Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kiwi-raised Stella Duffy appears at London’s Writers’ House

British crime writer and renowned crime commentator Mike Ripley (well known for his great “Getting Away with Murder column” in Shots Ezine) sent me a message overnight (NZT) about meeting Kiwi-raised crime writer Stella Duffy at an event at the Writer’s House in London this week (you can see the photo of Stella and Mike to the left). The event was a talk by Duffy to members of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. Mikes says Duffy’s talk included “her very amusing rant of what gets classified as genre fiction in the UK compared to New Zealand and Australia”.

Stella Duffy was born in London, but grew up in New Zealand - particularly in the forestry-centric tiny rural town of Tokoroa in the central North Island. Her mother was from London, but her father a New Zealander. From a crime-writing perspective, Duffy is most famous for her private investigator Saz Martin series. However Duffy is also a writer of other ‘styles’ of books, an actress, comedian and improviser, and has also written for radio. She is the author of eleven novels (five in the Saz Martin series), over thirty stories, and eight plays. Her novel STATE OF HAPPINESS was longlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize. She has also worked on screenplays and teleplays, and co-edited the crime collection TART NOIR with Lauren Henderson (Duffy’s story in that collection, “Martha Grace”, won the 2002 CWA Short Story Award).

Growing up in New Zealand, Duffy was exposed to both British and American culture, via television and movies. Authors that reportedly were a great influence on Duffy as she grew into a writer were New Zealand icon Janet Frame (who Duffy has said gave her “permission to play with words”) and Canadian doyen Margaret Atwood. Duffy has also credited Jeanette Winterson’s SEXING THE CHERRY, with its elements of fairy tale and feminist fable.

I will write a longer ‘author intro post’ on Duffy, addressing her Saz Martin crime novels, and her other books etc, in future. In the meantime you can read a little more about Stella Duffy’s books here.

Along with his great crime writing commentary for Shots ezine and other publications, Mike Ripley also writes award-winning crime novels himself. He is the author of the comic crime series starring Fitzroy Angel McLean. Debuting with JUST ANOTHER ANGEL, released in 1988, Ripley has now written 15 books in the series (and counting), with the latest being ANGELS UNAWARE (2008). You can read a lot more about Mike Ripley on a very good fan site, here.

Have you read Stella Duffy’s Saz Martin series? Her other books? What about Mike Ripley’s Angel series? What do you think of them? What about Ripley’s great column in Shots magazine? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. I'm afraid the only thing I know about Stella Duffy is that she's an occasional reviewer on the BBC's Books podcast and she recently said some quite nasty things about the Stieg Larsson book that she had read - all of which just made her sound bitter that her books weren't as successful as his have been. I've no clue whether her writing is better than Larsson's or not but I'm not terribly inclined to find out based on that one exposure to her.

  2. hi Bernadette,
    I don't think I was particularly 'nasty' about the Larsson book, in fact you'll recall I praised highly his non-voyeuristic treatment of sexual violence, as well as the last 200 pages of the third book where it really takes off. What I did say was the attitude of many reviewers surprised me when they praised the Lisbeth character as 'original' when plenty of (women and men) crime writers were writing very similar sexually ambiguous, aggressive, politically-minded, techno-savvy (and tattooed!) heroines at least 15 years ago - as well as myself in the UK, I cited Lauren Henderson, Denise Danks (esp for the techno-savvy) among others, and there were plenty more doing the same in US crime writing. My surprise was far more about the Lisbeth character being treated as ground-breaking by readers and reviewers - which has nothing to do with Larsson's writing and rather more to do with people seemingly forgetting what they found so new and exciting some time ago! I did also say I thought the book desperately needed better editing, especially in the first 400 pages, but then so did everyone else on the panel. I'm sorry you felt I sounded bitter, I can assure you it's not bitterness that makes me suggest the book needed more editing - rather a sadness that what should be a great novel is marred by clunkiness that could have been solved in the editing process, and clearly was simply left to stand when he died - serving neither the writer nor the reader. (You'll also agree with me, surely, that the translation could be better? Much of it is in very dated/heightened English that doesn't ring true at all.)
    all best wishes,

  3. If Stella Duffy said anything "nasty" it was about the reviewers and publicists of Steig Larsson's book and she was quite right to point out that some of them have very short memories. It was refreshing to hear anyone say anything even mildly critical as to dislike the Larsson trilogy in Europe is tantamount to heresy these days. But then perhaps I am bitter because my books have been nowhere near as successful as Stella's have. [I have also never quite forgiven the Vikings for the battle of Maldon (991AD) although admittedly those were mostly Danes!]