Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bestselling thriller writer James Patterson to judge first New Zealand literacy competition

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release: June 30, 2010

International bestselling author and literacy campaigner, James Patterson, to judge first New Zealand literacy competition

James Patterson is to judge an exclusive literacy competition for New Zealand children, aimed at getting them to read more.

The James Patterson Literacy Promotion competition is being held by book publisher Random House New Zealand (RHNZ) in conjunction with the New Zealand book trade, who will promote the competition in-store with posters, display stands and stickered information on stock of all new books in the following James Patterson’s children’s series: Maximum Ride, Daniel X and Witch or Wizard.

The James Patterson Literacy Promotion competition commences in July 2010 and the winner will be announced in October 2010. Competition entry is through the RHNZ website http://www.randomhouse.co.nz/.

To enter the competition, children must describe in 200 words or less, a plot outline and what will happen in James Patterson’s next children’s book in the Maximum Ride, Daniel X or Witch & Wizard series. The winner will receive a signed letter from James Patterson and $500 worth of Booksellers tokens, to be redeemed nationwide. Booksellers who buy a display pack of 36 new titles from James Patterson’s children’s series will get five books donated to them by RHNZ, to be given to a local school of their choice.

James Patterson is passionate about encouraging both adults and children alike to read, and was partly inspired by his own son Jack, a reluctant reader, to commence his literacy campaigning work. “My son Jack used to hate reading, but three summers ago my wife and I gave him six books that we thought he’d love. We told him to spend time every day reading. He was reluctant but the next summer, he said ‘sure’. Now we can’t stop him reading; he even insists on the three of us having quiet time, reading our own stuff.”

James Patterson has long been involved with projects in the US to promote the enjoyment of reading, most recently with new website http://www.readkiddoread.com/, set up to assist parents in making book choices for their children. He recently formed a partnership with the National Literacy Trust, an independent, UK-based charity that changes lives through literacy, http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/, and now, through the James Patterson Literacy Promotion competition in New Zealand, he is reaching out to Kiwi children.

James Patterson is one of the biggest selling authors in the world; his books have been translated into 49 different languages, and over 150 million copies of his books have been sold across the globe. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past decade: the Women’s Murder Club, the Alex Cross novels, Maximum Ride, and a new young adult series Daniel X. James Patterson has won an Edgar award, the mystery world’s highest honour. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.http://www.jamespatterson.co.uk/.

For further information please contact:
Rachel Dewhurst Publicity Assistant Random House New Zealand Limited
T 09 444 7197 Private Bag 102950, North Shore, North Shore City 0745, New Zealand

Upcoming Kiwi crime debut: THE FALLEN by Ben Sanders

As I noted a few weeks ago, along with new books by established Kiwi crime writers such as Paddy Richardson, Paul Cleave, Neil Cross, Vanda Symon, and Alix Bosco, there are also some debutant Kiwi crime writers on the horizon whose first books will be launched later this year, further strengthening our crime writing ranks - one of whom is Ben Sanders, a young Aucklander in his very early 20s who is getting a fair bit of buzz already.

I've already received and read an advance copy of Sanders' debut crime thriller, THE FALLEN, which will be released in August. It is very good (I will publish a review once the book is released, as well as some more information and perhaps an interview with Sanders).

His publisher, HarperCollins, have now issued a press release about Sanders and THE FALLEN, which I have included for your information here:

The Fallen by Ben Sanders
Press Release: HarperCollins
RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 2010 RRP: $29.99 HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS

Watch out Lee Child, there’s a young new crime novelist in town . . .

Twenty-year-old Ben Sanders’ fascination with crime fiction has paid off. He has just signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand.

Born and bred on Auckland’s North Shore, Sanders has been hooked on Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Cormac McCarthy and Pete Dexter since the age of thirteen, and now he’s put his interest in these big-selling authors to work.

A keen writer since his teens, Sanders is also passionate about music; he wrote his first novel while listening to the tunes of R.E.M, Nick Cave, Grant-Lee Phillips, and The Mutton Birds and even found time to study engineering at the University of Auckland.

Sanders’ debut novel, The Fallen, will be published at the beginning of August. The story begins with an inquiry into the murder of a 16-year-old girl found in Albert Park and moves quickly into the seedy world of police scams, an ‘underbelly’ kidnapping and unexpected violence.

‘Set in unnervingly familiar surroundings, The Fallen is a superb blend of international-standard crime writing, with a strong local ambience that is an absorbing murder mystery,’ says HarperCollins Commissioning Editor, Tracey Wogan. ‘Ben Sanders’ sophisticated and edgy writing style signals the emergence of a major new talent. We’re thrilled to have secured his first two novels.’

‘The inspiration for the book was not so much about wanting to create a story as about wanting to create a character,’ says Sanders. ‘For me, ninety per cent of the appeal of crime fiction is in the quality of the protagonists.’

Sanders’ second novel is due to be published later next year.

Jack Reacher should watch his back!

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So, how does that sound? I think it's great that publishers here seem more open to New Zealand crime writing, and are looking to sign up new authors, as well as establishing some series authors like Symon and Cleave, etc. THE FALLEN is a very good book, I enjoyed it, and will be eagerly awaiting Sanders' second title in the Sean Devereaux series. I can't share much more about it until August, sorry. But you can read a bit of a plot synopsis on the publisher's website here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

9mm: An interview with Stuart MacBride

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you're enjoying the series - it hasn't even been going for three months yet, but we've been building up a remarkable list of participants.

Today, for the 22nd in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at bestselling Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride, author of the award-winning DS Logan McRae series - the latest instalment of which, DARK BLOOD, came out recently - as well as the futuristic thriller HALFHEAD (Under the name Stuart B. MacBride). I was fortunate enough to meet and interview MacBride when he was in New Zealand last year - it was an absolute riot, an hour and a half full of laughter, piss-taking, and humour alternating between subversive and self-deprecating, as well as plenty of chat about writing, crime fiction, and more.

I wrote a 2-page feature on MacBride for the October issue of Good Reading magazine - you can read more about that here. You can also read my review of HALFHEAD here, and BLIND EYE here, and my review of DARK BLOOD should be published on EuroCrime soon. MacBride will be MCing the upcoming Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate next month, which should be a lot of fun.

But for now, Stuart MacBride stares down the barrel of 9mm...

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Stuart MacBride

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
That has to be DI Jack Frost from the R.D. Wingfield books. A great character with more texture than a sandpaper jockstrap. Brilliantly observed and written.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? The House At Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne. I can’t remember how old I was, but not very. Pooh and friends lived this magical existence in this lovely wood, where the biggest problems were trying to catch Heffalumps. OK, so I know that’s not the most noir of answers, but I’m sticking with it.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything;) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
COLD GRANITE was actually my fifth book. The first was dreadful. The second was OK. And the third one was published last year: HALFHEAD. They were all crime novels, but not very similar – two and three were both near-future thrillers, number one was more comedy-crime. Book four was a big experiment in terms of style and content, and I can’t decide if it was a success, or a complete disaster. Either way it would need a hefty rewrite before it ever saw the light of day, and I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I like to cook. And them I like to eat. Which probably isn’t the best of hobbies when you spend all day sat on your arse telling lies about people who don’t exist.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Go for a bacon buttie at the Inversneckie Cafe down on the beachfront. Sit there, in the open air with a hot cup of tea, and watch the North Sea rage against the shore. Not for the faint-hearted, or those prone to frostbite, but it’s certainly an experience.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Brad Pitt. But clearly he’d have to handsome up a bit. And grow a proper beard. And learn how to do a decent Scottish accent.


Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favouritest book of all time is SAWBONES, a little novella I did for a wee publishing company called Barrington Stoke. It’s designed to be accessible to reluctant readers, but I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. The fact that it was a complete change from everything else I’d done, and tiny, certainly helped.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I actually kept it a complete secret from everyone until two weeks before the book came out. And as it came out first in Norway, my first experience of seeing my name in print came with a book I couldn’t understand a word of. The only word in Norwegian I know is ‘Fisk’, and that only cropped up a couple of times. So my reaction was pretty much one of bemusement. And it hasn’t changed much since then.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? Someone tried to strangle me at a signing once (it was an accident, according to her...), but I think the weirdest thing was when I was doing an event at Duff House in Aberdeenshire. I was in the same room as one of Rembrandt’s paintings – worth X-millions – and there in the front row were four women, all wearing beards they’d downloaded from the internet. Somewhat surreal...

Thank you Stuart MacBride. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read MacBride's DS McRae novels? Or his futuristic thriller HALFHEAD? What do you think of his Aberdeen settings? Of the team dynamics on show in the McRae novels? Do you like some a few laughs and lighter moments in amongst darker crime? Thoughts and comments appreciated.

Monday, June 28, 2010

THE CRIME OF HUEY DUNSTAN released today

After ACCESS ROAD by Maurice Gee and BUTTERSCOTCH by Lyn Loates last year, another New Zealand novel that appears as though it sits on the blurred edge between literary fiction and crime/mystery fiction has been released today; THE CRIME OF HUEY DUNSTAN by James McNeish.

McNeish (who turns 80 next year) is well known in New Zealand and in certain circles overseas as an acclaimed novelist, biographer, and playwright. His novel LOVELOCK was nominated for the 1986 Booker Prize. You can read more about McNeish here. There is also a good article on McNeish in this week's issue of the NZ Listener, which will be available online in a couple of weeks (I'll link to it then).

In THE CRIME OF HUEY DUNSTAN, a young man stands in the dock accused of a brutal, apparently motiveless, murder. When Professor Chesney, a blind psychologist specialising in trauma, is called as an expert witness, he is at first baffled. This young man, Huey Dunstan, was a bubbly, smiling child not so long ago. What brought him to bludgeon an old man to death? Why does he seem determined at all cost to incriminate himself? As Ches delves into Huey's past, with the sensitive insight that perhaps only a blind man could have, a psychological mystery unravels. And the jury is asked to consider an unthinkable defence.

The publisher's blurb says, "The Crime of Huey Dunstan takes us beyond questions of guilt and innocence to thought provoking ideas on justice and humanity. An emotionally engaging, beautifully written novel from one of New Zealand's most revered writers."

My fellow Good Reading reviewer Linda George reviews the book in the July issue of the magazine (in the crime section), giving it four stars and calling it "a beautifully written novel which asks some fundamental questions about the the nature of guilt, justice, and responsibility in our society".

I look forward to reading it.

Do you like 'literary crime'? Mysteries that focus more on the psychology of the people involved, rather than the detection, prevention, or solving of a crime? Have you read either of ACCESS ROAD or BUTTERSCOTCH? What did you think? What are some of your favourite 'literary' crime novels? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Kiwi crime writer (and marine historian) Joan Druett speaking in Wellington tonight

After the success of Murder They Wrote, Wellingtonians have the chance to head along to another great author event tonight. Internationally acclaimed maritime historian and historical mystery author Joan Druett will be appearing at an NZSA event (open to the public) at the Thistle Inn.

From a crime/thriller perspective, Druett is known for her ‘Wiki Coffin’ mysteries set on colonial-era sailing ships, in particular the United States Exploring Expedition (the exploration, survey, and travel around the Pacific 'South Seas' by the United States Navy in 1838-1842). Wiki Coffin is a translator for the Expedition, and has been described as "a Maori detective with the physical attributes of a Hurricanes rugby player" (for you US readers, just imagine one of the Pacific Islands-descent linebackers in the NFL, and you'll get the drift).

Since first falling in love with maritime history, Druett has written 18 fiction and non-fiction books. You can read the first chapter of DEADLY SHOALS, Druett's most recent Wiki Coffin mystery novel, HERE. The Wiki Coffin series includes four novels, and at least three short stories that have been published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Druett has also written another historical murder mystery, MURDER AT THE BRIAN BORU. You can read my 9mm interview with Druett here.

Druett is also internationally renowned as a writer of non-fiction books, usually centred on interesting aspects of maritime history, including the lives of female mariners. Her books include SHE CAPTAINS, ROUGH MEDICINE, SHE WAS A SISTER SAILOR, IN THE WAKE OF MADNESS, and ISLANDS OF THE LOST. Druett's fourth book about brave seafaring wives, HEN FRIGATES, won a place on the New York Public Library's list of 25 Best Books to Remember in 1998.

Druett has received several awards in the United States, including an award for outstanding contribution to women’s history. In 2005 Druett was appointed a consultant for an ongoing NEH-funded project with the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society, Children on Whale ships. In 2000, she was awarded a Creative New Zealand grant as well as the year long Stout Fellowship at Victoria University. Her most recent project is the story of TUPAIA, the unacknowledged Tahitian who was essential to the success, and subsequent fame, of Captain Cook's voyage on the Endeavour – to be released in both the United States (Praeger) and New Zealand (Random House) later this year.

Tonight is a great chance for those in the Wellington area to head along and meet a great Kiwi writer, an international bestseller, who juggles historic fictional and non-fiction tales equally well.

An evening with Joan Druett
Monday 28 June (tonight)
Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street, Wellington
NZSA members $2
non-members $3

Hat tip to Graham Beattie for the heads-up about the event.

Have you read any of Joan Druett's work? Her Wiki Coffin mysteries, or her maritime histories? Do you like historical mysteries? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Crime Fiction in the news and on the 'Net: Weekly Round-up

There's been some more great crime fiction stories on the Web this week - from newspapers, magazines, and fellow bloggers. Hopefully you will all like finding an interesting article or two linked here, that you enjoy reading, now and then.

Crime Watch Weekly Round-Up: In the News and on the 'Net

What do you think of the round-up? Which articles do you find interesting? What types of stories, articles, and reviews would you like me to focus on in future round-ups? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Currently listening: THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly (audio book, read by Peter Giles)

I'm trying something new this week - an audio book. I haven't 'read' an audio book since I was a child, with the Storytime books, which were tapes and picture book sets of stories like Rumplestiltskin and others (each book had several stories in it). I still remember listening to a resonant voice reading Oliphaunt by JRR Tolkien, and intoning "Grey as a mouse, Big as a house, Nose like a snake, I make the earth shake", and finishing with "Old Oliphaunt am I, And I never lie".

When I was in the local library the other day, I noticed that they also had audio books for borrowing, including several crime/thriller titles, so I thought I'd try one. After all, I spend a fair bit of time listening to music via headphones when I'm exercising, or writing reviews or various stories etc - so perhaps I could use some of this time to listen to books as well. For my first audio book, I chose an unabridged version of Michael Connelly's THE SCARECROW, one of his only books over the past several years that I haven't yet read - but had been meaning to, for a while.

THE SCARECROW brings back Jack McEvoy, the reporter from THE POET (which was the book that introduced and got me hooked on Connelly, many years ago). More than a decade after the events of THE POET, McEvoy is coming to the end of the line as a crime reporter for the LA Times. He's been laid off, and only has a few days left on the job, while he trains his replacement, an ambitious, attractive, digitally-savvy young female just out of journalism school.

But McEvoy has other plans for his exit. He is going to go out with a bang, writing a final story that could win a Pulitzer prize. He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer from the projects who has apparently confessed to police that he brutally raped and strangled one of his crack clients. McEvoy convinces Alonzo's mother to cooperate with his investigation into the possibility of her son's innocence. But she has fallen for the oldest reporter's trick in the book - his real intention is to use that access to report and write a story that explains how societal dysfunction and neglect created a 16-year-old killer.

But as McEvoy delves into the story he soon realizes that Alonzo's so-called confession is bogus, and he is soon off and running on the biggest story he's had since The Poet crossed his path years before. He reunites with FBI Agent Rachel Walling to go after a killer who has worked completely below police and FBI radar, and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. What McEvoy doesn't know is that his investigation has inadvertently set off a digital tripwire. The killer knows McEvoy is coming, and he's ready.

I'm currently on Disc 5 of 10 - the full audio book is about 11 hours in length. It's read by actor Peter Giles. At first it was a little strange listening to a book, and I was worried I might miss things that I wouldn't if I was reading. But I've now got used to it, and am really enjoying Giles' reading of THE SCARECROW.

You can read an excerpt from THE SCARECROW here, and read a good interview with Michael Connelly about bringing back McEvoy many years after THE POET, and the unfortunate decline of newspaper journalism (a theme throughout the book) here.

Have you 'read' an audio book? Do you like listening to crime or thriller novels, as well as reading them? Does the reader/speaker of the audio book make a big difference to your enjoyment? Do you have favourite 'readers'? What are some of your favourite, or least favourite audio books?

THE SHAKESPEARE CURSE by JL Carrell

As I noted on 8 June, as part of its continued expansion Crime Watch is now officially open to 'Guest Reviews' - this is something that will continue to grow in the coming weeks and months to the point where you will be able to regularly read reviews from a team of crime fiction reviewers on this site - not just my own thoughts on various crime, mystery, and thriller titles. If you are interested in contributing such a review, please let me know.

Today we have a guest review from Darise Ogden, an Auckland-based former lawyer who is now Managing Editor of NZLawyer magazine. Darise tends to prefer literary fiction, but does read some crime and thriller novels.

The Shakespeare Curse
JL Carrell (Sphere, 2010)

Reviewed by Darise Ogden

I have a bit of a thing for Shakespeare. Okay, a big thing. So a thriller focusing on the Scottish play (my particular all-time favourite) was going to be impossible to ignore. The Shakespeare Curse is the sequel to The Shakespeare Secret. I’ve read both in the last two months – both were compelling, page-turning, and utterly consuming.

Couple a fiery-haired heroine with a quest dogged with heinous deaths tied mysteriously to the Bard, and you’ve got a story that will keep you up at all hours (even, dare I admit it, causing you to be late dropping your son off for school). Kate Stanley was a talented academic who gave it all up for the lure of the stage. When we first meet her in The Shakespeare Secret, she is in the process of directing Hamlet at the Globe. Her former friend and mentor arrives, pressing a gift into her hand. It’s a gift that hints at a lost Shakespearean manuscript – a play that has disappeared from the canon, with nothing more than a whisper of its existence that tantalizes Shakespearean scholars who hunger to be the one to bring a newly discovered treasure back from oblivion. It’s a secret manuscript that someone is prepared to kill for – again and again, leaving bodies scattered across both the UK and the US.

The first novel opened with the burning of the Globe – both in the seventeenth century and in the twenty-first; the second has dedicated itself to all things Wiccan, all under the watchful gaze of the Samhuinn moon. The deaths in The Shakespeare Secret resemble the great Shakespearean deaths of the tragedies; in The Shakespeare Curse, it is death by sacrifice – at the cut of a blade with a thirst for blood.

Once again, it is a lost (or hidden) manuscript that invokes this blood-thirst. In those lost years, when Shakespeare seems to have disappeared from the London scene, what was it that he was doing? Was he, perhaps, ensconced in a castle in the hinterlands of Scotland, watching from behind curtains as a woman with powers unnatural sought to wrest the crown from the young king of Scotland? Did that knowledge inform MacBeth? Was a power invoked that would turn him from a simple glover’s son into the Bard?

To be fair, I’m not a big thriller fan – I can’t say I’ve ever read a Dan Brown novel (I’ve barely made it through the Tom Hanks’ movies). But there are twists aplenty in both novels – twists I didn’t really see coming. Friends become enemies in the blink of an eye – or the slitting of a throat. Kate is repeatedly manipulated, played like one of the Kings’ Men, as she is drawn into the worlds emanating out of Shakespeare’s creations.

With a PhD in English from Harvard (and undergraduate degrees from Oxford and Stanford), Carrell is particularly adept at bringing the two worlds of the novel together. The ‘interludes’, as she calls them, take you back to the sixteenth century – where you watch the Machiavellian characters, who influenced Shakespeare, manipulate the world around them, seeking advancement, wealth, and position within a Court that trades on reputation and rumour and suspicion. Desires remain the same – whether they originate out of the sixteenth or twenty-first centuries.

Carrell has become my guilty pleasure.

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So, what do you think of Darise's review? Do you like the Guest Reviews addition to Crime Watch? Have you read JL Carrell's work? What do you think of combining Shakespearean themes with a thriller plot? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Note: this review was also published in today's print issue of NZLawyer magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

9mm: An interview with Mark Billingham

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you're enjoying the series - it hasn't even been going for three months yet, but we've been building up a remarkable list of participants.

And there are plenty more to come, with 9mm interviews with the likes of Michael Koryta, Mark Gimenez, and PD James all completed and scheduled for publication in the coming days and weeks, and other great authors on the near horizon too (Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, amongst others). Please let me know if you have a particular favourite author or authors whom you'd really like to see interviewed in this way.

Today, for the 21st in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at bestselling British crime writer Mark Billingham, author of the award-winning DI Tom Thorne series - the latest instalment of which, FROM THE DEAD, comes out in a couple of months time. He worked as a TV actor, writer, and stand-up comedian before breaking through as a crime writer in 2001 with SLEEPYHEAD, a terrific debut that introduced DI Tom Thorne. Personally, I think SLEEPYHEAD is one of the very best debut crime novels I've read in the past decade. The series (FROM THE DEAD will be the 9th Thorne novel), which has won multiple awards and deservedly received numerous excellent reviews, is now being made into a series of television movies, starring David Morrissey as Thorne.

Billingham will be appearing at the upcoming Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate next month, and his first standalone novel IN THE DARK, which was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger last year, was on the longlist for the 2010 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year (the shortlist will be announced on 1 July, with the award announced at the festival), an award Billingham has won multiple times in the past few years, including last year for DEATH MESSAGE.

But for now, Mark Billingham stares down the barrel of 9mm...

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Mark Billingham

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
There's so many I will always read. Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux, John Connolly's Charlie Parker. These are characters who have genuinely grown and developed. I'll always love Marlowe too, and Sherlock Holmes (see below!)

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was "The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes" which was read to me by an eccentric maths teacher who got bored during his own lessons. I loved the stories of course, but more than anything it was the character of Holmes himself who fascinated me. That was when the bug bit.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I'd been writing for television for a number of years and not was really enjoying it. I'd also written bad plays, dreadful poetry, stupid songs and a stand-up routine that I just about got away with for a few years. I'd always written SOMETHING. In school I would try and write funny stories in the hope that I might get asked to come to the front of the class and read it out. Basically, I'm still driven by that same impulse, I think.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
For me, it's usually a question of catching up on things I've missed while I've been working. Movies, music and TV. And trying to learn the guitar, which I wish I'd done many years ago. I can just about bash my way through most Hank Williams and Johnny Cash stuff, which I love doing, though my family are usually to be found wearing ear-plugs.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Birmingham gets a bad press, but there's plenty to see and do. I would recommend a trip to the Balti Belt, for the best Indian food in the country. Oh and the canals. More miles of canals than Venice, you know.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Surely, as someone who acted a bit in a former life, I would be allowed to pitch for the role myself. I mean, obviously I'd work out a little first.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I'll always have a soft spot for SLEEPYHEAD, because it was the first, but I'm enormously proud of IN THE DARK. I was apprehensive about taking a break from Thorne, and the series, but was very happy with how that book turned out.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I'm STILL celebrating, and I STILL get that buzz.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I was doing an event recently with John Connolly, when a woman who had maybe had a glass or two too many tottered up on to the stage and tried to remove the hat I was wearing. Who the hell takes exception to headwear? I mean, hate the books if you want, but leave the hat alone!

Thank you Mark Billingham. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read Billingham's Tom Thorne novels? Or his acclaimed standalone IN THE DARK? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Currently reading: THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbø

Today I started THE SNOWMAN, a recent book by an author I've been meaning to read for quite a while now; Norwegain crime maestro Jo Nesbø.

Having heard lots of great things about Nesbø, I'm really looking forward to sampling one of his Inspector Harry Hole stories for myself. Much has been made of the Scandinavian surge in crime writing, but while much of the focus has been on the Swedes, there is plenty of quality crime being produced by the other Nordic nations, and Nesbø seems to be moving from 'appreciated by the connoissers' to wider public attention now, particularly in countries like the United States.

There were rumblings that Nesbø might have been coming downunder later this year, perhaps to attend a books festival or two in Australia and New Zealand, but I understand that plan may have now fallen through, which is a real shame. Those of us down here will just have to make do with his writing for now - which isn't too bad a consolation prize!

The publisher's blurb for THE SNOWMAN says: "The night the first snow falls a young boy wakes to find his mother gone. He walks through the silent house, but finds only wet footprints on the stairs. In the garden looms a solitary figure: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. Round its neck is his mother's pink scarf. Inspector Harry Hole is convinced there is a link between the disappearance and a menacing letter he received some months earlier. As Harry and his team delve into unsolved case files, they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. When a second woman disappears Harry's suspicions are confirmed: he is a pawn in a deadly game. For the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his turf, a killer who will drive him to the brink of insanity. "

I am very much looking forward to reading it.

Have you read THE SNOWMAN? Or any of Jo Nesbø's other books? What do you think? Are you a fan of Scandinavian crime? Want to give it a go? Sick of the Swedes? Don't know what the fuss is about? Thoughts and comments welcome

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Australian crime novelist wins prestigious literary prize!

Big news today from Australia, as crime king Peter Temple (pictured right) was last night announced as the suprise winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is touted as Australia's "first and most prestigious literary award", for his novel TRUTH. It was a history-making ceremony for the Award, which has been running since 1957, as TRUTH is the first ever crime novel to win.

According to its website, the Miles Franklin Literary Award "celebrates Australian character and creativity and nurtures the continuing life of literature about Australia. It is awarded for the novel of the year which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases" (emphasis added). It was first awarded in 1957, following a bequest from renowned Australian novelist Miles Franklin in 1954.

It is very much an award for 'literary novels', with Australia of course having its separate crime fiction-focused awards, the Ned Kellys, to recognise the best of its crime writing. So it's great to see the literary-crime-minded Temple break through and win (he has also been shortlisted on a previous occasion). Prior to last night's ceremony, there was plenty of speculation of who would win the $42,000 prize - with many newspaper articles down this way focused on the other authors on the shortlist, such as Thomas Keneally (the author of Schindler's Ark, which became the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List), or whether fellow shortlistee, literary novelist Alex Miller, could win the award for a third time.

I am very humbled to win the award and I never expected to have a chance," said the 64-year-old Temple in his acceptance speech, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Temple also said crime fiction would benefit from his win - TRUTH was also the first crime novel to be shortlisted for the Miles Franklin. ''Winning the Miles Franklin is the high point in an Australian writer's career,'' he said. ''I feel very honoured to be among such a long list of illustrious writers.''

The judges said TRUTH was ''a stunning novel about contemporary Australian life, written with all the ambiguity and moral sophistication of the most memorable literature''. TRUTH was the sequel to THE BROKEN SHORE, which won the 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger


In TRUTH, Stephen Villani is the acting head of the Victoria Police homicide squad. But his first months on the job have not gone well: two Aboriginal teenagers shot dead in a botched operation he authorised in the provincial city of Cromarty; and, no progress on the killing of a man in front of his daughter outside a private girls' school. Now five men are found dead in horrifying circumstances on the outskirts of the city. Villani' superiors and the media are baying for arrests. To add to his woes, some of the country's richest people are alarmed by the baffling killing of a young woman in the high-security tower where they live. Villani, a man who has built his life around his work, begins to find the certainties of both crumbling. As the pressure mounts, he finds that he must contemplate things formerly unthinkable. TRUTH is a novel about murder, corruption, family, friends, honour, honesty, deceit, love, betrayal and truth.

It has largely received great reviews. You can read a variety of reviews of TRUTH here:

So have you read TRUTH? Or any of Peter Temple's other work? What do you think? Do you like crime that leans heavily towards the literary? Is it a good thing that literary awards are also now sometimes recognising 'crime novels'? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

9mm: An interview with Roy Vaughan

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

I hope you're enjoying the series - we're really building up a great list of participants thusfar, and there are plenty more to come, with 9mm interviews with the likes of Michael Koryta, Mark Gimenez, Mark Billingham, and PD James all completed and scheduled for publication in the coming days and weeks, and other great authors on the near horizon too. Please let me know if you have a particular favourite author or authors whom you'd really like to see interviewed in this way, and I'll do my very best to get in touch with them.

Today, for the 20th in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at Roy Vaughan, a former officer in the British and New Zealand Merchant Navies, and journalist for the New Zealand Herald (amongst other roles), who in his 'retirement' has now started a series of thriller novels. The first, THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND, was published in hardcover late last year (launched in New Zealand earlier this year), and Vaughn has already completed the second, which will hopefully be released in the coming months (along with a paperback version of the first in the series).

The 'blurb' for THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND says:

"Tour guide and owner of a New Zealand travel company, Rick Foster, pulls together a group of old friends from their rock-n-roll days of the 60s. Known as the Mereleigh Record Club, these 60-somethings meet to reminiscent and hopefully, in Foster's case, rekindle an old romance as well. Foster envisions he and his old mates partying from Auckland to the South Island. What he doesn't bargain for is he and his group becoming unwilling targets of an international and very dangerous drug smuggling gang.

A senior customs agent and detective decide to use the group to set up a sting, and things get more out of hand-lives are threatened and deep-seated friendships are put to the test. Foster is in the precarious position of cooperating with the police and protecting his friends. As the drama escalates, strange relationships develop between the good guys and the bad guys and Foster doesn't know whom he can trust. Will Foster and the authorities be able to pull off the biggest sting of their careers with no one getting hurt?"

THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND was published by a small New York-based publisher, and is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Book Depository. You can read a short article in Northern Matters about the book launch in Mangawhai earlier this year, here. But for now, Roy Vaughn stares down the barrel of 9mm...


The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Roy Vaughan

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
This is really hard I don't have one that comes to mind. I tend to like ordinary guys who under pressure step up to the plate and do the right thing and thrillers that put ordinary people on the spot to see how they react. I don't believe heros are born they are just people who have the guts to do the right thing at the right time.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island - a thrill a minute read with well portrayed characters and a realistic plot that kept you guessing and heaps of atmosphere.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Newpaper features - you could say I had 20 years turning in non fiction newspaper stories so after the discipline and regimentation of writing news copy it was pure intellectual liberation to turn to fiction. I have also written a non fiction history of British and New Zealand merchant shipping history (It needs editing and a publisher!), which covers the development both of non-naval shipping, the role ships played in the creation of the British empire, and a lot of references to the New Zealand maritime scene. It's a book I felt I had to write having been at sea for eight years and covered shipping for a further 20 years.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Sailing - I have a small yacht - and international relations at a grass roots level. I played a role for a number of years in Japan helping set up a sister city relationship between Auckland and Fukuoka, and was heavily involved with Pacific Island media issues while employed by the South Pacific Forum at Suva, Fiji. I also enjoy country walks, genealogy, good books, and music.

I turn to music a lot for relaxation, reassurance and intellectual stimulation, and love music of all kinds from Rock to Classical including good traditional folk music and country and western ballads. I also have an active involvement with the Mangawhai Harbour restoration society, the Mangawhai historic Society and the NZ Fairy Tern trust. I come from a tiny village in rural mid Wales and living at Mangawhai is socially very similar. you get to know everyone people are generally very polite as there is no where to hide and the only way things get done is if a few people volunteer to do it themselves. It was a pleasure to make Mangawhai the termination point of my first book.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
At Mangawhai a harbour estuary walk for the Sandspit to see the towering Maori Shell Middens and an almost unbroken pristine coastline to Cape Rodney with magnificent views of the Hen and Chickens, Little Barrier and Great Barrier [all islands, for those not from NZ] in the distance.

The view is worth a million dollars, and the human effort in eating millions of pipis to create such massive shell middens is truly astounding. Makes you ask where did all the Maori go? There are plenty of other things, like the surf beach, the golf course and cliff top walks to the north, but the best things, the views are free.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Clint Eastwood, or maybe Robert Redford or Antony Hopkins

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It was a great thrill writing The Mereleigh Record Club Tour of New Zealand but I think I have put more into The Mereleigh Record Club of Japan, and gained slightly more satisfaction in writing it. The non fiction yet to be published nautical history was harder to write and involved a lot of research but was not as fun to write as it had to be 100 per cent accurate in detail.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I was of course very happy to get the book published, but have enough experience of life it was only a first step. The decision to write was mainly based on doing it for its own sake, if you like to get something out of my system, and if it works commercialy fine, if not I will continue to write anyway. Its a need that I must satisfy.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
One or two old friends in Britain believing themselves to be fictiious characters when clearly the characters they identified with had little in common with them. I had a good book launch at Bennett's chocolateria Mangawhai with many kind and indulgent folk present, and a small friendly pub launch with old mates of my teenage years at Marlow on Thames. The old British mates spent a lot of time trying to work out which characters in the book were them. One old pal reckoned he was the hero on the Vespa motor scooter in the yarn, and insisted on playing a lead role if anyone made a movie out of it. Another had to tell his wife he was not one of the gang who used to take his trousers off a lot when the girls were around. They are all invented characters, in the book.


Thank you Roy Vaughn. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? How does a road-trip thriller starring a bunch of middle-aged/elderly guys, wrapped up with some drug deals gone wrong and plenty of adventure, sound? Do you like trying books from unknown authors? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hutt News highlights Kiwi CWA Debut Dagger shortlistee

Further to my post of 10 June, introducing CWA Debut Dagger shortlistee Bob Marriott (pictured left), a freelance travel writer living in Wellington, Marriott's achievement has now been picked up a little more by our local mainstream media. It was great to see that there was a nice interview-based feature on Marriott and his writing in both the Hutt News and Upper Hutt Leader this week.

In his interview with Simon Edwards of the Hutt News, Marriot says he sent off the first chapter and synopsis of his novel IN THE LION'S THROAT, which is based in the seedy world of the South East Asia and New Zealand drug scene, to the CWA Debut Dagger competition last year with a "what have I got to lose?" attitude and then promptly "forgot all about it really" until he found out he was one of the select shortlistees.

Edwards' article shares some more background on Marriott (beyond what was in my introductory post), including his travels throughout Asia and other exotic locales, adventures he has had that have played some part in his writing, and how his wife Linda got him into fiction writing thanks to a weekend writing group. You can read the full Hutt News article here.

Does Marriott's story sound intriguing? Do you think you'd like to read IN THE LION'S THROAT, if it was picked up for publication? Have you read any other former CWA Debut Dagger shortlistees' work (e.g Louise Penny, Allan Guthrie, Alan Bradley, etc)?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crime Fiction in the news and on the 'Net: Weekly Round-up

In the past I've occasionally done some little round-ups of Kiwi crime fiction in the news - pointing Crime Watch readers to some good articles, reviews or interviews elsewhere on the Web, that they may otherwise be unaware of or overlook.

For a while I've been thinking I should make this a more regular thing, and also to include some of the other great crime, mystery, or thriller fiction articles and commentary out there (I have pointed out great articles etc in the past, but generally on a one-off basis where I've mused more deeply about a theme or idea inspired by such an article) - both in terms of magazine and newspaper article online, and some particularly interesting posts from my fellow book bloggers around the world (check out the sidebar for some great blogs worth visiting in general).

Some other fantastic blogs (e.g. The Rap Sheet, which is an absolute must-read blog and resource for crime fiction fans) regularly do this, but I will look to add something new and different by covering some other things, and perhaps including some media (e.g links to New Zealand and Australian newspaper articles online) that may otherwise be less noticed by crime fiction fans in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully you will all like finding an interesting article or two linked here, that you enjoy reading, now and then.

Crime Watch Weekly Round-Up: In the News and on the 'Net
  • Graeme Blundell takes a look at how crime is increasingly crossing over into conventions and fantasties of horror writing, in a comprehensive review of John Connolly's latest Charlie Parker novel THE WHISPERERS, in The Australian.

  • In an article for the New York Times, Julie Bosman takes a look at how American readers and publishers are looking for 'the next Larsson', and this is leading to more translation, publication and publicity in the US for authors like Camilla Lackberg, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbo.

  • Books Editor Linda Herrick interviews the winner of the inaugural NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize, unpublished Wellington-based crime writer Donna Malane, in a good article in the New Zealand Herald.

  • John Sullivan of the Winnipeg Free Press says Peter Temple is leading the charge for a wave of Australian writers "honing in on the action" in the popular crime fiction genre.

  • British author Neil White, who juggles crime writing with a career as a criminal barrister, is interviewed by the Lancashire Evening Post about his dual life, and his latest crime novel DEAD SILENT.

  • US film producer Scott Rudin talks to Entertainment Weekly for a cover story about the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of "The Hottest Book on the Planet", Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, including comments about casting.

  • For those interested in the geography of crime fiction, and the real life settings which inspired some great murder mystery tales, a new crime fiction-related guidebook has been released this week, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide & Companion. You can read the press release here.

  • The Shepparton News interviews newbie crime writer Martin Cusworth, a 60-year old West Australian, and takes a look at his debut thriller ROAD KILL.
For this first week of the Crime Watch weekly round up of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction in the news and on the 'Net, I've concentrated on newspaper and magazine articles available online, but in future weeks I'll also include links to comprehensive blog posts and comment as well.

What do you think of the round-up? Which articles do you find interesting? What types of stories, articles, and reviews would you like me to focus on in future round-ups? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review of THE BURNING WIRE on Radio New Zealand

On Wednesday, as part of its daily book review slot on the Nine to Noon programme, Radio New Zealand addressed acclaimed thriller writer Jeffery Deaver's latest book, THE BURNING WIRE.

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.

Today the reviewer was the always-excellent Graham "Bookman" Beattie, who is (deservedly) very 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 describes THE BURNING WIRE, Deaver's 26th book and 9th in his series starring quadraplegic investigator Lincoln Rhyme, as "fast-moving, filled with brilliant plot twists and a totally unputdownable read.

You can listen to the full audio file review of THE BURNING WIRE here. You can also read a print version of many of Beattie's comments from his full review here.

Have you read any of Jeffery Deaver's books? Are you a fan of his Lincoln Rhyme tales? What do you think of the Bookman's review? Does THE BURNING WIRE sound like a crime thriller you'd like to read? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unpublished Crime Novel wins NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize!

Late last month I encouraged readers to vote for their favourite amongst five finalists for the first-ever instalment of the NZSA Pindar Publishing Prize, a new award for unpublished New Zealand writers. At the time I was really pleased to see a couple of unpublished crime/thriller novels amongst the five shortlisted works - it was really encouraging to see the judges (Mary Egan, Managing Director of Pindar NZ, Linda Herrick, Arts and Books Editor of the New Zealand Herald, and Graeme Lay, Auckland National Council Delegate) recognise budding local talent looking to write in a storytelling style/'genre' that historically has been somewhat overlooked here in New Zealand - when it comes to recognising our own writers.

And now, even better news for crime and thriller fiction fans - the winner has been announced (and revealed - since the entries were all anonymous when it came to judging) and its one of the unpublished crime novels! So we're going to see another New Zealand crime fiction author launched on the market in the coming months - the winner's book is scheduled for publication in August.

The winner is Donna Malane, for her story SURRENDER, a thriller about a woman trying to track down her younger sister's killer in the sleazier side of Wellington. The synopsis for SURRENDER says:

"Though the cops could never prove it, Diane always believed it was Snow who’d murdered her little sister Niki, but now Snow’s turned up dead in suspiciously similar circumstances. Despite her ex-husband’s warnings, Diane is unable to leave it to the cops to find out what really happened to her little sister and instead determines to hunt down Niki’s killer herself. She figures that if she can find out who killed Snow, then maybe she can figure out who ordered the hit on Niki and why. So far so easy – as long as she can keep under the cops’ radar and that includes ex-husband Detective Sean McCallum, who knows Diane only too well.

But uncovering Niki’s past reveals more than Diane bargained for. Forced to enter into a seedy world of sex, drugs and blackmail, the more she uncovers Niki’s past the more she has to accept that maybe she didn’t know her little sister nearly as well as she thought she did. As if that’s not bad enough, she’s forced to face a few uncomfortable truths about herself along the way. Meanwhile there’s that little matter of tracking the identity of the decapitated body that’s turned up in a State Forest."

You can read a 15-page extract from SURRENDER here.


Malane, 55, is a Wellington television scriptwriter and producer, but SURRENDER will be her first published novel. In one of those 'small world' scenarios, I have actually chatted to Malane before, when I reviewed the excellent television movie UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT last year. Malane was a writer/producer of the award-winning adaptation of the true life story of David Dougherty, a New Zealander wrongfully imprisoned for several years for the rape of his young neighbour (screenshot left) - one of our country's most notorious miscarriages of justice. Malane has also worked on other notable New Zealand television dramas like The Strip, Duggan, Shark in the Park, The Insider's Guide to Happiness, and The Insider's Guide to Love.

You can read a good interview with Malane, where she talks to Linda Herrick about her nascent novel writing and thoughts on the Pindar Prize, in yesterday's NZ Herald, here.

"We were all impressed by the forcefulness of Donna’s plot, the vividness of her writing and the resilience of her central character," said judge Graham Lay in an NZSA press release. "She was also able to interweave elements of humour into the narrative’s brutality and mystery."

Co-judge Herrick said, "The narrative included a convincing sense of place; you felt that the writer knew Wellington and its environs very well, and this added to the novel’s feeling of authenticity. The characters were well drawn, particularly the female lead, but peripheral characters also rang true. The writing was crisp and compelling, driving the narrative along at a great pace towards the climax." And co-judge Mia Yardley concludes, "Surrender is a worthy addition to the growing catalogue of New Zealand crime fiction."

Growing catalogue indeed. And it's great to see. I'm very much looking forward to reading the entire version of SURRENDER when it comes out. Hopefully some of the other finalists may also be picked up for publication eventually as well (as sometimes happens in comparable overseas 'unpublished writer' competitions - e.g. Louise Penny didn't win the CWA Debut Dagger).

Over 500 entries were received for the inaugural award, which thanks to the fantastic support of the New Zealand Society of Authors, Pindar NZ, Whitcoulls booksellers, Astra Print Group, the New Zealand Herald, and Creative New Zealand, offers the winner the opportunity to have their unpublished novel professionally edited, produced, marketed and distributed throughout New Zealand (the total prize package is worth around $35,000 to a talented new author).

Entrants were required to submit a synopsis and a sample of their writing, not the entire manuscript. For example, the sample could have been the first two chapters of a novel, two short stories or 15 poems. The judges were not aware of the identity of any of the entrants.
When they met to draw up a long list of finalists, the judges were struck by the quality of the writing, saying it was extremely difficult to decide on the final five, as several of the long-listed manuscripts were of a publishable standard. After the five finalists were selected, the judges read the entire manuscript for each of them. The winner was decided based upon both a public vote (40% of the total score) and the Judge's determination (60% of the final score).

Have you read the extract from SURRENDER? What do you think? Does the story intrigue you? How important do you think such unpublished author competitions are for unearthing new talent (e.g the St Martin's/Minotaur comp in the USA that discovered Michael Koryta, the CWA Debut Dagger that has launched the likes of Allan Guthrie, Louise Penny, and Alan Bradley)?

The Girl Who... will soon be on New Zealand screens

Last year, I nervously went along to a publisher's preview screening of “Män som hatar kvinnor” (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), not quite sure what to expect. After all, plenty (the majority?) of book-to-film adaptations fall pretty flat. For every triumph or masterpiece like The Lord of the Rings, there are plenty more fan favourite books that are turned into pretty dreadful films.

Adding to my nerves was the fact I wasn't sure how the crime fiction-loving female friend who accompanied me might react to a film with some pretty nasty violence against women in it. Fortunately, the Swedish production (with English subtitles) of “Män som hatar kvinnor” (aka the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was absolutely fantastic. On reflection, it was overall the best film I saw at the cinema in 2009.

You can read my full review of the film here.

So I am now very much looking forward to the New Zealand release of the second film in the series - The Girl Who Played with Fire - a release which is rapidly approaching. And for whatever reason, we actually get the film here in New Zealand before many other English-language countries (I'm not complaining), with the film hitting our cinemas from 27 July. So only a few weeks to wait. Apparently it will be released in the UK in August, and Australia in September.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite further, wherever you are, you can watch the English-language trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo below.




Have you seen the first film? What did you think? Have you read any of the Millennium Trilogy books? Are you looking forward to the movie release of The Girl Who Played with Fire? What do you think of crime novel-to-film adaptations? Which have been great? Okay? Disappointing?

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

9mm: An interview with John Connolly

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you're enjoying the series - it hasn't even been going for three months yet, but we've been building up a remarkable list of participants.

And there are plenty more to come, with 9mm interviews with the likes of Michael Koryta, Mark Gimenez, Roy Vaughn, and PD James all completed and scheduled for publication in the coming days and weeks, and other great authors on the near horizon too. Please let me know if you have a particular favourite author or authors whom you'd really like to see interviewed in this way.

Today, for the 19th in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at bestselling Irish crime writer John Connolly following his Auckland City Library event earlier this month. Connolly is a very funny, fascinating, and down-to-earth guy. I really enjoyed meeting him (and sharing a drink or two afterwards while we chatted about life, the universe, and crime fiction for a couple of hours).

Connolly is of course the author of the acclaimed and award-winning Charlie Parker series of novels, as well as the young adult/teen/kids' books THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS and THE GATES. He was touring Australia and New Zealand to promote his latest Parker novel, THE WHISPERERS, which was recently released in the Australia, NZ and the UK, and will be coming out in the USA on 13 July. You can read the prologue to THE WHISPERERS here.

For those of you in Ireland, Connolly is appearing alongside Declan Hughes on Saturday (19 June) at the Dalkey Book Festival in Dublin, at an event entitled "10 Crime Novels to Read Before You Die".

But for now, John Connolly stares down the barrel of 9mm...

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: John Connolly

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?

Ah, probably it’s a tie between Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer - because of that capacity for empathy, that’s important to me - and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, who taught me that writing can be very poetic, I think.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was a Secret Seven book by Enid Blyton, which I remember reading at the dining table in our sitting room, and I remember struggling because I hadn’t been reading for very long, and I struggled through with words phonetically, and for years afterwards I thought the word ‘cupboard’ was pronounced ‘cup board’ - and my mother must have thought I was like little Lord Fauntleroy, “can we get something from the cup board?”

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Nothing. I’d written for the Irish Times, so I’d been a journalist, but I’d not written fiction. Lots of articles but nothing in terms of fiction, no.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time, to be perfectly honest (chuckling). Ah, I go to the gym because it’s good to get out of the house and to do something so I don’t turn into some kind of vegetable. I actually find - somebody once said that the secret to happiness is to find something you would do as a hobby, and convince somebody to pay you to do it. And given that I’m doing what I probably would have done as a hobby had I been given the opportunity, and had I had ‘a proper job’, I actually don’t begrudge the time I spend doing it. So most of my time, it’s a bit like that Raymond Chandler thing - he was asked what was his writing day like, and he said he spent 6-7 hours a day sleeping, 3 hours a day eating, 4 hours a day writing, and the rest of it thinking about writing. And that’s kind of what my day has become.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
They should go to the crypt of St Michan’s Church on the north side of Dublin, where there’s these preserved bodies of these nuns, but also this huge Crusader Knight - they had to break his legs to get him in the coffin - and you can touch his finger. Touching his finger is supposed to be good luck, so you can touch the finger of this mummified Knight... Don’t go kissing rocks...

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Um... my girlfriend is convinced I look like Colin Firth, and I’ve met Colin Firth, and I really don’t, you know (chuckling). So I don’t know - I suspect that they’d pick somebody bug-eyed like Steve Buscemi, you know, “we’re trying to capturing your character not so much your looks” - and I’d think “no, not Steve Buscemi...”


Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, simply because it was very personal, and also because I finished it and thought “that was a good day’s work”. And if you’re - I hate people who separate art and craft, any kind of art, you’re not going to get to judge it, but art comes out of craft. And as a craftsman, sometimes you put the finish, and think “that’s as good as I can do”, and you sleep well after doing that.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I did really mundane things... I paid off my credit card bill. That was how I celebrated, I paid off my credit card bill. I was so fearful that it was all going to be taken away from me, that I think I was afraid to spend any of the money. So I paid it off, and I got an apartment that I could live in and work in. Very mundane things - I don’t think I ever ... now when I send off a book I take my family out to dinner, we’ll do something really simple. It was funny, there was no great splurge of buying things. No Ferrari, I’ve got a second-hand Ford Mondeo.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I had a woman come up to me once at a signing at a festival, saying ‘I love, I just love your books - I’ve been looking for you all weekend and if you’d please just stay there, I will come back and get my book signed. And she did, and she came back and handed me a copy of Ian Rankin’s BLACK AND BLUE, and said “there you go Mr Rankin, will you sign that for me please?”

Thank you John Connolly. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read Connolly’s Charlie Parker books? Or his other novels like THE GATES? Have you met him at author events? What do you think? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

15-year-old crime writer wins prize as National Crime Fiction Week kicks off in Britain


Thanks to the efforts of the Crime Writers' Association, this week is officially "National Crime Fiction Week" in Britain - a week to celebrate crime writing. Over the coming days, members of the CWA will take part in readings, discussions, readers' group events and workshops all over the country. "Building on the success of our partnership with Oxfam Bookfest in 2009, the CWA is looking forward to promoting crime fiction through a variety of events," said outgoing CWA chair Margaret Murphy on the CWA website.

National Crime Fiction Week runs from Monday 14 June to Sunday 20 June, and the CWA has created a dedicated website which provides further information and lists all of the fantastic events on offer during the week. The week has kicked off on a great note with the announcement that 15-year-old Nicole Hendry, of Sutton Coldfield, has won the Young Crime Writers' Competition for her story "The Demolition of Lives".

A key part of the build up to National Crime Fiction Week, the Young Crime Writers' Competition was organised by the CWA in partnership with library authorities around the country. Murphy and fellow judge Laura Wilson, Guardian reviewer and winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award, praised Hendry's story as "daring and effective - a convincing emotional journey with a sympathetic protagonist, good motivation and a clever plot".


You can browse a full schedule of all the great events on offer as part of National Crime Fiction Week here. Just click on each day of the week to see what's happening in the wonderful world of (fictional) crime. Hat tip to Graham Beattie for the heads-up about the competition announcement.

So, are you excited about National Crime Fiction Week? Will you be attending any of the events? What do you think of Hendry's winning story? Thoughts and comments welcome.

My review of THE ANUBIS SLAYINGS on EuroCrime

After a bit of a hiatus in terms of book reviews for the excellent EuroCrine website (as I'd read a lot of non-European crine novels over the past few months), I'm finally 'back on the horse', with my review of PC Doherty's THE ANUBIS SLAYINGS, being published this week.

Paul (P C) Doherty is the author of several acclaimed historic mystery series, including the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan, the Hugh Corbett Medieval Mysteries, and the Canterbury Tales of Mystery and Murder. He has also written series set in the days of Ancient Rome and Alexander the Great. The history-loving headmaster has been prolific in his mystery writing (setting multiple series in many diverse moments and fascinating eras throughout history. Unlike many historical mystery authors, Doherty doesn't concentrate on one particular location and time period - instead researching and setting mystery tales in many. He has written more than 75 novels, under a variety of names.

With the Ancient Egypt Mysteries, Doherty takes murder mysteries even further into the past than his medieval tales. Now up to seven books (Doherty has also written another three separate novels set in Ancient Egypt), the Ancient Egypt mysteries centre on the various investigations of Lord Amerotke, wise and trusted judge and adviser to powerful female Pharoah Hatusu. I was introduced to Doherty's Ancient Egypt Mysteries while travelling through Egypt earlier this year; in fact, I picked up a copy of THE ANUBIS SLAYINGS, the third book in the series, while visiting Luxor (the modern-day site of historic Thebes - one of the locations in the series).

Read my full review on EuroCrime HERE.

Monday, June 14, 2010

9mm: An interview with C.George Muller

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

After a bit of a run of international crime writers, for the 18th in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I thought I would feature another Kiwi writer who perhaps deserves a little more attention - wildlife biologist C. George Muller, author of eco-thriller ECHOES IN THE BLUE (2007). I recently purchased a copy of Muller's thriller, and am very much looking forward to reading it - particularly as it is rather newsworthy at the moment, with its Japanese whalers vs environmental activists backdrop (see the current Pete Bethune trial in Japan). There are still copies available brand new from online bookstores like Amazon.com, Fishpond, Wheeler's Books, and Trade Me, amongst others. ECHOES IN THE BLUE was a finalist (Silver Medal) in the 2007 Nautilus Book Awards, and was criticised as "terrorism" by the Japan Institute of Cetacean Research, the organisation responsible for Japan's whaling programme. You can read more about C. George Muller at his website here.

But for now, he sits in the 9mm hotseat.


The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: C. George Muller

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
There are a lot of great detective characters to choose from these days, but Sherlock Holmes was always a favourite of mine from a very young age. For me he works brilliantly as a hero; always calm, confident, and with a mind like a steel trap – but he is also slightly mysterious as viewed through Watson’s eyes. A little bit of mystery never hurt a detective novel!

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I remember really enjoying Jack London’s Call of the Wild when I was about 7 or 8. It was one of the first full length books I read, and it definitely cemented my love of reading. It was the first time I remember being transported to another world through the pages of a book.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I won the 2005 Richard Webster Popular Fiction Award for my first novel, an unpublished thriller manuscript. That was the first full-length book I ever wrote. It was about a Kiwi ex-SAS soldier who had to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his brother in Indonesia, and he rapidly got mixed up in all kinds of corrupt and shady goings-on, including international terrorism. It was inspired by the real life struggle against Indonesian rule in West Papua.
Before that my fiction writing was limited to the odd short story, since it was difficult to find enough time to write a novel while I was working full time at a corporate job. Over the years I have also co-authored a number of scientific papers in various academic journals.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I do like to read and write, both of which I think are important pastimes for an author, but when I am not at my desk I like to get as far away from it as possible. I still do contract work as a marine biologist and find that spending several weeks or months away and working outdoors is not only great for recharging my batteries, but it also provides lots of ideas and motivation for future books.

When looking for ideas for a book, particularly crimes and criminals, often the inspiration from real life examples I discover can be far more nefarious than anything I could ever dream up.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I have lived in a lot of different places around NZ, so can’t really claim any particular town as my home. I prefer to think of the whole country as my “home town”. With that said though, I would encourage locals and visitors alike to go past the towns and get out into the great outdoors. As the Lord of the Rings movies showed the world, New Zealand has some beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery. However, there are also plenty of undiscovered gems out there; lesser known spots or those a bit off the beaten track. The more people are aware of and appreciate these wild places, the better sense of pride we can have in our land.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My initial reaction is “who would want to make a movie about my life?” but I suppose my books are inspired by my real life experiences so I guess a movie version of one of my books would be near enough. And who wouldn’t want to see a movie version of their book? As to who would play the main character, well, I guess that would depend on which story. I wouldn’t want to step on any casting agent’s toes!

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Echoes in the Blue would have to be my favourite, since as well as being the most successful for me it also highlights an important real life problem. Most Kiwis are aware that “scientific whaling” is just a cover for illegal hunting of protected species, but I wanted to reveal the true extent of the corruption and criminal behaviour behind the scenes. What better way than through an eco-thriller novel?

Despite presenting it as fiction I did get a reaction from the whalers though, a nasty letter (published on my website) attacking the book and accusing me of promoting terrorism!

I still receive a lot of emails from readers about Echoes in the Blue too, including one from a young student who said he wanted to study marine biology after reading my book. For a writer, it doesn’t get any better than knowing your book has helped inspire someone!

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
After all the effort to write the book, my initial reaction to getting it published was just one of relief, and a little disbelief. After working towards that goal for so long I guess I didn’t really think I could believe it until I saw my book on the shelves.

I still find it gratifying and a little surreal to see my name on the bookshelves when I walk into a book shop though. I was tempted to frame the first cheque I ever received, but after taking a year and a half off to write the book I badly needed to cash it to pay the rent!

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
One time I was at a book signing when a woman came up and accosted me. She accused me of hypocrisy for writing a book highlighting whaling when “so many children in NZ are starving”. I don’t think she had actually read my book but apparently I represented the institution of ‘science’ to her, which I gather she thought was in opposition to her strong religious beliefs. It was an interesting – if one-sided – conversation, but I did come away from it with an insight on how not to bring people around to your way of thinking. Aggression and accusations will only turn people away, even if they are initially sympathetic to your message!


Thank you C. George Muller. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Does an eco-thriller set on the high seas and in the complicated world of 'scientific whaling' intrigue you? What do you think of crime thrillers with an environmental theme or setting? Thoughts and comments welcome.