Saturday, February 27, 2010
Written by Arifa Akbar, the article, entitled "Crimes of a century: Sara Paretsky on fiction, power and the open case of race in America" contains a number of interesting issues and insights, including Paretsky's thoughts on Obama (who is from the same suburb), and Martin Luther King Jr, her history of railing against racism, how she has incorporated important issues such as ongoing racial prejudice, and Chicago corruption into her detective novels, and how her iconic detective was spawned from anger at the stereotypical women in (hardboiled) detective fiction.
You can read the entire article (highly recommended) here.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The latest Child novel, 61 HOURS, includes a cliff-hanger ending, and, unusually, there is a second Child book due out later in 2010 (he usually writes one per year, always published around March).
I will be interviewing Lee Child by phone in the coming weeks, for an article to time with his visit to New Zealand in April, so I will see what I can get out of him (if anything) then. Publicity move, or is he about to pull a Rankin, and 'retire' his main hero so he can move on to something else?
You can follow the conversation about the news on Beattie's blog, HERE. It's a blog well worth visiting regularly, as Beattie is always at the forefront of book-related news and happenings.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
While successful films or TV shows can bring fascinating detectives to much-deserved wider attention, and perhaps lead to more people reading good books, they also run the risk of alienating some (or many) fans if they don't potray the lead character in 'the right way' (which of course is incredibly subjective, and will vary from fan to fan, reader to reader).
Film and television history is littered with good and bad adaptations (and of course some people will dislike those generally thought of as good, and some will love those generally thought of as bad). One of the most recent book-to-screen detectives (the latest in a long line, in this particular case) was Robert Downey Jr's much-lauded performance as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Although there is general consensus that Downey Jr was great in Guy Ritchie's 'new take' on the famous Baker Street-dwelling detective, some crime fiction afficianados weren't impressed.
Like Holmes, Agatha Christie's books and characters have received various on-screen treatments. In fact, despite appearing in dozens and dozens of films, TV shows, and theatre productions, over the past few decades, British actor David Suchet is perhaps almost synonymous, in a visual sense, with Christie's eccentric Belgian investigator, Hercule Poirot. British television does of course have a grand tradition of bringing book-born detectives to life on screen, from John Thaw's longstanding portrayal of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, to Robson Green as Val McDermid's Tony Hill in Wire in the Blood, to Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan teaming up as Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe.
It is also interesting to see the different perspectives and attitudes many modern-day mystery and crime writers take when it comes to any potential adaptations of the characters they've created. For instance, award-winning LA crime novelist Robert Crais has had standalones made into movies (e.g. Hostage, starring Bruce Willis), but says he will sell the rights to his popular series characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Another famous LA crime writer, Michael Connelly, has had one of his standalones, BLOOD WORK made into a 2002 movie starring (and directed by) Clint Eastwood, but his most famous character, Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, hasn't yet made it to the big screen (despite several Hollywood studios being interested, and taking initial steps).
Robert B. Parker's famous Boston detective Spenser was adapted for the 1980s TV series Spenser for Hire, while his Jesse Stone books have become a series of quality telemovies starring Tom Selleck in the lead role. Kathy Reich's Tempe Brennan has received a loosely-linked-to-the-books portrayal by Emily Deschanel in the TV series Bones. And Tommy Lee Jones recently stepped into the shows of James Lee Burke's iconic Cajun detective, Dave Robicheaux, in the award-winning but little-seen film In the Electric Mist.
From a New Zealand perspective, in the early 1990s, Dame Ngaio Marsh's books were turned into the BBC TV series, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, with Patrick Malahide in the lead role (after Simon Williams played Alleyn in the pilot). Paul Thomas's recurring detective, DS Ihaka, was portrayed by Temuera Morrison in a TV movie adaptation.
Recently, it has been announced that Alix Bosco's heroine Anna Markunas, who featured in Bosco's debut CUT & RUN last year, and is tapped to appear in further books, such SLAUGHTER FALLS later this year, will be played by well-known (in Australasia) TV actress Robyn Malcolm in a 2-part miniseries. There have also been murmurs about some of Paul Cleave's books being turned into movies, although nothing has come to fruition yet.
Personally, I don't mind book detectives being portrayed on the big or small screen - I enjoy TV and film murder mysteries and thrillers, whether they are based on books or not - as long as it is done well. It sucks when interesting characters and stories are poorly transferred to the screen (as can happen with some adaptations), because you feel like the film makers/TV producers have wasted a great opportunity.
What are your thoughts on screen adaptations of book detectives? Who are some of your favourites you would like to see onscreen? Do you have some you never want to see onscreen? Which actors can you envisage as your favourite characters? What crime fiction screen adaptations have you loved/hated? Thoughts and comments most welcome.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Thoughts and comments welcome.
James has written over 20 books, the most recent of which often feature Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. His books have been translated into almost 30 languages. He has won and been shortlisted for several awards, for both his crime novels and his film work (as a writer and producer).
His visit to New Zealand (he is visiting both South Africa and Australia earlier in the month of March) roughly coincides with the release of his next novella, THE PERFECT MURDER, which he has written as part of the British Government's "Quick Reads" initiative. On his blog he talks about Quick Reads and his new novella, saying:
"The Quick Reads initiative works like this: every year ten authors from different genres, fiction and non-fiction, are commissioned to write a novella, to be launched on World Book Day (March 4th) for the Literacy Trust, which encourages people who do not normally read books to have a go at one. The brief is that the stories should be typical of the writer's work, in the same genre, but must be easy to read - there are restrictions on long words and the typeface is larger than normal. One of the target groups are prisoners who, in the UK, have a startlingly low reading age of just 9, on average.
"The Perfect Murder" is my contribution to the Quick Reads initiative. But, although I have avoided long words, I think that all my current readers might enjoy it. It has a great quote from the current Chief Constable of Sussex, Martin Richards, at the start: A couple of years ago when I met him for the first time, I asked him what he thought would be the perfect murder. He gave me the wonderful reply: "The perfect murder is the one we never hear about.
This book is "noir" with some dark humour, and whilst a murder story set in Brighton, which I think will appeal to all my Roy Grace fans, it also has some elements of supernatural, which those of you who like my earlier books may also enjoy... a darkly humorous story... about a husband who is planning to murder his wife, and doesn't realise she is planning to murder him..."
Penny's Bookstore is in the Westfield Chartwell mall, on the corner of Hukanui & Comries Roads in Hamilton. You can contact the store on (07) 854 8389.
Somewhat ironically, given James's most recent novella, I will not actually be able to attend the book signing (I would have driven down from Auckland), because I am likely to be attending a course on that same day; a course where I will train to teach adults with learning difficulties how to read and write (the very audience James's latest thriller is aimed at).
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Unlike the Agathas, Edgars, and Strand Magazine awards, the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are not confined to mystery, thriller, and crime fiction. The Awards began in 1980, and over the thirty years since they have added several categories to better reflect the broad range of quality writing out there. The Book Prizes now recognise 50 distinguished works in ten categories and the list of finalists in biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult literature can be found at http://events.latimes.com/bookprizes.
This year the addition of the graphic novel category makes the Los Angeles Times the first major book prize in the United States to honor an art form "that has indelibly expanded the literary landscape, both aesthetically and commercially".
In my opinion it's great to see what began as a more general book awards recognise that there can be high quality work in other genres that equally deserve recognition, and may need there own category in order to be fairly judged. Perhaps the local book awards in New Zealand could eventually look to do the same (i.e. although there is only one main 'fiction' category, it seems only a certain type of book is considered for it, and many fictional books of other types, regardless of the quality of their writing and storytelling, will be automatically overlooked by judges etc - in effect it is more of a 'literary fiction' or 'general fiction' award, although it is just touted as "Best fiction").
Finalists and winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are selected by panels of three judges composed of published authors who specialize in each genre.
The nominees/shortlisted authors for the 2009 Mystery/Thriller category are:
- Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep (Simon & Schuster)
- David Ellis, The Hidden Man (Putnam)
- Attica Locke, Black Water Rising (HarperCollins)
- Val McDermid, A Darker Domain (HarperCollins)
- Stuart Neville, The Ghosts of Belfast (SOHO Press)
Once again, I have read none of these (although I have read other McDermid books, including her 2009 release FEVER OF THE BONE, and have Neville and Locke in my TBR pile).
It is also interesting for me to see Attica Locke's BLACK WATER RISING receive another nomination - as it seems to be a book that generates some mixed feelings. It has also been nominated for the Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Author, however I have read some pretty average reviews of the book as well. In fact, in the upcoming March issue of Good Reading, one of my crime reviewing colleagues gives it only 2 1/2 stars, saying that it lacks tension, is unfocused, and the reader is left with the feeling that nothing much happens. Just goes to show that we all get different things from different books, which isn't a bad thing.
- 2008: Michael Koryta, Envy the Night
- 2007: Karin Fossum, The Indian Bride
- 2006: Michael Connelly, Echo Park
- 2005: Robert Littell, Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation
- 2004: Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn
- 2003: Soul Circus by George P. Pelecanos
- 2002: Hell to Pay by George P. Pelecanos
- 2001: Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker
- 2000: A Place of Execution by Val McDermid
The 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded at 8 pm on Friday 23 April 23 2010, in a ceremony at the Los Angeles Times building. The Mystery/Thriller prize will be presented by Los Angeles-based crime writer Mark Haskell Smith.
Best Children's/Young Adult:
Monday, February 22, 2010
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?
Generally I won't reprint my Good Reading reviews on this blog (they are readable via the Good Reading website for online and print subscribers), but as this is an author I haven't addressed very much on this blog, was one of my favourite reads of last year, and my review was printed several months ago (the November issue of Good Reading), I have decided to make an exception in this case
Young wunderkind Michael Koryta won the PI Writers of America Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar for his debut Tonight I Said Goodbye, which he wrote when he was only 20. Four books later, he’s moved from rising star to establishing a solid position amongst the upper echelon of crime writers.
In The Silent Hour Koryta’s recurring hero, private detective Lincoln Perry, is asked by convicted killer and former parolee Parker Harrison to investigate the 12-year old disappearance of Alexandria Sanabria, the founder of a unique program for released offenders. A woman whose brother is a suspected underworld kingpin, and whose husband’s skeletal remains, Perry quickly discovers to his dismay, have recently been unearthed. Perry finds himself scratching at the scab of a sordid family mystery, intertwined with past police, private eye and FBI investigations, and following a trail that leads to more deaths.
Koryta weaves an engrossing tale with unexpected twists, but like the very best in the genre, his storytelling is much more than just page-turning plotlines. Perry is an intriguing and complex protagonist, and the supporting cast is fully of variety and distinct, authentic voices. A nice touch for dialogue, some well-evoked settings, and narration that prods you to think about wider issues, all adds up to an enjoyable and highly recommended read.
4½ Stars Allen & Unwin $32.99
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Shades of grey, in and out of the courtroom
Craig Sisterson takes a closer look at The Good Wife
Although we are still basking (some of the time) in summer, and crossing our fingers that the blue skies and sunshine continue for as long as possible, for keen TV watchers, the seasons have already changed. The past fortnight has seen the return of plenty of old favourites, but also the launch of some never-seen-before shows.
One new series quickly gaining some much-deserved attention is The Good Wife, starring Juliana Margulies of ER fame. The first episode kicked off with the all-too-realistic scene of a disgraced politician at a lectern, bathed in camera flashes, deflecting questions from the blood-hungry press, his wife standing mutely by his side; an innocent bystander in an escalating sex scandal. This ‘grabbed from the headlines’ hook, and the behind-the-scenes look into the private lives of loved ones coping with all the fallout from such a betrayal, adds some extra layers to what is otherwise, in effect, another US courtroom drama.
The Good Wife screens on Tuesday nights at 9:30 pm on TV3.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
One of the great things about the Nine to Noon show, hosted by Kathryn Ryan - who also regularly does interviews with New Zealand and visiting authors - is that they do semi-regularly cover some crime and thriller titles. They're also fascinating reviews to listen to, because rather than being just a print review of a reviewer's thoughts, Ryan 'interviews' the reviewer, and asks them questions about the book, drawing out comments. So it's more of a dialogue, than a monologue - which is a nice change of pace.
And I know a lot of the time I can come across as a bit dissatisfied with the coverage that New Zealand crime fiction is generally given here in its own country, but I must admit that things do seem to be improving lately (coupled with more authors putting out more books), and Radio New Zealand is certainly doing its part in leading the way.
Today the reviewer was fellow blogger Graham "Bookman" Beattie, who is (deservedly) highly-regarded in the New Zealand book industry. He is the former head of Penguin Books, a Book Awards judge, a Books Editor, and is now an acclaimed blogger and consultant to the industry.
Beattie admits during the review that BLOOD MEN is a fair bit darker and more violent than the crime books he generally prefers, but he still thinks its an excellent psychological thriller. "It's a real page-turner," says Beattie. "It's not for the faint-hearted... for people who like these sort of psychological thrillers, this one is about as good as I have read in a long time actually."
You can listen to the Bookman's full review of BLOOD MEN here, or you can read the text of the radio review on his fantastic blog here (once he places it online, which he usually does quite promptly). His blog is well-worth visiting on a regular basis.
Hopefully positive reviews like this one (from someone well-known and respected in the NZ Books industry) will help more Kiwis, and others, realise that with writers like Paul Cleave, there are plenty of reasons to read NZ 'popular fiction', as well as our literary stuff.
Have you read Paul Cleave's earlier books? What do you think? What do you think of the Bookman's review? Does BLOOD MEN sound like something you might enjoy?
Today, the last of the four opens in New Zealand cinemas. From Oscar®-winning director Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island is the story of two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who in 1954 are summoned to a remote and barren island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from the island's fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane.
SHUTTER ISLAND is the third Lehane novel to be brought to the big screen, following acclaimed adaptations of MYSTIC RIVER and GONE BABY GONE. You can watch the trailer HERE. From the trailer, the film looks worth seeing.
The first local reviews were on the two early-morning TV shows here today; TVONE's Breakfast and TV3's Sunrise. TVONE reviewer Joanna Hunkin gave the film a glowing review, although she said it would not be for everyone. She thought Scorcese showed a great touch for detail, period accuracy, and tension - although there was a fair bit more 'horror' than she expected. "Almost a homage to Hitchcock... quite brilliant," she says. She did note however that one of her companions thought the ending was too obvious, while the other thought it was too unclear and complicated (whereas she, like Goldilocks (my words, not hers), thought it was just right). So you can't please everyone. Hunkin gave Shutter Island (the film) 5 stars. You can watch the clip of her review here. Interestingly, she didn't once mention that it was based on a book. Oh well.
I haven't seen the TV3 review by Film3 reviewer Kate Rodger yet (I've been trying to watch it online this morning, but I am having troubles with their website). If you have Flash 10.0 however, you should be able to view her review, here.
The TVNZ.co.nz reviewer Darren Bevan has also posted his review of the film (I guess all the media reviewers were there at their screening last night), giving it 8 out of 10. He says: "Shutter Island is a moody, enigmatic return from Scorsese - and it's great to see him tackle something slightly different - and he brings to it echoes of the Shining and pulp B movies. It's quite a thrilling ride and while there are a few lulls and the film feels a little long at the end, Shutter Island is a film with a compelling mystery wrapped up in it which will keep you onboard until the credits roll." You can read Bevan's full review here.
Have you seen Scorcese's Shutter Island? Or read Lehane's book? If so, what did you think? If not, are you intending to head along and see it?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Having interviewed Cross last year, I would advise any crime fiction fans (TV or book form) to get along to the NZSA (Wellington Branch) event next Monday night. It should be a lot of fun.
As part of that theme, Jen is creating a tournament for the "World's Favorite Detective." This tournament will consist of weekly contests similar to the college basketball tournaments that will be going on (ie "March Madness" as it is affectionately known in the States). It will start with 64 nominated detectives, and there will be ongoing competitions (votes perhaps?) until a winner is declared. Detectives must be law enforcement or licensed PIs (e.g. no amateur sleuths in this particular competition).
Nominations are now open for the 64 slots in the tournament (nominations close on February 28th). So for the rest of this month you can visit Jen's excellent blog and nominate your favorite detectives. Jen says that if more than 64 different detectives are nominated, those with more nominations will be selected for the tournament.
This sounds like a fantastic way to highlight a variety of detectives from around the world. It will be interesting to see not only who 'wins' or makes it through quite far, but also what 64 detectives originally 'qualify' for the tournament. I hope that it will help many people get a little more acquainted with some lesser-known, or forgotten, detectives.
I have put some of my 2 cents in, making a few nominations. I was a little worried that with all the reading I do and have done in the past, I would have way too many - combining classics from the Golden Age and before, old favourites from when I was growing up, and all the new ones I have been more recently 'introduced' too.
But it was interesting that when I thought of my favourite new-to-me authors of the past 18mths or so, several (e.g. Linwood Barclay, Gregg Hurwitz, Paul Cleave etc) do not have recurring detectives as such. I had decided to only include series/recurring detectives in my nominations, rather than one-off detectives that I thought were engagaing, fascinating, and really enjoyed (e.g. Theo Tate from Paul Cleave's CEMETERY LAKE), so that made things a little easier.
My nominations thusfar may seem something of an eclectic mix - I've tried to include some old, some new, and some lesser-known but very interesting. I went with how interesting the detective was, rather than how good the book was overall (so I may include detectives who shine amongst books that are good, rather than just detectives from 'great' books).
So here are some of mine (in no particular order).
My 'top 3' read-everything-they-put-out authors and their detectives from my pre-reviewing days (over the past decade):
- Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne
- Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch
- James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux
Old favourites from when I was growing up:
- Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot (personally always preferred him to Marple)
- Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
- Franklin W. Dixon's Joe and Frank Hardy (the "Hardy Boys" - first mysteries I was hooked on growing up)*
* I haven't entered these two in Jen's tournament yet, because I'm not sure whether they come within her qualifying rules.
The New Zealand contingent:
- Vanda Symon's Sam Shephard (very interesting and well-written main character)
- Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn (important in the overall canon of classic crime fiction)
- Michael Stanley's Detective "Kubu" Bengu (Botswana)
- John Burdett's Sonchai Jitpleecheep (Thailand)
- Jack Kerley's Carson Ryder (Alabama)
- Robert Crais's Elvis Cole and Joe Pike (LA)
- Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee (Navajo Reservation, southwest USA)
I know there are plenty more I've left off, and I will add some more later. But these few are all pretty interesting and readable in their own unique ways.So who are your favourite detectives? Do you like any/many off my list? What do you think of Jen's tournament? Do you like regularly finding new detectives to add to the old favourites you read? Thoughts and comments welcome
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Herald on Sunday is one of the biggest newspapers in New Zealand (along with the NZ Herald, Weekend Herald, and Sunday Star-Times), and is the most popular Sunday newspaper in the Auckland region (the Sunday Star-Times outsells it nationwide). So it is great to see local crime and thriller writers (especially those from the other end of the country) getting some good coverage within its book pages.
In the article Pellegrino refers to how Richardson and fellow Kiwi crime queen Vanda Symon have lived close to each other Dunedin, noting how the southern city is "becoming a mini-literary enclave for a certain sort of writer – nice, middle-class women with a fascination for the darker side of human nature".
Richardson also shares some of her inspiration for HUNTING BLIND, particularly how she was affected (like many New Zealanders) by the real-life disappearance of Teresa McCormack. “Like everyone else in New Zealand, when a child goes missing I watch TV and get drawn into the parent’s horror and anxiety," says Richardson. "But then inevitably it stops being news and the public moves away from it. I’ve always wondered how it is for the family and what happens later on.”
Pellegrino calls HUNTING BLIND "a compelling and involving read" and says Richardson "masterfully ... builds tension towards an all-action ending". I am partway through HUNTING BLIND myself at the moment, and am really enjoying it.
Although the Herald has not yet put Pellegrino's feature on Richardson online, you can read the entire feature (recommended - it's a well-written article with plenty of insight, and is a good read) at fellow book blogger Graham "Bookman" Beattie's blog, here.
Pellegrino is an Auckland-based journalist and author, half Italian, and a former editor of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. In 2001 she published her first book, an autobiography of iconic broadcaster Angela D’Audney, ANGELA: A WONDERFUL LIFE. Pellegrino's own first novel DELICIOUS (2003) was published in New Zealand and the UK, and translated into five languages. THE GYPSY TEAROOM followed in 2007, and her most recent novel is AN ITALIAN WEDDING (2009). He next novel, RECIPE FOR LIFE, is scheduled for release in April 2010.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Newspaper stories and tributes in response to jockey-turned-novelist Francis’s death are starting to flow freely around the world, including here in New Zealand.
He penned 42 novels, many of which featured horse racing as a theme. His books were translated into more than 20 languages, and in 2000 Queen Elizabeth II - whose mother was among his many avid readers - honoured Francis by making him a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Francis also won three prestigious Edgar awards from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), for his novels FORFEIT (1968), WHIP HAND (1979), and COME TO GRIEF (1995).
He also was awarded a Cartier Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association (CWA) for his outstanding contribution to the genre. He was made a Grand Master in 1996 for lifetime achievement.
In recent years Francis wrote novels jointly with son Felix, including SILKS (2008) and EVEN MONEY (2009). A new novel by the two, CROSSFIRE, will be published later this year. Just recently it was announced that one of Francis’s bestsellers were tipped to be adapted for film by a big new player in the British film market.
I must confess, embarrassingly, to having not yet read any of Dick Francis’s work, although I have heard some good things from several people who enjoy his writing. He was one of a number of longstanding authors, important within the genre, that I have been meaning to get around to at some point (including the likes of Tony Hillerman, Joseph Wambaugh, Sarah Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Ed McBain, Ross Macdonald, etc). His was a remarkable life; excelling in two such divergent careers, and bringing joy to many.
I am providing some links to various tributes to, and other related articles on, Dick Francis and his career, below.
Racing Post article
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Although generally I won't reprint reviews I've written for other publications here on this blog (preferring to link where possible), as WildTomato doesn't yet have its archived book reviews available online, and I haven't written any online-available reviews of Maurice Gee's most recent (and perhaps final) adult fiction work, I am including that review here for your information.
BY MAURICE GEE
Widely considered ‘New Zealand’s greatest living author’, Nelson-based Maurice Gee has penned dozens of beloved tales, ranging from children’s to adult, fantasy to realism. The near-octogenarian’s latest (and reportedly, perhaps last) adult novel, Access Road, may be slim in size (200 pages), but it’s still a very good read, packed with trademark Gee themes, style, and moments.
Elderly Rowan Pinker narrates a brooding tale of family relationships and dark secrets, shifting back and forth in time as she searches her memory for reasons behind her bedridden brother Lionel’s silence. Rowan lives a somewhat-contented life with her “silly old git” of a husband Dickie, a cheerful drunk, in “upper crusty” Takapuna - but regularly visits her siblings Roly and Lionel, who’ve moved back to the old family home in Access Road, Loomis (a fictionalised West Auckland). Visits that spark a flood of memories, not all of them pleasant; particularly those involving sinister childhood friend Clyde Buckley. Is he the key to Lionel’s troubles?
Gee writes with spare elegance, ably evoking the landscape (natural and human) of small-town Loomis. He is a maestro at creating layered characters full of ambiguity, depth and conflict; shades of grey rather than black and white. Rowan is a geriatric everywoman, but has she compromised her morality in the past, allowing darkness to flourish? Once again Gee scratches below the surface, finding the menace behind the mundane, the evil behind the everyday. A solid addition to a remarkable writing career.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
In a press release from the book's publisher, Penguin Group (NZ), it was said that an option on the film and television rights to the thriller, which was only released in August 2009, had been secured by Auckland production company ScreenWorks. Screenworks is pretty well-regarded in the local industry, and has produced several award-winning and good-quality TV dramas - several of which have a legal, police, or political/thriller theme. I used to enjoy Street Legal back in the day, and Orange Roughies and Doves of War were also both pretty good TV shows.
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 (her husband committed suicide and her son is a methamphetamine addict), 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. As she investigates, she puts herself in the firing line of some very, very bad people. Although Markunas is a legal researcher, and several of the characters are tied to the legal system, this isn't a courtroom thriller - rather an out-and-out secret and sinister bad guys thriller.
I really enjoyed CUT & RUN last year. You can read the first chapter of here.
According to the press release, CUT & RUN will be turned into a mini-series (two 75mins episodes) with the support of TV3 (one of the two major television networks in New Zealand) and NZ On Air (the funding body for local content in New Zealand).
So there has been (very, very quickly) a lot of support from major players to create a screen version of this pseudonym-written debut novel, which received good reviews, a decent amount of publicity (especially for a NZ crime novel), was well-stocked in most bookstores (unlike a lot of other Kiwi crime fiction), but didn't make much of a dent in the bestseller list, very surprisingly.
CUT & RUN did hit #5 on the NZ Adult Fiction bestseller list for two weeks in August, but it would have been nice to see it do even better, especially given the good reviews and better-than-usual bookseller and media support for a Kiwi crime novel. However, Penguin do call CUT & RUN "this year's biggest New Zealand crime fiction debut" in the press release, so perhaps it did sell really well overall, despite not hitting #1 on the bestseller list like another local debut thriller, BOLD BLOOD by Lindy Kelly (which stayed in the top 5 for several weeks), did earlier in the year.
You can read acclaimed crime writer and columnist Paul Thomas's Weekend Herald review of CUT & RUN here, Kerre Woodham (Paper Plus celebrity reviewer's) review here, Jo Taylor (Latitude magazine Editor's) review here, and my Nelson Mail review here.
The other major part of the announcement was that award-winning local actress Robyn Malcolm will play the lead role of legal researcher Anna Markunas in the mini-series. Malcolm is best-known lately for playing the matriarch of a West Auckland crime family, trying (somewhat) to go (relatively) straight, in the hugely popular TV series Outrageous Fortune.
For me, Malcolm would seem a perfect fit for the role of the middle-aged, initially somewhat beaten-down legal researcher. As an interesting aside, her involvement (following the fact that CUT & RUN had a quote from her on the cover on its release, rather than from reviewers or crime writers), and the rapid interest of the local TV/film community in terms of adapting the book, lends a little more fuel to my personal theory on the identity of Alix Bosco - a "writer well known in other media".
When the announcement was made, Chris Hampson, CEO of ScreenWorks, said: "CUT & RUN is a terrific international thriller - but I was attracted to its clear sense of place, its strong local identity and, best, the clarity of its strong central characters." I think that is a pretty fair assessment of the debut novel. Penguin Group (NZ) Publishing Director Geoff Walker said CUT & RUN will make a great mini-series. "The novel features a strong, engaging female character, colourful Auckland and Coromandel settings and a cutting edge plot."
I think it's great to see such support for New Zealand crime fiction, both in book form and in terms of adapting our locally-written stories for TV or film. There are several other local crime novels, such as those by Paul Cleave and Vanda Symon, which I also think would lend themselves well to screen adaptation, given their strong visual style.
In other good news from the announcement, a second Anna Markunas novel by Alix Bosco, SLAUGHTER FALLS, will be published by Penguin Group (NZ) in late 2010. So it looks like it could be another good year for the growing canon of New Zealand crime fiction.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My copy of the book, Richardson’s second thriller after two short story collections and a multi-generational saga novel, finally arrived yesterday, and I am looking forward to reading it (I made a start this morning).
Fellow book blogger Graham “Bookman” Beattie (who has been a judge for some of the most prestigious book awards in New Zealand, as well as a publisher, reviewer, and consultant to the book industry), gave a short review of the book on Jim Mora’s Afternoons show on Radio New Zealand yesterday. During the “Critical Mass” segment, which takes a look at recent books, entertainment, and other matters, Beattie described HUNTING BLIND as perhaps Richardson’s “breakthrough novel”.
“You just have to keep reading it… a real page-turner, terrific stuff,” said Beattie. “I think you’re going to hear more about Paddy Richardson… she has really delivered on her [earlier] promise.” You can listen to Beattie’s full comments here. (fast-forward through to the 6:55mins mark).
Then earlier today, Richardson was interviewed on Toroa Radio by fellow Dunedin-based crime writer Vanda Symon. I understood they discussed HUNTING BLIND, the allure of writing crime fiction, and the perception of crime fiction in the writing world. I was really hoping to hear the live-cast of this interview, because it sounds fascinating, but unfortunately I was stuck in a work meeting. Hopefully it will be placed online as a podcast by Toroa Radio in future, or perhaps Vanda will provide us with extracts from the transcript on her blog.
Then on this coming Sunday, Richardson will be interviewed by Lynn Freeman on the Arts on Sunday programme on Radio New Zealand Freeman is also a very good interviewer, and such Radio New Zealand author interviews are usually archived on its website, so I will post a link to this interview next week.
Have any of you read HUNTING BLIND, or Richardson’s earlier work? Do you have authors who have ‘grown’ on you as their crime writing has evolved? Do such psychological thrillers appeal to you? Do you like listening to the audio links I post on this blog, or do you just prefer text interviews? Thoughts and comments welcome.
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.
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.
SPADE AND ARCHER
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…
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
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.
THE LAST CHILD
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...
THE MAN FROM BEIJING
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.
THE PRICE OF LOVE
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.