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Welcome to the world of Cockney rhyming slang, where what is said means something completely different than how it sounds. Originally, it was a coded language created by criminals for deceiving undercover police officers during Victorian times. Common phrases like septic tank, holy water, brown bread, tomfoolery, and mince pies don’t mean what you think they mean. Others, like Barnaby Rudge, gypsy’s kiss, smash and grab, butcher’s hook, kick and prance, and bubble and squeak paint a picture.

There are stories to be written about these phrases and in TROUBLE & STRIFE, the coded and colorful phrases of Cockney rhyming slang became the inspiration for 11 killer crimes stories from writers on both sides of the pond. A few choice words include:

Babbling Brook is a talkative inmate at the state penitentiary.

A hairdresser has to pay his dues for a crime that took place at Barnet Fair.

And you never want to meet a Lady from Bristol.

You don’t have to understand rhyming slang to enjoy this book. You just have to enjoy a damn good story. To see what the authors have come up with you’ll have to turn the page and have a butcher’s.

USA Today bestselling author Simon Wood spent some time chatting with The Big Thrill about his compilation of crime stories, TROUBLE & STRIFE, where each story is inspired by Cockney rhyming slang:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I know Cockney rhyming slang will be alien to most readers in the US, so I hope readers discover how inventive this coded language is and how small, evocative phrases can inspire a writer to come up with a story.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

This was my first time as an editor of an anthology so it was strange being on the other side of the writing equation. It was certainly hard not to tinker with other people’s work instead of asking the authors for changes. The biggest discovery was that corralling authors is like herding cats.

What was the most important criteria in your selection process?

For me, it was finding authors who would embrace the concept of rhyming slang and could see the story possibilities from these colorful phrases. I loved how so many of the authors managed to pounce on a piece of rhyming slang, conjure up a story that involved the rhyming slang phrase and the meaning of the phrase, and then wrap a crime story around it.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I think it comes down to you write what you love to read. As a teenager, I fell in love with hardboiled crime fiction and thrillers. It’s only natural that’s where my writing takes me.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Traditionally for me, the dilemma comes first. An issue, a topic, or a crisis will jump out of me. The theme may be guilt or a mistake and that will force the protagonist to come to a crossroads. For this anthology, I used Cockney rhyming slang as the source of the crisis for all these stories.


USA Today bestselling author Simon Wood is a California transplant from England. He’s a former competitive racecar driver, a licensed pilot, an endurance cyclist, an animal rescuer, and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and six cats. He’s the Anthony Award-winning author of Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated, Deceptive Practices, and the Aidy Westlake series. His latest book is Saving Grace, and his book The One That Got Away is currently optioned for a movie adaptation. He also writes horror under the pen name of Simon Janus.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.


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