Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Good Reading magazine: crime fiction contents in February

As I said last year, one of the magazines I write reviews and books-related features for is Good Reading, the Australian-based "magazine for book lovers". Each month the magazine has dozens of reviews of new or recent books, news from around the literary world, and several features articles (including author interviews, literature-related travel articles, overviews of different sub-genres, and much more). It's a cool magazine, and I am proud to write for them.

The great thing is, if you aren't able to get your hands on a hard copy in Australia or New Zealand, you can become an online subscriber (for a low price), allowing you access to not only the current issue, but a massive database of archived feature articles (including more than 200 great author interviews), thousands of books reviews, and more. You can find more information HERE. Depending on where you are, your local library may have an online subscription, allowing you to access content through them as well (I know members of Auckland City Libraries are in that situation).

As you can imagine, I concentrate mainly on crime/thriller fiction when it comes to my contributions to Good Reading. Each month I'll give you a heads-up on ALL the crime or thriller-related content in the upcoming issue (ie not just my articles/reviews). For the February issue which is now on the shelves, that includes:

“Lost in Translation” (by Daniel Herborn) – an article focusing on some “forgotten foreign gems that have been translated into the English language”, Herborn surveys a number of translated works, including some brief comments about translated crime, including Henning Mankell’s FACELESS KILLERS and Peter Hoeg’s SMILLA’S FEELING FOR SNOW.

"The Family that Writes Together" (by Craig Sisterson) - an article on the remarkable Kellerman family, where both parents and two of the children are published authors. Based on two interviews with prodigious and award-winning crime writers Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, this article also addresses the work of oldest son Jesse (now an acclaimed author of literary crime novels, e.g. SUNSTROKE, THE BRUTAL ART) and youngest daughter Aliza, who co-authored her first book with Faye while still at high school (the teen fantasy PRISM).

Anyone can view Good Reading's books database online, which includes information about the book, a note of which issue it was featured in, and a snippet from the review (subscribers can see the full reviews). The crime/thriller books reviewed in the February issue are outlined below - the reviewers this month are myself (CS), Leslie Lightfoot (LL), Alan Gold (AG), Alex Fraser (AF), Linda George (LG), and Clive Hodges (CH).

By Richard North Patterson (3½ stars – LL
This thriller charts the impact of the brutal murder of black co-ed Angela Hall at Caldwell College in Wayne, Ohio, on gifted athlete Mark Darrow, who discovered the body and later became a nationally renowned lawyer. Mark's best friend was convicted of the crime, but many aspects of the trial troubled Mark. Then his former mentor offers Mark the post of college president 16 years after Angela's murder. Mark agrees to return to Caldwell, now struggling with the suspected embezzlement of $900,000 from its endowment by its current president. With Lionel's support, Mark investigates both the embezzlement and the old murder; his probing hitting local nerves, with fatal results.

By Joe Gores (3 stars – AG)
Written as a prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s classic, this new crime novel focuses on the lives of the main characters leading up to THE MALTESE FALCON. 1921: Spade sets up his own agency in San Francisco and clients quickly start coming through the door. The next seven years will see him dealing with booze runners, waterfront thugs, stowaways, banking swindlers, gold smugglers, bumbling cops, and the illegitimate daughter of Sun Yat-sen; with murder, other men’s mistresses, and long-missing money. He’ll bring in Archer as a partner, though it was Archer who stole his girl while he was fighting in World War I. He’ll tangle with a villain who never loses his desire to make Spade pay big for ruining what should’ve been the perfect crime. And he’ll fall in love—though it won’t turn out for the best. It never does with dames…

By Dan Wells (3½ stars – LL)
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it. He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential. He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means. Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

By John Hart (5 stars – CS)
Johnny Merrimon is a 13-year old boy who looks 10, but has seen and endured more than most 60 year olds. His twin sister disappeared a year ago, his father cracked under the pressure and left, and his mother has given up; turning to drugs and a relationship with a rich but abusive man. A burnt-out cop tries to help but has his own issues, and Johnny finds himself alone on a vigilante mission. Then another young girl goes missing, and a dying man’s last words fuel Johnny’s long-held hope. Winner of the 2009 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

By Various Authors (2½ stars – AF)
All the short stories in CRIMESPOTTING are brand new and specially commissioned. The brief was deceptively simple - each story must be set in Edinburgh and feature a crime. The results range from hard-boiled police procedural to historical whodunit and from the wildly comic to the spookily supernatural. Authors include Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson, Denise Mina, Irvine Welsh, and Canadian literary stalwart Margaret Atwood.

By Sarah Rayne (3 stars – LG)
The old Tarleton music hall is the subject of a mysterious building restriction that has kept it closed for more than 90 years. When Robert Fallon is asked to survey the structure, he finds clues indicating that its long twilight sleep may contain a sinister secret. Joining forces with researcher Hilary Bryant, Robert discovers the legend of the Tarleton's ghost, a mysterious figure that was first glimpsed during the era of Toby Chance, a charismatic performer who vanished suddenly and inexplicably in the early 1900s. After almost a century the Tarleton's dark silence is about to end, but there are those who find its reopening a threatening prospect. As Robert and Hilary delve into the macabre history, they both become menaced by the secrets of the past.

By Stella Rimington (4 stars – AF)
MI5 intelligence officer Liz Carlyle has just been despatched to Northern Ireland. It's a promotion, and she'll be running agents - her favourite activity - but it also means being separated from Charles Wetherby, her old boss, recently widowed and a very close friend. Attachments in the Intelligence Services are not encouraged: it seems her superiors know more about Liz's life than she thinks. In Belfast, Liz and her team are monitoring the brutal breakaway Republican groups who never accepted the peace process and want to continue their 'war'. Intelligence is focused on the shady Fraternity, with links to drug-running, arms-dealing and organised crime. With some help from Special Branch and a volunteer informant who seems to be legit, the Fraternity's leader is identified as a cold, calculating and ruthless American, hijacking the Cause for his own financial ends. It is a perilous group to become involved with. Especially if your informant turns tail...

By Henning Mankell (4 stars – CH

A massacre in the remote Swedish village of Hesjövallen propels this stand-alone thriller. Judge Birgitta Roslin, whose mother grew up in the village, comes across diaries from the house of one of the 19 mostly elderly victims kept by Jan Andrén, an immigrant ancestor of Roslin's. The diaries cover Andrén's time as a foreman on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the United States. An extended flashback charts the journey of a railroad worker, San, who was kidnapped in China and shipped to America in 1863. After finding evidence linking a mysterious Chinese man to the Hesjövallen murders, Roslin travels to Beijing, suspecting that the motive for the horrific crime is rooted in the past.

By Peter Robinson (3½ stars – CS)
A collection of ten short stories and a brand-new DCI Banks novella, these tales veer from World War I to the present day, from police procedural to noir to touches of horror, and from Robinson’s childhood home of Yorkshire to his modern-day abode in Toronto (and several places in between).


So have you read Good Reading? What do you think of the magazine? What crime/thriller authors would you like to see interviewed and featured in future? Have you read any of the books or authors reviewed of featured? What do you think of them? Do you agree with the ratings? Suggestions and comments welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Craig - Please stop by my blog. Something awaits you there : ).