Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scottish/Kiwi writer Liam McIlvanney featured in today's WEEKEND HERALD

One of the coolest things about being a crime fiction reviewer and features writer is having the opportunity to interview some fascinating authors.

Earlier this month I interviewed Scotsman Liam McIlvanney, who has moved to Dunedin, New Zealand with his family to take up a Professorship at the University of Otago. After writing academic articles and non-fiction books about Scottish literature and historic society, McIlvanney recently had his debut novel, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN, published by Faber & Faber in both the UK (released in August) and New Zealand/Australia (released in late September).

ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN centres on Glasgow political journo Gerry Conway, who receives a tip-off about the unsavoury past of the Scottish Justice Minister, one of his best sources. Initially unimpressed, Conway is eventually drawn into a journey from Glasgow to Belfast, attempting to uncover a shocking story laced with sectarian violence and dangerous secrets.

The book has received some great reviews thusfar, and McIlvanney is currently working on his second thriller starring Gerry Conway. He also mentioned that future thrillers (not the next one, but after that) are likely to be set in New Zealand, as his protagonist might just follow McIlvanney's own path, immigrating south.

If you are in northern New Zealand, you can read my feature article based on our interview in this weekend's issue of the Weekend Herald (the biggest circulation newspaper in the country). It's on page 37 of the Canvas magazine insert (the lifestyle/features mag in the weekend edition of the newspaper) - see picture to the left. The cool b/w photo of McIlvanney in an Otago Uni quad was actually taken by another Kiwi crime writer, Vanda Symon (thanks Vanda).

I'm pretty happy with the published article overall (although a key paragraph was cut, which makes the flow seem a little clunky at one point), and it's great to get some coverage of local (well, adopted Kiwi in McIlvanney's case) crime/thriller writers in our biggest newspaper.

Unfortunately, Canvas magazine articles generally aren't available online. As always, however, when you interview someone interesting, you get waaaaay more material than you can actually use in a feature - so I thought I'd include a couple of comments from McIlvanney here, that couldn't make it into the article due to wordcount constraints:

Talking about sectarianism in Scotland (the paragraph cut from the article):
“Unlike Northern Ireland, there is no segregation in terms of housing, and job discrimination is a thing of the past, but the attitudes that were ingrained because of sectarianism are still ingrained to some extent,” he says, noting All the Colours of the Town explores the aftershocks and ongoing effects of The Troubles, including from a Scottish perspective.

“It is a slightly unexplored aspect of contemporary Scotland, which is one of the reasons I found it useful to write a crime novel,” says McIlvanney. “We have so many ties to Northern Ireland in terms of family, and cultural links… there’s an interesting Scottish experience, so I wanted to explore that… some of the issues that are being discussed at a policy level in Scotland.”

On his early reading experiences:
"I always did read pretty heavily… the first author I remember really grabbing me was Ray Bradbury… THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, SOEMTHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES were the first books that really grabbed me. And I sort of sat down, probably in much the same way that kids today work their way through the Harry Potter books, and worked my way through the Ray Bradbury stories..."

On fitting in reading 'for fun' amongst all his academic reading requirements:
"I think you’re dead intellectually if you don’t have a book on the go that you’re not obliged to be reading. And so I always have something I’m reading that I’m not ‘supposed’ to be reading – just reading for pure fun."

On a novel he's read lately and enjoyed:
"I read an excellent thriller from a guy in Ireland, Stuart Neville, called THE TWELVE, which had a terrific premise; this former IRA hitman is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, who encourage him to take revenge, to seek revenge for them on the sort of paramilitary kingpins who directed his activities. It’s a terrific premise; done fantastically… it really is terrific.

I’m also reading Ian Rankin’s new one, THE COMPLAINTS …"

On whether New Zealand's reputation as a (relatively) safe country would make it harder/less believable to set crime fiction here:
"To me, New Zealand would seem like a very fertile place for crime fiction. A couple of months ago there was this sort of think tank where someone announced that New Zealand was now the safest place on the planet – so can you right noir fiction about [such a safe place], well in some respects that’s the best place about which to write noir fiction…

...there’s an Italian literary critic called Franco Moretti who did quite an entertaining thing a few years ago where he wrote what he called an atlas of the European novel, and in it he has a map of London where he charts where the crimes occurred for Sherlock Holmes, and he compares this to a contemporary map of the same period which charts the regions of crime and depravity of London [at that time], and there was absolutely no overlap whatsoever. All the real crime happens in the East End and all the fictional crime happens in the West End. It’s because it’s got to be an enigma, it’s got to be a surprise. Nobody is surprised if crime takes place in Whitechapel or some of these impoverished quarters of the East End of London. But people are intrigued and surprised when it takes place somewhere you don’t expect, in Chelsea or wherever."

On reading widely:
"Someone I hadn’t read until a couple of years ago, but have [now] worked my way through is Graham Greene… he’s not really thought of as a writer of entertainment, but he’s absolutely phenomenal. His novel THE QUIET AMERICAN is for me almost a perfect work of art. I tend to read people like Graham Greene while I’m writing as well, just trying to keep the sentences up to scratch."

On the fact New Zealand has a population relatively similar to Scotland's, and yet is (as yet) far behind in terms of numbers of books and writers, and more particularly support, encouragement and celebratation of local crime/thriller fiction writing:
"It is interesting isn’t it... I think it’s partly that it generates its own momentum... I tend to think it’s two things principally; one is that as I mentioned crime fiction in Scotland fulfilled this social/political need in the absence of a national parliament, it was sort of a fertile forum for airing sort of pressing social issues. I think the other significant factor in the Scottish case is the very long tradition of involvement in mass market fiction – you think of Arthur Conan Doyle with the detective novel, Stevenson with the thriller... that lead on to Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean and so on.

... I think we have had a longstanding tradition of Scottish writers being involved in popular fiction. There’s less sort of social and critical stigma about popular fiction, and there’s more inspiration for writers to draw on. And I think there is also a large element of coincidence, that a large crop of crime writers has sort of appeared…

… I suppose you’ve also got in the Scottish case, a strong tradition of gothic literature. You know someone like Ian Rankin will always reference James Hogg's great novel, THE PRIVATE MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONS OF A JUSTIFIED SINNER, and you’ve got that whole sort of Scottish gothic ballad tradition, which is all very dark and macabre, and so that’s another strong influence on contemporary crime fiction."


Thoughts? Comments? Have you read ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN? What do you think? Do contemporary thrillers with strong ties to the real-life past interest you? Do you like your crime novels to include some social issues?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Recent-ish media reviews and stories on Kiwi crime and thriller fiction

So far I've been linking to my own reviews of New Zealand crime and thriller fiction on this blog (or reprinting some where they're not available online), and also on occasion linking to or noting reviews or other media coverage from other people.

While I intend to continue with that approach moving forward, I thought I'd also do a bit of an overview post today, sweeping up some other coverage of recent-ish Kiwi crime and thriller titles that I may not have linked to yet (or that I've briefly mentioned but not really highlighted), in one post (with a nod to Donna from the excellent blog Big Beat from Badsville, who does the same with the plethora of media coverage on Scottish crime fiction, for inspiring the idea).

With Kiwi crime fiction seemingly on the rise, hopefully there will be more and more such reviews, articles etc in future. For now, here's links to some more reviews/articles on three New Zealand crime and thriller fiction debuts that have been released this year:

CUT & RUN by Alix BoscoOn Saturday I mentioned the review of Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN by acclaimed Kiwi journalist and crime writer Paul Thomas, in the Weekend Herald (NZ's biggest newspaper). Often the Canvas magazine articles aren't uploaded online, but this review now has been. You can read Thomas' full review here.

A recent review by radio station More FM can be found here.

BLOOD BOND by Michael Green
You can read a news story on the launch of this book, including info about the author, the trilogy, his charitable involvement etc, in this article by Les Watkins of the North Shore News, here.

You can read an enthusiastic review by Julia of New Plymouth-based Benny's Books, consistently rated one of the very top independent bookstores in New Zealand and the largest bookstore in Taranaki (bigger even than the local chainstores), here (you'll need to scroll down).

A decent-sized review by Patricia Thwaites in the Otago Daily Times on Saturday 17 October can be read here.

You can listen to an extract from the book and a good interview with author Dorothy Fowler from Radio New Zealand's Arts on Sunday programme with Lynn Freeman, here. The interview covers the plot and writing of the book, Fowler's interest in archaeology, her next book, and some other fascinating topics.

BLOOD BOND by Lindy KellyA review of the equestrian-set thriller on the Horse Talk website can be read here.

A review by former veterinarian Tedi Busch in the Nelson Mail newspaper (who I also review for at times) can be read here.
An article about Lindy Kelly overcoming several obstacles and winning a recent AMP Scholarship can be read here.

You can listen to an extract from the book and a good interview with Lindy Kelly from Radio New Zealand's Arts on Sunday programme with Lynn Freeman here.

Have you read any of these four Kiwi crime/thriller titles? If so, what do/did you think of them? If not, do they sound interesting - the types of books you'd read? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reminder: Dorothy Fowler speaking at Words on a Small Island

As I noted on 14 September, Kiwi mystery writer Dorothy Fowler (see picture), whose debut WHAT REMAINS BEHIND was published recently, will be appearing at the first ever Waiheke Island books festival tomorrow.

The festival, Words on a Small Island, kicked off today. Fowler will be speaking at 10am on Friday morning (30 October) at Artworks in Oneroa. For session bookings, call the Waiheke Community Art Gallery on (09) 372 9907.

You can read more about Dorothy Fowler in my "D" week post for the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme being run by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, here.

D is for Deverell, William

Since we're all having so much fun with the alphabetical book blogging series started by fellow Anzac and blogger Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise (where each week bloggers from around the world write about a notable crime fiction novel or author (first name or surname) starting with a particular letter of the alphabet). I thought I'd add an extra "D" post. As I said earlier in the week, this week is the turn of "D", and my first "D" post was on Kiwi debutant mystery writer Dorothy Fowler.

I thought I'd add another "bonus" post this week about Canadian author William Deverell, who I've mentioned a couple of times already on this blog since I met him in Vancouver last year, enjoyed his book APRIL FOOL, but have found that his books aren't readily available downunder (just like many good Kiwi writers' books aren't readily available in the northern hemisphere).

William Deverell, doyen of Canadian crime writing
Deverell is a living legend in Canadian literature, still putting out great novels that are enjoyed by the masses, while also having a unique, memorable, literary style. Like the very best crime writers, his novels have much more to them than just solving a crime - in some ways they are literary novels that just happen to have plenty of crime in them.

In interviews with Canadian newspapers such as the Vancouver Sun and the Times Colonist, Deverell has admitted that he wanted to write fiction from a young age - but his fears of not meeting his Shakespeare-quoting father's high standards (that any writer should try and produce 'great Canadian literature') meant he instead chose a career in law.

A native of Regina (Saskatchewan province), Deverell worked as a journalist for several years, including in Montreal and as a night editor at the Star Phoenix newspaper while later studying law at the University of Saskatchewan. During his law degree, he took a year off and worked for the Vancouver Sun, falling in love with the West Coast of Canada and its more temperate climate. After finishing his law degree he set up practice in Vancouver in the with some friends.

Deverell began a legal career that would see him appear at more than 1000 criminal trials, often defending the underdog in human rights type cases. From early on, Deverell exhibited a strong social conscience, which later filtered through in many of his novels. As his legal stature grew, he also appeared in larger and larger trials, including as a prosecutor or defense attorney in more than 30 murder cases. He became one of British Columbia's top trial lawyers.

As his 40th birthday approached, Deverell took a year-long sabbatical from his Vancouver law firm, determined to write his first novel. After months of struggle and writers block at his 'summer home' on laidback Pender Island (one of the Gulf Islands ), he opened his mind to the possibility of writing a thriller, rather than aiming for the 'Canadian literary masterpiece' his father so desired, and things began quickly clicking into place.

The result was NEEDLES (published in 1979), which drew heavily on Deverell's experiences as a trial lawyer, including his knowledge of the seedy world of the Canadian drug trade.

In NEEDLES, Lawyer Foster Cobb prosecutes the mysterious Dr. Au, the West Coast's primary drug trafficker. But Cobb - under pressure of a failing practice and a disintegrating marriage - has himself taken up a long-abandoned heroin habit. With a racing plot and dramatic flip-flops, this literary page-turner takes the reader into the seedy underground of crooked cops, drug lords, and a supercharged courtroom scene.

The debut was a big success, winning the $50,000 Seal Prize for Best First Novel in 1979, as well as the Book of the Year Award in 1981. It sold more than 250,000 copies, and was widely critically acclaimed. "Deverell has a narrative style so lean that scenes and characters seem to explode on the page. He makes the evil of his plot breathtaking and his surprises like shattering glass." (Philadelphia Bulletin)

Over the subsequent thirty years Deverell has written many more novels, including HIGH CRIMES, MECCA, THE DANCE OF SHIVA, PLATINUM BLUES, MINDFIELD, KILL ALL THE LAWYERS, STREET LEGAL, TRIAL OF PASSION, SLANDER, THE LAUGHING FALCON, MIND GAMES, APRIL FOOL, KILL ALL THE JUDGES, AND SNOW JOB (the latter is his latest, released just this month). Beyond their fantastic plots and fascinating characters, his novels have also addressed several legal, social, and environmental issues, and they have been nominated for (and won) several prestigious writing awards.

Deverell is also the author of a true crime book, A LIFE ON TRIAL - THE CASE OF ROBERT FRISBEE, based on a notorious murder trial which he defended. The true story of a bizarre murder and the controversial trial that made headlines across Canada; it is the story of Robert Frisbee, who, after a scarred early life, became the secretary and friend of Muriel and Philip Barnett. Then, on board the Royal Viking Star cruise ship, Muriel was murdered - and Robert Frisbee stood accused. With penetrating insight, Deverell probes the mind of the accused and explores the legal system that tried him. The book received praise for coupling the insider's knowledge of the courtroom with superb writing skills.

In 1997 Deverell fully introduced a new hero - an aging lawyer, both bumbling and highly intelligent - to the world of crime/mystery fiction. Arthur Beauchamp had earlier made an appearance in THE DANCE OF SHIVA as a heralded if alcoholic barrister who had to withdraw from an important case. Now the Denny Crane-esque legal legend has retired to the Gulf Islands, recovering from both alcholism and an unfaithful wife, but he is dragged back into the world of courtrooms by his old partners.

They want Arthur to take charge of the defense trial of Jonathan O'Donnell, the acting dean of a law school. O'Donnell has been accused of rape by one of the students, Kimberley Martin, a smart but arrogant woman who is engaged to a rich businessman. After much pleading, Beauchamp agrees to handle the case. He is drawn into complex legal situations dealing with gender and sex, while his personal life takes a provocative turn as well. A courtroom drama ensues, with unpredictable twists and bizarre events.

The book won the 1997 Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian crime novel, and the highly-prized Dashiell Hammett award for literary excellence in crime writing (sometimes called the "Oscar" of crime writing). As an aside, Deverell's books have been consistently shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Awards since their inception in the mid 1980s.

Four books and eight years later, Beauchamp returned in APRIL FOOL, which again showed Deverell's great mix of interesting plot, stylish writing, rich characters, quirky humour, and underlying social and environmental issues.

Beauchamp’s quiet life is upturned when his environmental activist wife (newer wife) decides to protest logging by living in a tree, at the same time as a roguish ex-client is accused of a heinous rape and murder. The heroically fallible Beauchamp is forced onto an entertaining rollercoaster combining courtroom thriller with mystery whodunit.

This was the first book of Deverell's I read (it definitely won't be the last), getting my hands on a copy in a nice little independent bookstore while exploring Vancouver Island in May last year, after earlier meeting and speaking to Deverell at a Canadian Crime Writers Event (the announcement of the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award finalists).

In person Deverell was very much as I've later read him described. He seems much younger than his 70-ish years, full of knowledge, opinions, passion, and life. He's a witty, charming, down-to-earth and intelligent. Just an absolute pleasure to meet and talk to.

I was fortunate enough to also chat to him for several minutes afterwards, where we talked about how crime writing can in some cases be as good or better (in terms of language usage, and beautiful writing) as literary fiction, but it is under-rated or overlooked by so many of the 'literatti'. I'd asked him about the importance of language and quality writing in crime/thriller writing, and his eyes lit up (I guess my question was a little different to all the standard 'where do you get your ideas', 'how do you break through' ones from many in the audience) and we were away racing, even continuing to chat as we shared a walk through the Vancouver streets (me heading to the bus stop, him to his nearby hotel) afterwards.

I got quite a chuckle when he expressed some of the same sentiments in a recent article, which you can read about HERE.

Fortunately when I got my hands on one of his books a couple of weeks later, I really enjoyed it (I was a bit nervous whether I would, given that I was quite fond of him as a person). He has quite a different style, and it was a departure from the type of crime writing I usually read - it demands a little more from the reader - but once I got into the flow, it was a great read.

Beauchamp has starred in the two Deverell novels since APRIL FOOL (which also won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel) - KILL ALL THE JUDGES and his latest, SNOW JOB.

In SNOW JOB (released on October 6 2009), the Denny Crane-esque semi-retired legal legend finds himself leaving the peace and nature of his Vancouver Gulf Islands home for the bustling lights of Canada's capital, Ottawa.

The publisher's blurb states: "Arthur Beauchamp has followed his wife, the leader and first elected member of the Green Party, to Ottawa. But he hates it there: the cold, the politics, and his place in his wife’s shadow. So when a delegation of government officials from Bhashyistan is blown sky high on Bronson Avenue and the shares of a Calgary-based oil company promptly drop like a stone, Arthur is only too happy to jump to the defence of the missing suspected assassin."

You can read an extract of the latest Deverell novel HERE. It's not readily available here in NZ, but I'll be aiming to get my hands on a copy via Amazon or similar.

Other than book writing, Deverell has also written the screenplay Shellgame for CBC-TV drama, which served as the pilot for CBC's long-running series Street Legal, and he is the creator of that series, which has run internationally in more than 80 countries. He also authored several one-hour radio plays performed by the CBC in the Scales of Justice series and numerous film or TV scripts.

He is a founder and now honourary director of the B. C. Civil Liberties Association. In 1991-92, he served as Visiting Professor in the Creative Writing Department, University of Victoria. In 1994 he served as Chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, and again in 1999, and he is a member of the Canadian Writers Guild, PEN International, Canadian Mystery Writers.

He now lives on Pender Island, British Columbia, and in Costa Rica (during the Canadian winter) - both locations have featured in his books (well, a fictional version of a Gulf Island in the Beauchamp books).

Have any of you read William Deverell? What do you think of his writing? Do you enjoy his mix of crime, literary flourishes, quirky characters, and unique humour? Does that sound like a good recipe, if you haven't read him? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NZ crime on TV3's Sunrise show

Slowly but surely the word is seeping out that New Zealand has something of a growing crime and thriller fiction wave. We're still adding snowflakes to what will hopefully become a snowball, but every additional bit of mainstream media coverage is helpful, and another step on the road towards readers realising that we do have some good high quality crime and thriller fiction being written right here.

Hopefully over the coming months and years this will just continue to grow and grow - after all we have a population not far off Scotland's, and look how they support, appreciate, and celebrate their own crime writing and crime writers.

This morning on TV3's Sunrise show, book reviewer Gail Woodward had a segment talking about New Zealand crime, and she looked at the debut novels of Alix Bosco (CUT & RUN) and Lindy Kelly (BOLD BLOOD). You can watch the segment here.

I think the TV3 website subeditor got a little carried away with the headline - "New Zealand murder mystery novels take crime genre by storm" - that would be nice, but isn't quite true (yet).
I think that although in future Kiwi crime writers might very well take the genre 'by storm' (we certainly have some quality writers capable of making a big impression), we're not quite there yet...

Hopefully this sort of publicity will help build the recognition of New Zealand crime and thriller writers however, as they are still pretty overlooked in the local (and international) literary world.

Thoughts? Comments?

Have you read Paddy Richardson?

After a short hiatus, here is the tenth in this blog's (ir)regular series of author introductions on Kiwi crime, mystery, and thriller writers. Today I'm taking a look at Dunedin-based author Paddy Richardson, who released her first thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN, in late 2008.

59-year old Richardson, now a full-time writer living in Broad Bay, a beach settlement on the Otago Peninsula, says in a Q&A with her publisher Penguin NZ that she started writing seriously after going to an Otago University Summer School in Creative Writing.
She began with short stories, with which she has had much success, including being published in iconic literary journals Landfall and Takahe, and having her work be highly commended in several writing competitions, including the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Awards. She had also published a short story collection, CHOICES, in 1986.

Richardson won a prestigious Burns Fellowship in 1997, which gave her a full year with an office at the University of Otago to work on her writing. During this time she spent time on what would become her first published novel, THE COMPANY OF A DAUGHTER (Steele Roberts, 2000).
Although she has turned to thriller writing more recently, her first novel was squarely in the 'general fiction' category - a saga of five generations of New Zealand women, described as a "lyrical, slow-moving, meditative kind of novel".
Following THE COMPANY OF A DAUGHTER, Richardson continued to write short stories, as well as beginning work on what would later become her first thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN, while working fulltime teaching English at the Univeristy of Otago. She also taught fiction writing at the Otago Polytechnic, and published a second short story collection, IF WE WERE LEBANESE, in 2003.

The writing of her darker second novel, a thriller centred on a freelance journalist and an incarcerated serial rapist, progressed more rapidly when she won the Foxton Fellowship (now known as the Beatson Fellowhip), which let her take time out of her teaching job to write full-time for a month in a cottage at Foxton Beach on the Kapiti Coast, on the banks of the Manawatu River. She told the Otago Daily Times in a 2008 interview that not only did living at the cottage provide her with more time for writing, it also helped her with experiencing some of the creepy, isolated atmosphere she was trying to create in the novel: "I was writing an intense and frightening book at a beach where I knew no-one. I got that feeling of being threatened and isolated. I think it was a very good thing to happen while I was writing that novel."

Richardson also decided to give up full-time teaching to write full-time, around the same time.

Her second novel, and debut crime thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN features freelance writer Claire, who is hired by a dodgy lawyer to write a biography of an imprisoned serial rapist.

Wary but in financial need, she accepts the unclear assignment, and finds herself face-to-face with the chillingly charming Travis Crill - someone who seems completely unlike any 'rapist' images Claire had held. As Claire delves into how Crill came to be who he is, paranoia and fear begin affecting her, and unseen dangers have her spooked. Are they real, or in her mind?

I read A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN a few months after it was published, giving it a mixed grade for Good Reading magazine (2.5 out of 5) - there were some good things I really liked, and some flaws that somewhat bothered me. I am looking forward to Richardson's next thriller however, which is due out in soon.

HUNTING BLIND, released 1 February 2010, is reportedly a thriller focused on missing child. The publisher's blurb states: "On a perfect summer's day, at a school picnic beside a lake, a little girl goes missing, leaving a family devastated and a community asking questions. Seventeen years later her sister, Stephanie, is practising as a psychiatrist. A new patient's revelations force her to re-examine her sister's disappearance. Why are their stories so similar? Unable to let the matter rest, Stephanie embarks on a journey to find out what happened to her sister..."It is great to see another New Zealand author putting out multiple crime/thriller novels - Richardson joins a pleasing recent wave including Paul Cleave, Vanda Symon, Joan Druett, Andrea Jutson, and Michael Green, Hopefully Alix Bosco, Lindy Kelly, and Dorothy Fowler will all similarly follow suit, and continue in the crime/thriller genre beyond their debuts (adult fiction thriller debut in Kelly's case).

It would be fantastic to have a growing canon of Kiwi crime and thriller writing, fuelled and increasingly bolstered by several writers regularly putting out multiple books.

Have you read Paddy Richardson? Either her literary fiction or her thriller A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN? Does she sound like a writer that might interest you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My review of Stuart B. MacBride's HALFHEAD on Eurocrime

A review I wrote of HALFHEAD, Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride's first standalone novel outside of his acclaimed DS Logan McRae series, has now been published on EuroCrime.

HALFHEAD is set in a Glasgow of the future - a future of overcrowded super high-rise slums, militaristic police, and a new method for dealing with criminals. Serious offenders suffer half-heading; lobotomized and their lower jaw removed, they’re put to work as mindless drones cleaning public areas. However one murderous half-head ‘wakes up’ after six years, and sets out for revenge. She’s pursued by William Hunter, Assistant Director of the ‘Network’, who discovers his investigation is linked to a conspiracy to fuel violence amongst the underclass.

I enjoyed HALFHEAD, and will be reading more of MacBride (both his DS McRae series, and future standalones). You can read another review of HALFHEAD by fellow EuroCrime reviewer Paul Blackburn here.

MacBride is an award-winning crime writer, previously famous for his Aberdeen-set DS Logan McRae series (which he will be continuing). HALFHEAD (which he writes under the name Stuart B. MacBride) is based on a manuscript he wrote before he broke through a few years ago with his debut McRae novel COLD GRANITE.

As I've mentioned previously, I was fortunate enough to meet and interview MacBride while he was in New Zealand earlier this year. You can read more about that interview in this earlier blog post. Online subscribers to Good Reading can read my feature article on MacBride, which included discussion about HALFHEAD and was published in the October 2009 issue, here.

Have you read Stuart MacBride? What do you think of the DS Logan McRae series and/or HALFHEAD? What do you think of my review? Comments welcome.

Monday, October 26, 2009

D is for Dorothy Fowler

Continuing the fun series started by fellow Anzac and book blogger Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, where each week bloggers from around the world write about a notable crime fiction novel or author (first name or surname) starting with a particular letter of the alphabet, this week is the turn of "D".

Given that I've blogged on a couple of internationals (James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly) the past couple of weeks, and that in my "A" post I said I would regularly sprinkle my contributions with a New Zealand-related post or two, this week I am going to feature new Kiwi mystery writer Dorothy Fowler. Her debut novel WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, an archaeological mystery, was published earlier this year, and she is speaking at at the first ever Waiheke Island books festival, Words on a Small Island, later this week.

Dorothy Fowler lives on Waiheke Island, a gulf island in the Auckland harbour, and has come to writing a little later in life.

Her path to publication is a little unusual; she had returned to university as an adult student after many years of diverse jobs, including renovating houses and boat building, when she decided to take a creative writing course as part of completing her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in ancient history and archaeology. Her creative writing tutor happened to be iconic New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera, whose award-winning works have included the book that became acclaimed film Whale Rider.

After taking one creative writing course with Ihimaera, Fowler was hooked, and went on to a place in a small but diverse class in Ihimaera's very selective Masters programme - during which time she worked on WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, mentored by both Ihimaera and award-winning New Zealand author Emily Perkins.

"None of us had done our first degree in English,” said Fowler to her hometown newspaper Gulf News, when talking about the course in which students were asked to write a 70-90,000 word novel to second draft stage between March and October. “There were two psychologists, one lawyer, a girl who’d done a Masters in German, and another who had a Masters in Russian. We became close and started an informal wine drinking group as well.”

Fowler wrote what became WHAT REMAINS BEHIND during the course, and she was thrilled when it was picked up for publication by Random House New Zealand soon after - the only manuscript from a new writer they are publishing this year (from the 600 or so they receive from hopeful new/unpublished writers annually).

WHAT REMAINS BEHIND is a mystery set amongst the excavation of a site of a religious Kaipara Harbour community, which burnt to the ground in the 1880s. As the site is uncovered, so are secrets, and unpalatable truths are revealed about the events on the night of the fire. The publisher's blurb states: "When Chloe digs up more than shards of pottery, she realises that the site holds secrets that will not stay buried, and their effect on the present is devastating. Moving between a diary written in the 1880s and the current day, this compelling novel has murder, mystery, love, lust - and archaeology."

You can read an extract from WHAT REMAINS BEHIND here.

I read WHAT REMAINS BEHIND several weeks ago, and overall I enjoyed the read. It has a slow build, and pulls you in gradually, unfolding leisurely rather than having an early/graphic hook - so it may not suit some hardboiled or police procedural fans, but cosy and amateur detective fans are likely to really enjoy it (although it isn't a classicly-structured Golden Age-style whodunnit). You can read my full review of the archaeological mystery here.

Speaking to the Gulf News, Fowler described her taste in fiction as ‘classic whodunnits’; Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh. “But I didn’t realise how much craft goes into the writing. For this novel, I mapped it all out and knew where I was heading. For my next one, which I’ve already started, I am playing it a bit more by ear. If there’s a third, I think I’ll go back to having a more detailed plan before I start.”

Fowler has recently emailed me saying she is currently on the second draft of the next Chloe Davis novel, which will be set on Waiheke Island. It's great to see more Kiwi crime/thriller/mystery novelists coming through, and I look forward to her next offering.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CUT & RUN in Weekend Herald

Following on from my review of Alix Bosco's (a pseudonym) debut crime thriller CUT & RUN in the Nelson Mail this week, and NZLawyer earlier this month, another publication I write for, the Canvas magazine in the Weekend Herald, has also published a review of the book today.

Fortunately for the publicists and author, this review in New Zealand's largest newspaper is not merely a different version of my earlier thoughts on the book, but a review by someone with a fair bit more crime fiction cachet than me - acclaimed Kiwi writer Paul Thomas.

If you are in New Zealand, you can read the review in this weekend's issue of the Weekend Herald. It's on page 38 of the Canvas magazine insert (the lifestyle/features mag in the weekend edition of the newspaper).

Unfortunately, Canvas magazine articles aren't available online. However, in summary Thomas gives a nice review of the book, after talking a little about the tradition of author pseudonymns, and concludes by saying: "this bleak, topical novel is a substantial achievement and a welcome addition to the slim canon of New Zealand crime fiction".

UPDATE: this review has now been put online. You can read Paul Thomas' full review of CUT & RUN here.

All of the reviews I've read so far, along with other people I've talked to who have read the book, have been very positive. Hopefully the Kiwi book-buying public will start to get more behind our local crime fiction, especially when it is of good quality, and comparable (or even better) than many of the overseas crime/thriller titles we buy in droves. It would be great to see the NZ Adult Fiction bestseller lists be equally speckled with crime/thriller writing, as our International Adult Fiction bestseller lists always are every single week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Harlan Coben wins first-ever Bestseller Dagger

Further to my posts yesterday commenting on two of the major winners at the 2009 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards (which will be televised on ITV3 next week - at 9pm on 27 October), I thought I would also address in more detail one of the other major winners on the night; US thriller writer Harlan Coben, who won the first-ever Bestseller Dagger, a brand new award voted by the public during the first three weeks of September.

Coben's win may have been something of a surprise, considering it is being reported as having been British voters who gave him the award ahead of four 'homegrown' crime writers: Alexander McCall Smith, Nicci French, Dick Francis, and Martina Cole. However, as I noted on 8 September, internationals could vote online as well - although no doubt a large percentage of the voters were British.
The blurb from the award organisers said: "The reward for consistently good writing is the ability to sell books by name alone, then comes bestsellerdom and commercial success. The five authors on this shortlist all have many bestsellers to their name but who is your favourite and who should win the ITV3 Bestsellers Dagger?"

The Guardian reported Coben, who'd travelled to the Crime Writers' Association's Crime Thriller awards ceremony from his home in New Jersey with his 10-year-old son, as saying it was a real thrill to win the first-ever Bestseller Dagger. "The only time I'd have expected to be on a list with those four names is in a restaurant, so it's just sort of stunning ... Maybe there's a little more love for me in the UK [than there is in the US]."

Coben said he was particularly pleased to win a prize voted for by readers. "The readers are the ones who let us live our dreams," he said. "I try to write books which are really compelling – that you'd take on vacation and rather than going out, you'd read in your hotel room because you had to find out what happened. Hopefully that's what readers are responding to."
As I said on 8 September, it is unclear how the five shortlisted authors were chosen over other bestselling crime/thriller writers (Michael Connelly? Ian Rankin? Mark Billingham? Stieg Larsson? James Patterson?) for this inaugural award, but no one could argue that they each sell massive quantities of their books, and are bonafide 'bestsellers'.

In terms of the five shortlisted authors, I myself voted for Coben (although my vote might have been different if other big-name bestsellers had been included), and am glad to see him win, especially as I enjoyed his latest Myron Bolitar book (see my review of LONG LOST) earlier this year.

Probably the most on-point comment from my review is: "A thriller of the highest standard. It takes a true master to have the reader laughing out loud one moment, and squirming the next."

The New Jersey native is no stranger to winning awards - since he published his debut DEAL BREAKER (the first Myron Bolitar novel) in 1995, he has racked up an impressive trophy cabinet. He is reportedly the first writer to have won an Edgar Award, a Shamus Award, and an Anthony Award (which some consider the top three US crime writing awards). He has also won France's Le Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle for fiction award (for his standalone TELL NO ONE), amongst other award wins, nominations, and accolades.

What do you think of Harlan Coben's win in the ITV3 Bestseller Dagger? Have you read any or his, or the other nominees, books? Who is your favourite 'big-name', or 'bestselling' crime or thriller writer? Comments welcome.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Hart wins the Steel Dagger

Further to my earlier post about former Franciscan friar and practising barrister William Brodrick winning the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger overnight (NZT) at the 2009 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards (which will be televised on ITV3 later next week), here is a run-down on one of the other major winners on the night:

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2009 (for the year’s best thriller) went to North Carolina author John Hart, for his novel THE LAST CHILD, beating out some strong competition from Michael Connelly (the Anthony Award-winning THE BRASS VERDICT), Gillian Flynn (DARK PLACES - see review), Charlies Newton (CALUMET CITY), Daniel Silva (MOSCOW RULES), Olen Steinhauser (THE TOURIST) and Andrew Williams (THE INTERROGATOR) in what the judges called "an exceptionally strong, literary short list".

According to the CWA website, Hart is "the Edgar-Award winning author of two international bestsellers, THE KING OF LIES and DOWN RIVER. His books have been translated into twenty-six languages and published in over thirty countries. He was born in North Carolina in 1965, and lives with his wife and two young children in Rowan County. He has degrees in French, accounting and law, and worked as a banker, stockbroker and attorney before beginning his writing career."

On his own website, Hart calls himself a “recovering attorney”, while noting he also worked as an apprentice helicopter mechanic. It says that "other than writing, his favorite job was pouring pints in a London pub. A husband and father of two, John still lives in his native North Carolina, where he writes full-time."

I've actually had THE LAST CHILD in my TBR pile for a little while now (one of my colleagues reviewed it for the mag I intended to review if for, so it got put temporarily aside), so I am kind of kicking myself that I hadn't got to it yet. I don't read books based on awards, but hearing about Hart's win led me to do some more research about the book, and his writing career, which has collectively sparked my interest in the story and his writing (rather than the mere fact he won the award). I also spent a fair chunk of time in North Carolina during 2006-2008 (3-4 months each year), so the fact he is a writer from there also added to my interest, as well as the fact he is a former lawyer (like myself), but he hasn't written a courtroom thriller.

So I think it's jumping to the top of the pile and getting read this weekend, and then I will place a review in a publication or two (linked on here of course).

On his website he says: "I have three great passions: my family, my writing, and the protection of North Carolina’s open spaces. In time, I hope to make room for more. For now, however, that’s it; and it’s enough."

The panel of judges for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger called THE LAST CHILD "Accomplished and ambitious piece of southern gothic. It is beautifully rendered, with a cast of memorable characters - full of pathos, atmosphere and mystery. A cracking and original story."

The extended publishers' blurb about THE LAST CHILD says:

Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is---confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing . . .

Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.

You can read an interview with Hunt in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel here.

Have any of you read John Hart? THE LAST CHILD? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Former Franciscan Friar wins CWA Gold Dagger

Overnight (NZT), the prestigious The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2009 were hosted by comedian Alan Davies at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

The culmination of a six-week season of ITV3 crime and drama programming, the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2009 will be televised on ITV3 on Tuesday, 27th October at 9pm. The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement. You can read a lot more about the Daggers, and see lists of all of the previous winners, on the CWA website here.

Former Franciscan friar and practising barrister William Brodrick won the top award, the CWA Gold Dagger, for his novel A WHISPERED NAME. The judges described the book as "A moving novel that stretches the parameters of the crime genre, intertwining past and present and throwing light on a neglected aspect of World War One."

It seems the passion for historic settings is running hot in crime fiction, just as it is in literary fiction (as shown by the recent Man Booker nominees and winner etc).

The publisher's blurb for A WHISPERED NAME states: "When Father Anselm meets Kate Seymour in the cemetery at Larkwood, he is dismayed to hear her allegation. Herbert Moore had been one of the founding fathers of the Priory, revered by all who met him, a man who'd shaped Anselm's own vocation. The idea that someone could look on his grave and speak of a lie is inconceivable.

But Anselm soon learns that Herbert did indeed have secrets in his past that he kept hidden all his life. In 1917, during the terrible slaughter of the Passchendaele campaign, a soldier faced a court martial for desertion. Herbert, charged with a responsibility that would change the course of his life, sat upon the panel that judged him. In coming to understand the court martial, Anselm discovers its true significance: a secret victory that transformed the young Captain Moore and shone a light upon the horror of war."

You can read The Times review of the novel HERE, and The Telegraph review HERE.

According to the CWA website, Brodrick grew up in Britain, Australia and Canada, receiving various forms of Catholic education. On leaving school he became an Friar. After completing his novitiate in Ireland, Brodrick was sent to a parish-based community in London while attending Heythrop College, where he took degrees in philosophy and theology. He subsequently left the Order and worked with the homeless, helping to set up a charity, the Depaul Trust.

He then studied law and began practise as a barrister, specialising in personal injury. Of his career at the bar, he says, ‘It was everything that I liked; courteous argument, independence of thought and a civilised environment’. He now lives with his wife and young children in France.

The other books shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger (best crime novel of the year) were:
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
In the Dark by Mark Billingham
Hit and Run by Lawrence Block
The Coroner by M R Hall
Dark Times In The City by Gene Kerrigan

I will post more about some of the other awards winners shortly.

Thoughts on Brodrick's win? The other shortlisted books? Comments welcome...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My review of CUT & RUN in the Nelson Mail

A review I wrote of debutant Kiwi crime writer Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN was published in today's issue of the Nelson Mail newspaper. You can read the review HERE.

In CUT & RUN, middle-aged legal researcher Anna Markunas, who has been getting back on her feet after dealing with a number of workplaces stresses (she is a former social worker) and family tragedies/challenges, finds there may be far more to the murder of a celebrated athlete in the arms of a celebrity socialite than the drugs-deal-gone-wrong killing most assume it was.

You can read the first chapter of CUT & RUN here. You can also read Kerre Woodham (Paper Plus celebrity reviewer's) review here, and Jo Taylor (Latitude magazine Editor's) review here.

I enjoyed CUT & RUN, and look forward to seeing what Bosco comes up with for her next Markunas novel. Have you read CUT & RUN? What do you think of Anna Markunas as a protagonist? What do you think of my review?

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Event Cancellation: Bronwyn Sell at Takapuna Library

Unfortunately I have just learned this morning that the NZ Book Month event scheduled for 22 October at the Takapuna Library, featuring journalist Bronwyn Sell talking about her recent book LAW BREAKERS & MISCHIEF MAKERS: 50 NOTORIOUS NEW ZEALANDERS, has been indefinitely cancelled due to an illness.

At this stage there are no set plans for if or when an event with Ms Sell will go ahead in future, although there are some hopes the library may be able to schedule a replacement event with her for early 2010.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet - C is for Connelly

As I noted last Tuesday, my fellow Anzac and book blogger Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise has created a great series where each week bloggers from around the world write about a notable crime fiction novel or author (first name or surname) starting with a particular letter of the alphabet, all linking to each other.

This week it is the turn of "C", which should provide my fellow book bloggers with many fantastic crime fiction books and authors to cover. I guess being the New Zealand 'voice', it might make sense for me to cover Paul Cleave, who is a rising star on the international stage. However I have already blogged about Cleave quite a lot lately (and no doubt will do more so in future, such as when his fourth book BLOOD MEN is released early next year), so instead I decided last week to write a "C" post about one of my all-time favourite crime writers, Michael Connelly, since I have just finished his latest Harry Bosch novel, NINE DRAGONS.

Given the events at Bouchercon over the weekend, when Connelly won the Anthony Award for his 2008 Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller novel THE BRASS VERDICT, it seems even more appropriate that Connelly is featured during our "C" week.

Put simply, you could make a strong argument that Michael Connelly is the biggest name in modern crime writing (over the past decade-plus). His books are loved by readers and critics alike, in dozens of countries around the world. Since his debut novel THE BLACK ECHO introduced both his storytelling, and his tremendous detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, to the reading world in 1992, Connelly has written 20 more novels (which have collectively been translated into 35 languages, and won most major mystery writing awards), several short stories, been the President of Mystery Writers of America (MWA), and edited several short story collections.

Born 21 July 1956 in Philadelphia, Connelly was introduced to mystery fiction by his mother, an avid reader. He grew up an inquisitive eldest child in Philadelphia, where his father was a sometimes-successful property developer, before the family moved to Fort Lauderdale, (Florida) when Connelly was 11. It was there that as a 16-year old he found himself involved in a police investigation when he witnessed a man dump a package that turned out to be a gun. However, he still headed to college (the University of Florida in Gainesville) intending to follow in his father's footsteps as a property developer.

It was while at the University of Florida that Connelly watched the Robert Altman film adaptation of Raymond Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE, which spurred him to head home, begin reading all of Chandler's books, and switch his major from building/trade to journalism, with a minor in creative writing.

Over the next twelve years after he graduated in 1980, Connelly worked as a crime beat reporter at first the Daytona Beach News Journal, then the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel (where he covered the South Florida cocaine wars), then the Los Angeles Times. He married his college sweetheart Linda McCaleb (Connelly fans will recognise the surname), and then in 1986 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a heavily-researched story he wrote (with two other journalists) on the survivors of the 1985 Delta Flight 191 plane crash. That story sparked his shift to Los Angeles, for a job as a crime reporter at the Los Angeles Times.

Three years after joining the LA Times, Connelly's first novel THE BLACK ECHO was published (it was the third manuscript he'd written, but the first he'd tried to get published). The novel is the first of 15 Connelly novels to star Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch (who does also make small appearances in some others), Connelly's signature detective who shares his name with a 15th century painter who portrayed debauchery, violence, and "a world gone mad" in his work.

Bosch is a Vietnam veteran who has been demoted to Hollywood Homicide (from the prestigious LAPD Robbery-Homicide division) after he killed the main suspect in the Dollmaker serial killings. He finds himself investigating the murder of a fellow former 'tunnel rat', who might have been connected to a series of large-scale bank robberies. The debut also introduces a number of other characters who will play a significant part in the ongoing series, including Bosch's partner Jerry Edgar, and FBI Agent Eleanor Wish. THE BLACK ECHO won the MWA Edgar Award for Best First Novel.
Connelly continued working as a reporter while writing his next three novels (THE BLACK ICE, THE CONCRETE BLONDE and THE LAST COYOTE), all featuring Bosch, before leaving journalism to write full-time. He'd received some nice publicity when TV cameras caught then-President Bill Clinton with a copy of THE CONCRETE BLONDE.

But although he left journalism for fulltime crime writing, his profession still founds its way into his writing life - his next novel, THE POET, departed from Bosch and centred on crime beat reporter Jack McEvoy, who is investigating the apparent-suicide death of his policeman brother. This novel also introduced occasionally-recurring character FBI Agent Rachel Walling. Even without Bosch, THE POET continued Connelly's success with critics and readers, and won the 1997 Dilys Award from the Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association.

It was also the first Connelly book that I personally read - stumbling over it in a Nelson (New Zealand) bookstore around a decade ago, I was intrigued by the story of a reporter investigating his policeman brother's death, so I bought it, then read it, and loved it. It was one of those great 'discoveries' you can have as a reader with a 'new author', when you find an author that until then you'd never heard of, you really like their writing, and then you are rapt to find out they've been around for a while, so they have several other books you can read. You can read an excerpt from THE POET here.

After THE POET, Connelly continued with the Bosch series, as well as the occasional standalone (such as 1998's BLOOD WORK, which was made into a movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, 2000's VOID MOON, and 2002's THE LINCOLN LAWYER).

Over the more recent years Connelly has developed a habit of linking some of his popular characters from the standalones with Bosch and bringing them into that ongoing series (15 books and counting, including the recently-released NINE DRAGONS), as well as writing further books starring them. This creates a great sense of 'one larger world' in Connelly's writing, where all the characters from different books and stories connect.

For instance, FBI profiler Terry McCaleb stars in BLOOD WORK (1998), and then crosses paths with Bosch later in A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT (2001), as well as playing an important role in THE NARROWS (2004). Down-on-his-luck defense attorney Mickey Haller is introduced in THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2002) before sharing billing with Bosch in Anthony Award-winning THE BRASS VERDICT (2008), and making a guest appearance in NINE DRAGONS (2009).

Reporter McEvoy survives THE POET, before appearing in Bosch book A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, Bosch/Haller book THE BRASS VERDICT, and starring in his own 'sequel' THE SCARECROW (2009). FBI Agent Rachel Walling works with McEvoy in THE POET and THE SCARECROW, and with Bosch in THE NARROWS (2004), ECHO PARK (2006), and THE OVERLOOK (2007).

"It's all part of the same canvas," said Connelly to the Wall Street Journal in 2006 when describing the way his various books tie together. "The main character of all this is Harry Bosch, and his real name is Hieronymous Bosch; and the starting-point of all this was the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch," whose grotesque 15th-century visions find oblique parallels through Connelly's modern-day tales. In a Bosch picture, Connelly noted, there are "many different stories going on . . . but they're all part of the same painting. . . . Things in one corner might not appear to be connected to something in the opposite corner; but when you step further back and see the painting as a whole, then it all fits together."

Adding yet another dimension to Harry Bosch's canvas, noted the Wall Street Journal, are many real-life people--police officers, judges, bookstore owners, art historians--who make cameo appearances under their own names in Connelly's fiction.

Bosch himself has become such an LA crime institution that other crime writers have taken to linking to Connelly's main character - with the LA-based detective making named and unnamed cameos in several authors' writings. NoCal writer Joe Gores referenced Bosch in CONS, SCAMS & GRIFTS (2001), having some of his Bay Area cops say: "Well, we were talking with Harry Bosch down at the Hollywood station; there's a murder down there, and he's gonna look into it for us." Connelly and fellow big-name LA crime writer Robert Crais (PI Elvis Cole novels) have also had their respective heroes make cameos in each other's books - unnamed but intentionally clear enough for long-time fans.

Connelly's latest book is NINE DRAGONS, which takes Bosch in a new direction - travelling to Hong Kong to try and rescue his kidnapped daughter. You can read an excerpt of NINE DRAGONS here, and you can watch a video of Michael Connelly talking about the book in Hong Kong here.

Over the 17 years since his crime writing debut, Connelly's books have won the Edgar, Anthony (thrice), Macavity (twice), Dilys (twice), Nero, Barry (twice), Audie, Ridley, Maltese Falcon (Japan), .38 Caliber (France), Grand Prix (France), and Premio Bancarella (Italy) awards. Along with dozens of other shortlistings/nominations.

As I noted yesterday, he has just won the Anthony Award again, for THE BRASS VERDICT, at the 2009 Bouchercon ceremony, where he was also the Guest of Honour (it is his third Anthony Award for Best Novel, after also winning it in 1999 for BLOOD WORK and 2003 for CITY OF BONES).

His bibliography thusfar runs as follows:

Harry Bosch series
The Black Echo (1992)
The Black Ice (1993)
The Concrete Blonde (1994)
The Last Coyote (1995)
Trunk Music (1997)
Angels Flight (1999)
A Darkness More Than Night (2001)
City Of Bones (2002)
Lost Light (2003)
The Narrows (2004)
The Closers (2005)
Echo Park (2006)

Other novelsThe Poet (1996), about Jack McEvoy & Rachel Walling
Blood Work (1998), about Terry McCaleb
Void Moon (2000), about Cassie Black
Chasing the Dime (2002), about Henry Pierce
The Lincoln Lawyer (2005) about Mickey Haller
The Scarecrow (2009), about Jack McEvoy & Rachel Walling

So what do you guys think of Michael Connelly? Have you read his novels? What do you think of Harry Bosch as a protagonist? Do you prefer the Bosch novels or the standalones with other main characters?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the Anthony Award goes to (envelope please) ... Michael Connelly!

A few hours ago, the Gala ceremony for the 2009 Anthony Awards was held at the Bouchercon event in Indianapolis. With a grateful nod to The Rap Sheet (who were in attendance) for the heads-up, news of this year's winners is quickly being spread.

As Maxine Clarke predicted in a comment on my blog post before the event, the two big winners on the night (well, afternoon), were Michael Connelly for THE BRASS VERDICT (Best Novel) and Stieg Larsson for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (Best First Novel). Good to see the Americans starting to catch up with what Europe and some of the rest of the world have grown to appreciate about Larsson over the past few years.

THE BRASS VERDICT is Connelly's second novel to feature defence attorney Mickey Haller (who debuted in THE LINCOLN LAWYER), and also brings Haller and Connelly's most-loved main character, Harry Bosch, together - Bosch is investigating the murder of a Hollywood lawyer, while Haller has taken over that lawyer's most high-profile case, the defense of a prominent Hollwyood executive accused of slaughtering his wife and her lover.

You can read an extract of THE BRASS VERDICT here.

The Anthony Awards are chosen by the attendees at Bouchercon each year. The other category winners this year were:

Best Paperback Original: STATE OF THE ONION by Julie Hyzy

Best Short Story: “A Sleep Not Unlike Death,” by Sean Chercover (from HARDCORE HARDBOILED, edited by Todd Robinson) - note Chercover was also shortlisted for Best Novel.

Best Critical Non-fiction Work: ANTHONY BOUCHER: A BIOBIBLIOGRAPHY, by Jeffrey Marks

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel: THE CROSS ROADS, by Chris Grabenstein

Best Cover Art: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO designed by Peter Mendelsund and written by Stieg Larsson (Knopf) - note the US cover (pictured left) is quite different to the covers of this book I have seen in other countries (including the NZ/Aust copy I have).

Special Service Award: Jon and Ruth Jordan of Crimespree magazine fame.

Thoughts/comments on the winners and/or the event welcome.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting your hands on Kiwi crime fiction from overseas

Well over the weeks since I started this blog, I've had several comments or emails about sourcing New Zealand crime fiction overseas, given that much of it is only currently available in New Zealand and Australia (or Germany, in translation).

Ngaio Marsh is a bit easier to find overseas, Paul Cleave has now been released in the UK at last, and Joan Druett has been published in the USA, but there are plenty of other great Kiwi authors that you won't be able to find in overseas bookstores, or even on Amazon or online stores like that. That's one of the reasons I ran my competition a few weeks ago, to give people a chance to get their hands on some New Zealand crime fiction and give it a go.

Today I was surfing the 'net, looking for some information on a Kiwi writer, and I stumbled across a pretty cool online bookstore, based in New Zealand, that actually has a surprisingly large array of locally-written crime fiction available (including many books that are hard to find in stores here), and delivers worldwide.
It's called New Zealand Books Abroad, and you can check out their crime selection HERE.
In terms of full disclosure, I have no affiliation whatsoever with this store, and in fact only found out about them very recently. I was surprised by their choice of titles, and the worldwide delivery, so I thought I'd let you readers know about them. If you're keen on trying some NZ crime fiction that isn't yet easily available in your location, it could be a good option.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Twas the night before Bouchercon...

In a few short hours, many American-based crime fiction fans will wake up to a day almost as exciting as Christmas - the arrival of Bouchercon 2009!

Living in one of the best places on earth (New Zealand) is great and all, but at times like these, I do occasionally get a little green around the gills for my fellow crime fiction afficianados in the USA and Europe that have much easier access to great events such as this.

The 40th edition of the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is four days (15-18 October) packed with dozens and dozens and dozens of great authors, great events, and great times. You can see this year's programme HERE (26 pages of event listings - sheesh). Interestingly there is an adult programme, and a children's programme as well - which seems like a great idea for a literary festival.

Obviously there are too many highlights to mention them all, but a huge one must be that this year's Guest of Honour is bestselling crime writer Michael Connelly (who will be interviewed by fellow crime writer Michael Koryta at a whole-conference special event). Throughout the four days attendees have a choice of several great events at each time slot (concurrent events), but there are also specific 'whole conference' events which do not have any clashes on the programme (special events) - such as Connelly's talk, and the gala ceremony for the Anthony Awards, which are announced each year at Bouchercon.

The nominees for the 2009 Anthony Awards for Best Novel and Best First Novel are:

Best Novel
Trigger City by Sean Chercover [William Morrow]
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly [Little, Brown and Company]
Red Knife by William Kent Krueger [Atria]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson [Knopf]
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny [Minotaur]

Best First Novel
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris [Minotaur]
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer [Doubleday]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson [Knopf]
Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliet [Midnight Ink]
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith [Grand Central]

You can see the nominees for the other Anthony Awards here.

So are any of you going to Boucheron? What are you most looking forward to? Have you been to events in previous years? Who would you like to see win the Anthony Awards?