Wednesday, September 30, 2009
For everybody else, I will post a link to the audio file of the interview later this week. Although Cleave hasn't had a new book released in New Zealand since CEMETERY LAKE in May last year, and his upcoming book BLOOD MEN isn't released until February 2010, it has still been a pretty big week for the young Kiwi author (which may have led to the radio interview).
A few days ago, CEMETERY LAKE became Cleave's first book to be published in the United Kingdom, and then earlier this week the German translation hit #2 overall on the Amazon Germany bestseller list. An interview with Cleave was also recently published in Barry Forshaw's excellent crime fiction (e)magazine, Crime Time - read here.
So Cleave is certainly starting to get more and more international attention. It will be interesting to see the UK response to his novels over the coming weeks and months, especially as I understand his earlier books (THE CLEANER and THE KILLING HOUR) are also slated to be released over there by Random House.
While checking out the Radio New Zealand website, I also stumbled across a past interview with Cleave, from when CEMETERY LAKE was released in New Zealand last year. You can listen to that interview (which includes a reading from the book), here.
On a related point, I also found some interviews with other Kiwi crime/thriller writers from the past few months, that have been added to the sidebar on Radio/TV interviews. You can listen to interviews with:
Born in Sevenoaks, England, 65 years ago, Green grew up as a naturally 'mouthy kid' who was never afraid of expressing his opinions. In his NZ Book Month blog in 2008, he recalled how growing up in a tough part of town, he learned to hold his own with his mouth, since he couldn' t with his fists. That growing comfort with speaking out led to speaking roles at the Boy Scouts, and some school plays when he was sent to serve as a cadet at the 'Training Ship Mercury' from the age of 13 to 17.
Along with that lifelong ability to speak well in public, Green developed a love of sailing and the sea from an early age. He now lives on his yacht, the 40' John Lidgard designed motor sailer Raconteur, in Gulf Harbour, north of Auckland. Although he has lived in New Zealand for decades, having transferred here as the IT Manager of a large British multinational, he still visits Europe regularly, and has recently spent time in France, working on the third book in the trilogy. He often spend the New Zealand winter in the northern hemisphere, and still has family in England.
Before becoming a full-time writer in recent years, Green worked as a successful international IT recruitment consultant, and as a professional public speaker. His love of sailing led to his first book, the humourous novel BIG AGGIE SALES THE GULF in 1986. He says this was based on his own "misadventures sailing around the Hauraki Gulf in a Davidson M20".
Green had also become involved in Toastmasters (a public speaking organisation) while living in New Zealand, and after seeing one of his presentations publishers approached him to write a book on giving great speeches - which resulted in SUCCESSFUL SPEECHMAKING. For many years Green has been an advocate of the importance of communicating well, both in business and other areas of life. In his NZ Book Month blog in 2008, he says: "It was while working as a recruitment consultant that I discovered one of the great truths of life. It isn’t the academically cleverest people who make the biggest salaries. It’s the people who can present and sell their ideas (or, as in the case of Bill Gates, present and sell other people’s ideas.)"
When Green retired from his IT consultancy business in 2003, he found he had more time to write, and notes in his blog that "like many who retire, I also felt it was time to ‘put something back’. " Combining his goals of writing a novel, and raising money for charity, he began work on a thriller, inspired by the SARS outbreak, looking at how the few survivors of a global pandemic that got out of control might act, and interact, when everything was stripped away from them.
"What would I do, how would protect myself and my family?" asked Green. "The answers to those questions became the basis of my novel The Crucial Gene. (The sequel to Big Aggie is on the back burner yet again!)" Green aimed to raise $10,000 for the telephone counselling charity Lifeline - a cause close to his heart due to New Zealand's high youth suicide rate, and the fact that years ago he'd lost his son, and an aunt back in England, in that way.
Green self-published THE CRUCIAL GENE, intending to raise $10,000 by selling 1,000 books, using his toastmaster skills to market the book - he sold out the print run (and more) by talking to Lions, Rotary, and Probus Clubs, and was able to exceed his planned donation to LifeLine. The book was then picked up by Randon House, and republished in late 2008 as BLOOD LINE (with some minor edits to make it a 'tighter' novel).
In BLOOD LINE, when a devastating global pandemic strikes, members of the Chatfield family seem to be the only survivors in New Zealand; a unique genetic twist allowing them to survive the virus. Guessing their relatives in England may have similarly survived, two of the NZ branch of the family embark on a perilous journey to the other side of the world in the small yacht Archangel. When they arrive in England they find their relatives living in a medieval style 'lor and master' community based on the rule of fear - not only may the Kiwi Chatfields not be able to take any relatives back home, they may not be able to escape themselves.
Earlier this month, the second book in the series, BLOOD BOND, was released. Again, many of the proceeds will go to LifeLine. BLOOD BOND picks up right where the first book left off. As the blurb states: "Now escaping the repressive regime at Haver Hall in the UK, a group sails back to the southern hemisphere. Stopping in South Africa and then Australia, they are faced by unexpected dangers but also the hope that there might be other survivors. What awaits them in New Zealand, though, is even more challenging. And can those left in the UK survive each other?"
I finished BLOOD BOND last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Post-apocalyptic thrillers aren't really my thing, usually, but Green has crafted a page-turning story that keeps you well interested, while also raising a number of interesting philosophical questions about how people interact, especially under pressure. I enjoyed the book more and more as it went on.
My review of BLOOD BOND in NZLawyer is being published on Friday, and I will republish it on this blog. As good as it is to buy a book that is raising money for charity, it is even better when the book is very much worth buying and reading, regardless - as in this case. BLOOD LINE has also been picked up by German publisher Verlagsgruppe Lubbe (who publish translations of authors such as Dan Brown and Ken Follett in Germany)
You can read a press release Q&A with Michael Green here, and an extract from BLOOD BOND here. You can learn more about Lifeline here.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Latitude is the lifestyle magazine of the Canterbury region of New Zealand; a 120-page glossy quarterly packed with great large features on interesting people, places, and issues - as well as travel articles, book reviews, and several other interesting columns. I have started writing for the magazine (and have an eight-page feature on multisport pioneer and Coast to Coast founder Robin Judkins in the Spring issue), but haven't as yet contributed to their book reviews pages. It's a very cool magazine, and I'm glad to be able to write for them.
Joanne Taylor (the editor of Latitude and the book reviewer) has kindly allowed me to reprint the CUT & RUN review on the Crime Watch blog, as Latitude is not available online.
CUT & RUN
It is great to see a NZ author producing an edgy and fastpaced thriller. CUT & RUN is the first novel for Auckland based Alix Bosco. With a legal researcher as the key character, the plot has unexpected twists and turns for those who enjoy reading in this genre. I look forward to more from Bosco.
Reviewed by Joanne Taylor
As I mentioned several weeks ago, you can read the first chapter of CUT & RUN here. I am writing reviews of the book (which I thoroughly enjoyed) for a couple of publications in NZ and overseas, and will post links to those reviews as they are published.
In LENNOX, the titular private investigator is hired by one of the Glasgow's biggest and most unforgiving crime lords to find out who slaughtered gangster-on-the-rise Tam McGahern and his twin brother. Operating in the gaps between cops and criminals, Lennox's life gets even more complicated when it becomes clear he's being shadowed by even more dangerous men.
I was impressed by LENNOX, and will be reading more in the series.
Russell is an award-winning crime writer, previously famous for his Hamburg-set series of 'Jan Fabel' tales. He plans on continuing to write both series, moving forward. You can read extracts from my interview with Craig Russell for an article in the Weekend Herald (NZ's biggest newspaper) here.
Have you read Craig Russell? What do you think of Jan Fabel and/or Lennox as protagonists? What do you think of my review?Comments welcome.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
This Whitcoulls is the only bookstore in that mall. Along with magazines, cards, stationery, and non-fiction books, the medium-sized Whitcoulls in the has one decent-sized wall of fiction - divided into an "A to Z", "New" and "Whitcoulls Top 100". It also has a few small aisles of bookshelves, for categories such as "NZ fiction", "NZ non-fiction and biography", "Science Fiction & Fantasy", "Business" and others. There is no specific crime/thriller fiction like in their flagship Queen Street store, but a big percentage of the "New" and "A to Z" books are crime/thriller fiction. The store seems fairly well stocked, given its medium size, for that genre.
However, here are my findings in relation to NZ crime/mystery/thriller fiction:
- There were a couple of copies of recent New Zealand crime title, Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN, on the top eye-level shelf of the 'New Zealand fiction' section (front-facing) (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were a couple of copies of Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND in the New Zealand fiction section, with a nice front facing (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were a few copies of Lindy Kelly's #1 NZ Adult Fiction bestseller BOLD BLOOD, spine-facing in the A-Z section (GOOD);
- There was one copy of Vanda Symon's 2nd book, THE RINGMASTER, spine-facing in the A to Z section (OKAY/GOOD);
- There was one copy of Andrea Jutson's debut SENSELESS, spine-facing in the A to Z section (OKAY/GOOD); and
- There were no copies of any Joan Druett, Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, Paddy Richardson or Michael Green title (all of whom have released at least one crime/thriller title in the past year or two) (POOR).
Still, it would have been nice to see some other Kiwi crime/thriller authors in stock, or more copies/titles from, and/or better highlighting of, some of the authors they did have (Jutson and Symon). Especially as the store had a lot of older titles from many international crime/thriller authors.
So, overall, I give Whitcoulls Dowtown (Auckland) 2.75 out of 5. Better than the other Auckland Whitcoulls stores thusfar, but could do more. Thoughts? Comments? Am I being fair? Or am I expecting too much from NZ bookstores, especially large chain stores?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I was a bit slow on the uptake on this, as the shortlist wasn't officially announced by the time I went to bed last night (although it had been leaked early on some blogs), and by the time I got in to blog today, some other great bloggers had already covered it. Thanks to Karen Meek at EuroCrime and Graham Beattie at Beattie's Book Blog for the heads-up. I've linked the shortlisted titles to reviews on EuroCrime (where available), for those (like myself), who haven't read all the titles.
The shortlist is as follows:
Rennie Airth, THE DEATH OF WINTER
Philip Kerr, IF THE DEAD RISE NOT
Shona MacLean, THE REDEMPTION OF ALEXANDER SEATON
Mark Mills, THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER
Andrew Williams, THE INTERROGATOR
Laura Wilson, AN EMPTY DEATH
You can read more about the shortlisted winners, and the judge's comments, HERE.
CWA chair Margaret Murphy said: “The Ellis Peters judges have again identified a terrifically strong list for the Historical Award. Each historical period, from the sixteenth century to World War II, is wonderfully evoked by these talented writers.”
It's been quite a month for Philip Kerr, who on 3 September won the world's most lucrative prize in crime fiction, the RBA International Prize for Crime Writing for IF THE DEAD RISE NOT. Kerr's book beat more than 160 others to land the €125,000 (£109,000) prize. The book is the last in his series of "Berlin noir" novels featuring detective Bernie Gunther, and covering a period that includes Hitler's rise to power and postwar Germany's struggle to come to terms with its past. After the announcement, Kerr said he was surprised at the size of the prize: "I recently got a prize in France which was a few bottles of wine."
The winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award will be announced in the evening of Thursday 29th October at a reception in London.
Thoughts? Have any of you read any of the shortlisted titles? Do you like historical crime fiction?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Along with magazines, cards, stationery, and non-fiction books, the medium-sized Whitcoulls in the airport terminal has one decent-sized wall of fiction - divided into an "A to Z", "New", "Bestsellers", "Young Adult" and "Whitcoulls Top 100". There is also a NZ Fiction end, and another end highlighting some instore bestsellers.
There probably isn't really much room for a specific 'crime/thriller' section, but a large percentage of the books in the 'A to Z', 'New' and 'Bestsellers' are crime/thriller fiction. There was of course also a big table full of THE LOST SYMBOL, the latest thriller from Dan Brown.
Here are my findings in relation to NZ crime/mystery/thriller fiction:
- There were a couple of copies of the latest New Zealand crime title, Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN, in both the 'A to Z' section (spine-facing) and the 'New' section (front-facing) (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were a few copies of Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND in the New Zealand fiction section, with a nice front facing (GOOD/GREAT); and
- There were no copies of any Joan Druett, Vanda Symon, Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, Andrea Jutson, Lindy Kelly, Paddy Richardson or Michael Green title (all of whom have released at least one crime/thriller title in the past 12-18mths) (VERY POOR).
So overall, it was a pretty poor result (again) for Whitcoulls, especially considering the dominance of international crime/thriller titles in the 'New', 'Bestseller' and 'A to Z' sections. And I would have thought an airport would have been a perfect place to promote and sell NZ crime/thriller fiction (after all, many such books are referred to as 'airport thrillers' - enjoyable and great reads for people who are travelling places).
It's a shame that one of our largest bookstore chains is doing so poorly thusfar in supporting, publicising, and selling NZ crime/thriller fiction. The store at the airport, even taking into consideration its smaller size in a relative sense, was even more of a disappointment than the flagship store on Queen Street (which at least had Druett and Symon in stock as well).
So, overall, I give Whitcoulls Auckland Airport (Domestic Terminal) 1.75 out of 5. Could do a lot, lot better. Thoughts? Comments? Am I being fair? Or am I expecting too much from NZ bookstores, especially large chain stores?
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Blue fingernails. Cleave begins his third novel with two simple, evocative words. Two words that bring Theo Tate to an exhumation; two words that send the world-weary private investigator on an unpredictable journey intersecting a present-day serial killer with well-kept suburbanite secrets, and Tate’s own troubled past.
Tate is only present at the exhumation because his former police colleagues are too busy trying to catch the Christchurch Carver, the grisly serial killer from Cleave’s debut novel, The Cleaner (Random House, 2006). Tate’s simple assignment becomes anything but when three bodies bubble up from the cemetery lake. When the coffin reveals the wrong body, two unpalatable possibilities emerge; the Carver has struck again, or there’s a second psychopath on the loose.
Though sidelined by the police, Tate finds himself sucked into the vortex, attempting to atone for sins of his past. As the case advances, and stolen evidence, the police, the media, priests, his own personal demons, murder and suicide all roadblock Tate, he finds himself compounding bad choices and devolving into a man he’d always despised.
Cemetery Lake is an impressive novel from a talented writer. Cleave creates compelling characters that ring true. Even when events become outlandish, Cleave doesn’t lose the reader, because he’s spun wholly-formed characters and lets us gaze a little into their worldview. He avoids the poor writers’ mistake of substituting quirks for characterisation; instead his characters do things for their own reasons, not just to serve the plot. We can understand the worst acts, because we see we might consider the same choice, in the same circumstance.
A feature of Cemetery Lake is the character-like shadow of Christchurch itself. Cleave weaves a strong sense of place, although his is a darker version: “Christchurch is broken”. Mirroring the real-life dichotomy of international renown for friendliness alongside ‘murder capital’ status, Cleave’s Christchurch is full of gardens and glue-sniffers; long-held secrets and closeted debauchery hidden behind suburban doors and old English architecture.
Cleave makes you want to turn the page, and when you get to the end, you want to go out and immediately find another of his books.
This review originally appeared in the 14 November 2008 print edition of NZLawyer magazine
In THE SILENT HOUR, private investigator Perry is asked by Parker Harrison - a convicted killer and former parolee at the serene and now-defunct Whisper Ridge centre - to find centre owner Alexandra, who disappeared with her husband after the failure of the parolee program. When Perry discovers that skeletal remains of Alexandra's husband were found at the same time Harrison asked Perry to try and locate her, the police investigation becomes active again, and a decade-old threats starts circling...
You can read an extract of THE SILENT HOUR here.
THE SILENT HOUR was my first experience of Michael Koryta, who has had a lot of acclaim in his young authorial career. I was impressed, and will be reading more of his novels.
Have you read Michael Koryta? What do you think of Lincoln Perry as a protagonist? Are the comparisons to Lehane and Connelly accurate? What do you think of my review?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
When the public event was moved from the University Book Shop on 22 September to the University Staff Club on 29 September, it also became by invitation only. However, Abba Renshaw of Allen & Unwin has kindly extended an invitation to any interested readers of the Crime Watch blog
McIlvanney is the University of Otago Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies, having recently immigrated to New Zealand. He returns to his roots with his debut, described as "a compelling thriller set amid the murky politics of Scotland and Northern Ireland".
The publicity blurb states that in ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN: "When Glasgow journalist Gerry Conway receives a phone call promising unsavoury information about Scottish Justice Minister Peter Lyons, his instinct is that this apparent scoop won't warrant space in The Tribune. But as Conway's curiosity grows and his leads proliferate, his investigation takes him from Scotland to Belfast. Shocked by the sectarian violence of the past, and by the prejudice and hatred he encounters even now, Conway soon grows obsessed with the story of Lyons and all he represents. And as he digs deeper, he comes to understand that there is indeed a story to be uncovered; and that there are people who will go to great lengths to ensure that it remains hidden.
Compelling, vividly written and shocking, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN is not only the story of an individual and his community - it is also a complex and thrilling inquiry into loyalty, betrayal and duty."
"An authentic, atmospheric and ambitious debut. Liam McIlvanney nails it." - Val McDermid
"Liam McIlvanney holds all the aces of a really vital young novelist … a brilliant study in the harsh, pawky affinity between those two majestic cities, Glasgow and Belfast."- Richard T Kelly, author of CRUSADERS.
"I read it almost at a sitting… smart, generous and compelling’ - Gordon Burn
"With a bravura nod at classic north of Carlisle crime writing, All The Colours of the Town swaggers onto the Larne-Stranraer ferry and brings noir home. Razor-sharp prose and laser-sharp observation makes this a brilliant fiction debut." - Eoin McNamee
As I noted on 11 August, you can read more about McIlvanney and his crime thriller debut in a reasonably substantial review in The Scotsman, and in a short interview on the Crime Squad website.
BOOK LAUNCH INVITATION
Allen & Unwin Book Publishers invite readers of Crime Watch to the launch of Faber & Faber's ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN.
Where & When:
5.15pm Tuesday 29 September
University of Otago Staff Club,
80 Union Place West (beside the Leith).
Please RSVP to Kathy Young at firstname.lastname@example.org
or ph 03 479 5999.
Drinks and nibbles will be provided.
Hopefully some of you (Vanda etc) in the southern part of New Zealand will be able to attend. Let us know how it goes. Have any of our UK readers already read ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN? What did you think?
Dunedin writer Vanda Symon’s follow-up to her excellent debut Overkill (Penguin, 2007) finds heroine Sam Shepherd having moved to Dunedin from Mataura; bridges burnt. Undertaking detective training, Shepherd’s on the bottom rung of the ladder, battling her grudge-holding boss for any involvement.
The Ringmaster opens with a murder in the Botanic Gardens, before switching to stroppy Sam’s first-person narration. Marginalised, she struggles to participate in the investigation, working in her own time and feeding off the scraps her partner Smithy smuggles her way. She eventually uncovers a link between the visiting circus, and a series of deaths throughout the lower South Island.
Of the many admirable aspects of Symon’s storytelling, chief is her creation of Sam Shephard, a protagonist you want to follow; headstrong, passionate, and flawed. A talented detective, but not infallible. Shephard puts herself out there, cares, makes mistakes, and has real emotions; fear, jealousy, anger, sadness. She’s human, real, and well-rounded.
Symon shows a talent for creating rounded characters throughout, from Shephard’s friend Maggie, the ‘voice of reason’, to nemesis characters such as DI Johns and circus owner Terry Bennett. Symon ensures that even the antagonists ring true; they have good points as well as bad, and have understandable motives for their objectionable behaviour.
Another impressive facet is her use of the Dunedin setting. From the opening murder beside the Leith, to Highlanders games, and student life, Symon brings alive this southern city. When interviewed, Symon has said, “a town will have a feel, a social background. I like using Dunedin. It has a vibrancy and an edge with the students and all that brings with it.”
The Ringmaster is a great read. Symon populates a good story with great characters, and unique touches in a distinctly Kiwi setting. It comes together a little quickly at the end, but leaves you wanting more of Sam Shephard.
This review was originally published in the 14 November 2008 issue of NZLawyer magazine
Kelly was born in 1952 and grew up on a farm just outside of Hamilton (in the North Island of New Zealand). She was an animal-lover from birth. “I was a horse-mad little girl,” she said, noting she collected horse books “ad nauseum”, drew ponies all over her school books, and “lived and breathed” horses.
Kelly became a championship-calibre rider on her white-stockinged, black thoroughbred Passport. “You could just travel across country with him, jumping hedges and ditches, fences and logs – nothing would stop him. And it was just this most amazing feeling of freedom; you were flying, flying through the air on this most magnificent creature… fantastic.”
Kelly and Passport were on the cusp of heading overseas with Mark Todd and others to train and compete in the United States, when tragedy struck at the 1971 New Zealand Horse Trials. Torrential rain, a dangerous course, a slip after a big drop jump, a broken leg; Lindy was faced with every rider’s worst nightmare - Passport had to be destroyed. She eventually went overseas anyway, to work in the horse industry, including in Hawaii and Canada, and studying as an instructor under champion European trainers.
Alternatively, if you can find a hard copy of the May 2009 NZ Horse & Pony, you can also read more about Lindy Kelly in my large feature article "Horses in the Blood" in that magazine. Unfortunately that issue has not yet been archived online.
Have you read any of Lindy Kelly's work? What do you think of BOLD BLOOD (or her other writing)? Would thrillers set in the eventing and equestrian world interest you? Please share your thoughts...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
Horse-loving journalist, poet and children’s author Lindy Kelly adopts the old adage, ‘write what you know’, with her crime debut Bold Blood, parlaying her youthful experience as an international eventing rider into a suspense tale set amongst the stables, saddles and sorrels of the New Zealand equestrian world.
Dr Caitlin Summerfield is happily living a hectic Wellington lifestyle, accessorised with overseas travel and a rich boyfriend. Her rural Nelson childhood has been left far behind, along with her emotionally abusive mother.
A fall and a phone call destroy Caitlin’s reverie, and she takes the bunny-hop flight across Cook Strait to return ‘home’. Playing caretaker at her comatose mother’s horse farm, helped by rugged neighbour Dom and multi-pierced teenage groom Kasey, Caitlin scratches beneath the surface of high-tech horse trailers and well-fed thoroughbreds to discover looming financial ruin, and a shot at a million-dollar breeding contract. A contract someone is willing to do anything for. Even kill.
Having published more than 100 short stories, sixteen children’s books, 36 poems, and had her writing feature on National Radio and performed on stage, Kelly told me she had one goal for her first adult thriller. “I wanted to write the sort of book that I like to curl up with for sheer pleasure… something with excitement and adventure, likable strong characters… a few mysteries, a bit of romance, humour, and passion.”
Overall she succeeds, spinning an engaging tale that carries the reader along. She strikes a nice balance - peppering local references, without over-seasoning in any contrived attempt to foist ‘Kiwi-ness’ onto a universal story. Populating a plot of assaults, arsons, horse theft and murder with a diverse cast, Kelly impresses most with her rich portrait of life in the eventing world, along with the way the horses aren’t mere props; but full-blown characters with personalities in their own right.
Although there is the occasional plot misstep, Bold Blood is a good debut – a must read for horse-lovers, and an enjoyable read for anyone.
This review was first published in the 3 April 2009 issue of print magazine NZLawyer
McDermid has written dozens of bestsellers, sold more than 10 million books, won and been shortlisted for many prestigious awards (including winning the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger for THE MERMAIDS SINGING), and had her stories adapted into acclaimed TV shows like Place of Execution and Wire in the Blood.
The Paper Plus store (which was formerly an NZ Post-associated Books'n'More store until Paper Plus bought that chain a couple of years ago) is one of two books-related nationwide chainstores in the Richmond Mall (along with a Whitcoulls). Neither bookstore is particularly large in size.
Along with magazines, cards, stationery, and post supplies, the Paper Plus has one wall of fiction - divided into an "A to Z", a small NZ fiction section, a small NZ non-fiction section, and a small "Nelson" section. They seem to have a good selection of books overall, especially given the space constraints. There isn't really any room for a specific 'crime/thriller' section, but a large percentage of the books in the A to Z are crime/thriller fiction.
Here are my findings in relation to NZ crime/mystery/thriller fiction:
- There were a couple of copies of the latest New Zealand crime title, Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN, spine-facing in the A to Z section (GOOD);
- There were also a couple of copies of Michael Green's BLOOD BOND in the A to Z section, the first time I have seen this book in any bookstore yet (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were a few copies of Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND in the New Zealand fiction section, with a nice front facing (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were a few copies of Lindy Kelly's BOLD BLOOD in the New Zealand fiction section, with a nice front facing - the first time I have seen copies of this #1 NZ Adult fiction bestseller (from March) still (re)stocked in any bookstore in the past few weeks (GOOD/GREAT);
- There were no copies of any Joan Druett, Vanda Symon, Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, or Andrea Jutson title, although I have seen copies of Symon's THE RINGMASTER in the A to Z section of that same store earlier this year (POOR); and
- There were also front-facings of two Loren Teague books in the NZ fiction section - Teague categorises herself as a romance novelist, but her latest TRUE DECEPTION (one of the books that was available in the Paper Plus) centres on a policeman, and has a lot of crime/thriller elements - she calls it a "romantic thriller", and it seems equivalent to early Sandra Brown or Tami Hoag, when they were making the shift from romance to crime. However you categorise the latest Teague book (ie whether you think it comes within the fringes of the crime/thriller/suspense category, or falls just outside), it is good to see this Paper Plus store supporting NZ popular fiction by stocking it (GOOD/GREAT).
So overall, it was a pretty good result for Paper Plus, especially considering the size of the store (it wasn't really a large 'flagship' store which you would expect to have all titles). This store stocked four of the latest NZ crime/thriller titles (and was the only store thusfar to stock BLOOD BOND and BOLD BLOOD), as well as a recent romance suspense title. They've also previously stocked Vanda Symon as well.
One point however - although Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN is listed as one of celebrity reviewer Kerre Woodham's 'Recommended Reads', it wasn't one of the books displayed as such (in the special colourful cardboard end boxes) in this store, although international crime/thriller fiction titles were.If the stores were all equivalent sizes with equivalent resources, i would probably mark this Paper Plus store a little bit above Whitcoulls Queen Street, but falling far short of Borders Queen Street (given the lack of Druett, Cleave, Jutson and Symon).
However, I should take into account the size and location of the store somewhat (and the fact they stocked 2-3 recent crime/thriller/suspense titles thusfar unseen elsewhere), so I give Paper Plus Richmond Mall 3.25 out of 5. Good work overall, and could be even better with a few extra touches (and titles).
Thoughts? Comments? Am I being fair?
Monday, September 21, 2009
I'm about halfway through BLOOD BOND at the moment, as I'm reviewing it for a couple of magazines. I'm enjoying it thusfar. Courtesy of Random House, here is a Q&A with author Michael Green, who donates his proceeds to the charity Lifeline:
Q: What prompted you to write about a pandemic?
A: In 2003 my wife and I were about to travel to the UK when the SARS outbreak occurred. Like many others we postponed our trip. I began to ask myself, 'What's going to happen if this pandemic really gets out of control? What are the repercussions going to be? How am I going to protect my family?' The answers to those questions became the basis for the Blood Line trilogy.
Q: Do you really think people would become as savage as you depict after such a pandemic?
A: Absolutely! Throughout history we have seen how savage mankind can be for reasons such as racial prejudice, religious fanaticism, etc. In the pandemic conditions I have described, personal survival would be at stake. I personally would do whatever it took to protect or feed my family. Everyone else would do the same.
Q: You're originally from the UK - did you base the Chatfield family on your own?
A: The trilogy is based on my own family structure (my grandparents were also called Claude and Cora). Similarly, as in the trilogy, my own family suffers from a lackof males in recent generations. My own cousins are all very nice people, so the villains in the story necessitated the adding of an additional branch (Nigel and his sons).
Q: Is Haver Hall based on a real place?
A: Yes, it is based on Knole House, which is located on the outskirts of Sevenoaks in Kent in England. The house has 365 rooms, 52 staircases, and 7 courtyards (it is known as The Calendar House). It is owned by the National Trust.
Q: You capture the various different settings vividly (NZ, UK, Australia, South Africa, etc) vividly - have you visited all your settings?
A: I believe it is very important to have first-hand knowledge of where you write about. I have been to all the places in my novel (and of course, I grew up in Sevenoaks, and now live in Gulf Harbour, the main settings for the trilogy). In research for BLOOD BOND I sailed from Auckland to Brisbane and visited Stradbroke Ilsand. The final part of the trilogy is partly set in San Diego, and I visited that city earlier this year en route to Europe.
Q: Sailing plays a pivotal role in your novels - how important is it in your own life? A: From the age of 13 through to 17 I served as a cadet at 'Training Ship Mercury' in England. I learned to sail then and have sailed ever since. I wrote the humorous novel BIG AGGIE SALES THE GULF in 1986 (based upon my own misadventures sailing around the Hauraki Gulf in a Davidson M20). I currently live on board the 40' John Lidgard designed motor sailer Raconteur (which features in BLOOD BOND).
Q: Are you surprised that Germany was interested in your novel?
A: In retrospect, no. Before becoming a full-time writer I was an international IT recruitment consultant, and helped a number of Germans immigrate to New Zealand. I found Germans were always very concerned about issues such as health threats, nuclear war, environmental issues, etc.
Q: The Chatfields are split between living in NZ and the UK - is this an issue in your life?
A: It is. My own family is split between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which causes difficulties for my wife and me. Fortunately, as a writer, I can work anywhere and usually manage to spend the New Zealand winter in Europe.
Q: What is the fundraising you do with LifeLine? Why is that particular charity important to you?
A: Unfortunately, I lost my own son to suicide. Suicide is a huge problem in New Zealand (more people lose their life through suicide each year than are killed in traffic accidents). Despite this appalling statistic, the contribution the government makes to organisations such as LifeLine in direct funding is pitiful. I speak at service clubs, such as Rotary and Lions, and donate royalties of all books that I sell at these presentations to LifeLine.
So there's a few words from author Michael Green, who lives on his boat in Gulf Harbour, sails around the world each year, and donates his authorial proceeds to a telephone counselling charity. Thoughts? Comments welcome.
Friday, September 18, 2009
You'll also be aware that I think New Zealand is as yet even less supportive of our own crime/thriller writing than many overseas countries are of theirs - countries who seem to have no problem supporting, encouraging, praising and enjoying many different genres (e.g. in England there are the literary-focused Booker Prizes, but then the CWA Daggers are also held in fairly high-regard, publicised well, and seem to be considered prestigious awards too).
Thursday, September 17, 2009
2. Peril at End House (1932)
3. Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
4. The ABC Murders (1935)
5. And Then There Were None (1939)
6. Five Little Pigs (1943)
7. Crooked House (1949)
8. A Murder is Announced (1950)
9. Endless Night (1967)
10. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case (1975, but written during the second world war)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A 1991 political thriller by Michael Wall, MUSEUM STREET received some good reviews on its release. Bryce Courtney (THE POWER OF ONE, APRIL FOOL'S DAY) said: "dirty tricks writing at it's best, Wall is as explosive and spontaneous as a Molotov cocktail".