this: don’t give up. You never know just how close you are to succeeding.

The Woman Before Me is now in print. It is a psychological thriller set in coastal Suffolk. It is about Rose Wilks, whose life is shattered when her newborn baby Luke is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her in hospital is Emma, who has just given birth to Joel and the two women become friends. Joel dies and Luke is thriving – then tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.
The novel starts with Rose having spent five years behind bars. She is just weeks away from release if she can convince probation officer Cate Austin to recommend parole.
As Cate is drawn into Rose’s story she begins to question everything she thought she knew about justice, love and obsession.

Good luck to all of you in getting that elusive publishing deal!

Best wishes,


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Where does the time go?

I can't believe how quickly time has flown. Since The Woman Before Me came out in August I seem to have been in this whirlwind of activity - and I totally love it! It must be all those hours/days/years cooped up writing that have suddenly made me a bit loopy for interaction.
And I have been sooo lucky. The book signings have been a joy - some really memorable people, sharing their stories. Like the young mum who bought my book and read it in just one night, having never finished a novel before. And the woman who had come out of prison just the day before. So many generous people...
The readings are also a real eye-opener. Like the event in a rural cow shed (re-furbished, I hasten to add) on a foggy Monday night, when everyone bought 2 books each. I drove home (carefully - fog lights on) with a big smile on my face.
Yes, so far I love the publicity side of writing.
So, I've updated my events list. Hope to see you in a cow shed sometime!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Reaching Denmark...

'very fine debut' - The Woman Before Me

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall has officially reached Denmark and received a great review from DJs krimiblog. Below is a taster:

This British thriller is a debut. We enter this story when Rose Wilks´ newborn baby dies, and Emma Hatchet´s boy lives. After the tragedy, Rose keeps in close contact with Emma who is the ex-wife of Rose´s lover, Jason. She babysits little Luke as often as his parents will let her, and she even begins breast-feeding him and sneaking into the house behind Emma´s back. So when Luke dies in a fire which started during one of the nights that Rose used her copy of the kitchen door key, she ends up in court, accused of murder...

Important themes of the story are love, obsession and jealousy, and even though the novel is written in the present tense, I was absorbed by it immediately.

To read the review in full click here


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review of The Woman Before Me

The Woman Before Me has been reviewed by author Jim Murdoch on his blog The Truth About Lies.
There are many people in prison who maintain their innocence: for some that’s just what they’ve been told to say no matter what evidence is put in front of them; others truly believe in their innocence – they may acknowledge that they have committed some offence according to the laws of the land but they believe they are answerable to a higher power, if not God then at least their own conscience and there are those who because of some miscarriage of justice find themselves incarcerated for a crime they did not commit.
To read the rest of the review click here

This is probably the most detailed review yet of the novel, and I found it very thought provoking I don't know Jim, and I'm grateful to him for such a thorough review.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Bookbag Review

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
From TheBookbag
Genre: General Fiction
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Summary: This is a tense, taut, almost claustrophobic domestic tragedy. Two couples' lives caught up in childhood illness and death - who will be punished and who will go Scot-free?
Buy? Yes
Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288
Date: August 2010
Publisher: Legend Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1907461156 l

We're introduced to one of the female central characters, Rose. There's been a serious house fire and a baby has been involved. Rose is implicated. But is she innocent or guilty? Unfortunately for Rose, she's been in the wrong place at the wrong time - and she's put behind bars. Five years is a long time for a young woman with the rest of her life to lead. Even more so, if you're telling anyone and everyone that you are, in fact, innocent of the crime. But is anyone listening?
Well, yes. Enter a young, fresh-faced probation officer called Cate. It's her job to listen, after all. Cate has to make a big decision - and soon. And this decision will have implications not only for her client, Rose but all those involved in the past tragedy. And all those wasted years in prison have altered Rose. She's tougher, knows the system and also how to play it - to her advantage.
This book is full of bubbling emotions and all the more so as the reader is taken behind bars to hear Rose's side of the story. And her story makes for uncomfortable reading at times. Dugdall takes us right back to the young Rose. We discover her childhood was not great. She was aware of grown-up issues which shaped her adolescence and beyond. Dugdall spends a long time on Rose and I got a real sense of the troubled character. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence in spades. Not helped by the fact that Rose is no beauty. And even although we all know that beauty is only skin deep it doesn't help Rose one bit. The whole boyfriend/social scene seemed to passed her by.
And to add a good dollop of angst, the other female character in the story, Emma, appears to have the perfect life: pretty, adored by her husband (successful, of course) and she is universally liked. All the things Rose craves. And so the tension builds and builds with the alternate story of these two very different young women. There is a link which binds them together. But what is this link? The reader is also given the probation officer's background. She grapples to remain professional at all times but it's not easy.
Dugdall has written a very good storyline which is full of emotion and suspense. She drip feeds the reader with important information which is always a page-turner. A deft touch is Rose's constant black book entry which gives us the inner thoughts and workings of Rose's mind. It also tells us whether she is innocent or guilty of the crime. Dudgall keeps the best till last, keeps us dangling. Just when I thought I'd got it sussed, I'm proved wrong. This is a clever and suspenseful story told in an engaging style. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy No Escape by N J Cooper.
You can read more book reviews and buy The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall at Amazon and Waterstones

Petrona Review

Petrona review just up. Many thanks to them for taking the time to review TWBM:

09 September 2010
Book Review: The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
The Woman Before Me Ruth DugdallLegend Press, August 2010, £7.99 paperback.
This novel is an extremely addictive debut, which deservedly won the CWA debut dagger this year. The publisher very kindly contacted me to offer a copy, and though books about babies in danger are definitely not my cup of tea, I accepted the generous offer -- and I am glad I did.
The novel is a real page-turner, being mainly the story of Rose, a woman who is on trial for setting a house on fire with a baby and his mother inside it. The novel explores Rose’s past via her diary, exposing a history of neglect by her parents and parent-figures for a variety of reasons. As a young adult, Rose ends up working in various menial jobs in a seaside hotel, where she meets Jason, the barman, and falls for him. She and Jason begin to live together, fulfilling Rose’s fantasy of a happy relationship. The reality, though, is that Jason is still in love with his young ex-wife Emma, and isn’t that interested in Rose. The author builds up the suspense within this eternal triangle, and cleverly portrays emotions and events spiralling out of control.
The contemporary part of the novel centres around Cate, a newly qualified prison probation officer. She has to decide whether or not Rose deserves parole when her case comes up in the next few weeks. Cate has a tough time of it, partly as a newly-single parent whose young daughter Amelia is in child care while her mother works, and partly because of the prison culture, which consists of (mainly) deeply sexist, lazy and overweight men (there is one butch female guard), together with devious prisoners who are pretty good at playing the system and hoodwinking their keepers.
There is plenty of suspense and melodrama in this novel; even though the main plot twist is very easy to anticipate, it is delivered with high impact. I won’t say more in my review as I do not want to provide any spoilers, but the subsidiary twist is not convincing to me, given what we know of the principal characters.
As a debut novel, this is a remarkably assured and well-written book. It only takes an hour or two to read, and is well-worth the effort. The book is not without its flaws, unfortunately, and at several points during Rose’s back-story I was hardly able to suspend my belief even while my emotions were engaged in her sad yet creepy tale. The other story, about Cate, peters out towards the end which is quite disappointing, as the prison scenes, from the perspectives of the inmates and the administration, are perhaps the strongest part of the book (the author worked in the probation service), and Cate is an intriguing character. The novel is clearly by a very talented author, and despite the occasional lapses from believability, it is certainly a novel well worth reading as an exploration of the nastier aspects of human nature and the bleaker end of the genre.
Legend Press is an independent book publisher, and it’s great for them as well as the author that the novel has won the CWA debut dagger. I hope that it does very well.
News and reviews about this novel at Legend Press's website.
Interview with the author at Books You Love.
Read another review of this novel at The Bookbag.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Book Signings: Please come along!

Hi All,

Now that The Woman Before Me is finally published I have a few book signings coming up.
If anyone is able to pop along that would be great:

Saturday 4th September / Magpie Books, Hamilton Rd, Felixstowe, Suffolk (10.30-12.30)

Saturday 18th September / Waterstones, Lowestoft, Suffolk (11.00-1.00)

Saturday 25th Septemeber / Waterstones, Smithfield Way, Coventry (10.30-12.30)

Many thanks!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Book Launch

Here I am with my mum, dad and daughter Amber.
This all came about as a result of my winning the Luke Bitmead Bursary last year. I would urge any unpublished author to enter this wonderful competition, which closes on 31st August. So get those entries polished & e-mail them over to Legend Press. The winner will get a publishing contract with Legend Press and £2,500.
What have you got to lose?

Book Launch

Many thanks to all those who came to support me at the book launch on Thursday.
It was a wonderful, relaxed, happy event.

I have been waiting 5 years to see The Woman Before Me in print, and felt emotional giving my reading and holding the novel in my hands. Of course, now the novel is not just `mine`; it is out there in the world to sink without a trace or make its own way. Whatever happens, it had a good start on Thursday!

I am very fortunate to have such great support from friends and family - I would have given up long ago without that. x

Monday, 23 August 2010

TWBM just got its first review on Amazon!

Average Customer Review
4.0 out of 5 stars (1 customer review)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disturbing tale of motherhood and murder, 23 Aug 2010
By M. D. Ripley "Mike Ripley" (England) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Ruth Dugdall is a young British crime-writer who uses her career in the Probation Service to stunning effect in "The Woman Before Me".
This is a bleak, dark psychological thriller, at times quite hypnotic. It is a tragic story of two young mothers linked by the horror of the death of a child, and a third mother, a Probation Officer, who has to show the judgement of a Solomon. The prison system does not come out of this with any honour - prison warders of both sexes are brutish and cruel - nor do men in a more general sense, but this is a thriller about women and women who want only to be good mothers, as they see it. With most psychological thrillers, you just know something terrible is going to happen. With this one, the reader discovers the most terrible crime already has happened. A far-from-relaxing read, this is as bleak as its coastal Suffolk setting, but gripping and powerful. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
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Friday, 30 July 2010

The Woman Before Me

From Legend Pres website:

The novel is published on 28th August.

Ruth was the winner of the 2009 Luke Bitmead Writer's Bursary. Below is the blurb:

They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.

Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Emma Hatcher has all that Rose lacks. Beauty. A loving husband. A healthy son. Until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.

Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so… by what means?

‘Dark, disturbing and authentic’ CWA judging panel.


Monday, 12 July 2010

Luke Bitmead Bursary


Submissions are now open for the 2010 Luke Bitmead Writer’s Bursary. The award
was set up shortly after Luke’s death in 2006 by his family to support and
encourage the work of fledgling novel writers, with the top prize being a publishing
contract with Legend Press, as well as a cheque for £2500.
We are pleased to be continuing this brilliant bursary for a third year, and hope to
follow in the success of 2008 winner Andrew Blackman, who published his debut
novel On the Holloway Road in February 2009, and last years winner Ruth Dugdall
who publishes her hotly anticipated novel The Woman Before Me in July 2010. The
deadline for submissions is 31st August 2010, with the winner announced in
the week of 27th October 2010. For further details visit:

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Legend Press, 21st August)
Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to
intensive care. Alongside her is Emma Hatcher, who’s just given birth to Luke.
Joel dies and Luke is thriving, until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.
Told through a series of letters from Rose’s prison cell, her probation officer
Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she
remains a threat to society. Can justice can be served, and if so… by what

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The James Version

My first novel, The James Version, has just been re-published. Very excited to see the listing on Amazon today! Here`s the blurb:

‘The airless cottage stifles me, and I cannot breathe. The glass reveals another world, but it entombs me. I am captive, but I have seen the outside. It is November 1826 and I am thirty-one years old... There is a storm brewing’
New Year 1851
Rector James Coyte arrives at his bleak Suffolk destination. Full of apprehension, he expects his first post to be provincial and unchallenging. But Polstead is a village with a secret.
A young woman murdered in a frenzied attack, then buried in a shallow grave in The Red Barn. She was just twenty-seven, and only six weeks before birthed an illegitimate baby.
Based on true events which shocked nineteenth century Britain, The James Version is set in 1851 when Ann Marten, nearing the end of her life, reveals the story to the novice Rector. Through their meetings, the truth of the murder is gradually uncovered to its shocking climax.
Ruth Dugdall was inspired to write by her experiences working as a probation officer. The James Version, her first novel, was an award- winner at the Winchester Writers` Conference. Her second novel, The Woman Before Me (published by Legend Press), won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and her third, The Sacrificial Man will be published by Solidus in late 2010.
Published by Back to Front

Monday, 22 February 2010

Back to school...

I had a week off from writing last week, which is something I don`t often like to do, but it was so nice...
Being half-term the kids were off, and hubbie also took leave, so we had some family time seeing animals (even feeding some new-born lambs!) watched films (Invictus & Princess and the Frog)ate pizza and generally chilled out.

So, the kids are back at school, hubbie`s back at work and I`m back at my pc.
Coming to my writing fresh was a good idea, and I`ve worked better today than I have for a while. Let`s just hope it shows in the end-product!

Friday, 22 January 2010

London calling...

I`m just back from a few days in the big smoke - in fact, I had 4 meets in my diary and was late for every one. How do you Londoners cope with the trains? I was practically rocking, it was so frustrating. A fire in Battersea delayed the train by 40 minutes, and I was nose to armpit with several men, standing in a swaety carriage.
Also, no-one speaks, do they? Except for into their mobiles, though most people were texting.
When a pigeon entered the train I said, "Oh! Look!" and rather than looking at the bird everyone looked at me like I was nuts.

Anyway, I did meet up with the wonderful people at Legend Press, who are publishing The Woman Before Me in June. Oooh, I`m sooo excited! We talked marketing and covers and launches and I came away a very happy bunny (until boarding another train and realising that a happy face is interpreted as madness on the tube!)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow Day

You novelists with children will know what I mean, when I say Christmas just gets in the way of writing. I mean, I did my best, but frankly I was looking forward to school starting up so I could get back into routine. I`m a bit like a sodding racehorse with my training schedule, and get jittery if I`m off it...temperamental.

So, Tuesday I dropped the kids at the school gates and raced back to my comfy chair and laptop, switched on and loaded up. I`ve finished editing The Sacrificial Man & The Woman before Me, but I still have Family Snap to work on. I`m meeting Laura Wilson, my mentor, in a few weeks and want my first 3 chapters to sparkle. It felt so good to plan out my timetable of what chapters I`d look at each day and start honing words, but then...

Snow. Beautiful, isn`t it? Makes everything so clean, like a blank canvas.
And the children just loved being sent home early. I turned up at the gates with the sledge, and pulled it home, both kids on it, pelting me with snow balls and shouting `mush`. Hard work, but I consoled myself I was burning calories. "Faster, mummy! You`re too slow!" Perhaps that was when my joy started to falter.

Friday. Snow still around. We did a long walk, which was abruptly ceased when my son announced that he had no socks on! Imagine wearing wellies with bare feet. I marched them home, chastising him all the way with tales of Scott and frostbite. Miraculously, his feet felt toasty when I pulled the boots off.
We`ve had the video on, but now I`ve sent them upstairs (how can they have nothing to play with when Christmas was just 2 weeks ago?) and loaded Family Snap up again. But I feel guilty. Surely a good mum would be out there, sledging. Or at least rallying the kids into a game of Monopoly.
Modern dilemma. Good writers make bad mums, discuss.
Who else saw the Enid Blyton biopic and winced?