Sunday, October 31, 2010

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

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

Of course the finalists for the second annual edition of the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award were announced this week too. It was great to see Ireland begin to recognise and celebrate its crime fiction in this way in 2009, and long may it continue. Of course here in New Zealand we are also looking to start appreciating our own crime and thriller fiction more as well, via our own new award. I hope to have confirmed details about the (earthquake-delayed) event to announce the inaugural winner for you in the next day or so. It's probable the event will be in mid/late November.

Onto the round-up.

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

Is mystery and crime fiction booming, or has it always been strong? Do you like the sound of an Elmore Leonard tale set in Africa? Have you read the Native American-influenced mysteries of Tony Hillerman or Margaret Coel? Have you ever read the world's most popular mystery novel ever (under whichever of the three titles)? Should creative writing courses be more open to those wanting to write popular fiction?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finalists for Irish Crime Novel Award announced

On Thursday night the finalists for the various categories of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award 2010 were announced, including the six finalists for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award.

This is the second year that there has been a crime fiction category in the Irish Book Awards, and it's great to see the genre being recognised in this way. Hat tip to Declan Burke of Crime Always Pays re the announcement.

The finalists for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award 2010 are:
  • City of Lost Girls, Declan Hughes
  • Time of Death, Alex Barclay
  • Faithful Place, Tana French
  • The Missing, Jane Casey
  • Dark Times in the City, Gene Kerrigan
  • The Twelve, Stuart Neville
You can read more about the awards, and the public vote, here.

Have you read any of the eligible Irish crime novels? Who do you think should win?

Friday, October 29, 2010

9mm: An interview with Simon Kernick


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

Today, for the 41st instalment in the series, I have another fantastic international author for you; British thriller writer Simon Kernick, who I was fortunate enough to meet when he visited Auckland last month (see photo above).

Kernick is a former computer programmer in his early 40s who has been described as "Britain's most exciting new thriller writer". He debuted with THE BUSINESS OF DYING in 2002, and his ninth thriller, THE LAST 10 SECONDS, was published here in New Zealand in August. In 2007, his book RELENTLESS, after being selected by Richard and Judy for their recommended summer reads promotion, went on to become the bestselling thriller in the UK for that year.

Kernick is touted as having talked, during the research for his novels, "both on and off the record to members of Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorist Branch and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, so he gets to hear first hand what actually happens in the dark and murky underbelly of UK crime." You can read my NZLawyer review of THE LAST 10 SECONDS here.

You can read more about Simon Kernick and his books here.

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

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Simon Kernick

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I really like Peter James’s Roy Grace. He’s flawed but he’s still a really nice bloke, and his flaws are I think more believable than some detectives out there. I always enjoy reading about him, and he has this ongoing mystery of his wife’s disappearance, and there always seems to be development in each book, but it never seems to be the development that I assume it would be, and it adds to the story, and it makes you want to read for more than one reason. I love the plots in the books, and I think it’s good to see a new British crime series coming through, and it’s also about a town I know very, very well - I went to college in Brighton - so I love them.

I love Hercule Poirot as well. I’ve read some good Marple ones, but the Poirot ones are probably the best. He was a great recurring detective. Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, I’ve always loved. Some of them are just absolutely superb - some can be slightly hit and miss but in general they’re a very, very good series. And what I like about them is that he ages through the books, you read the ‘70s ones and he’s about 30, and you read the latest ones and he’s about heading off for retirement, and I love that. You find out so much more about them, and you find out so much more about the author as well.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie; I read it when I was about nine, and it was my first murder mystery book, and I guessed who did it and I got it right, and I loved it. To be honest, I very rarely got it right after that... it just sticks with me, it must have been about 1975 when I read it, and it was one of the old 1960s covers with a group of gendarmes standing around a body on a golf course. I can still picture it absolutely perfectly now - I haven’t thought about it for a long time, but it’s something that sticks in my mind.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had unfortunately (I say unfortunately because it was hard work) written two crime novels that weren’t published, including the second one FINE NIGHT FOR A KILLING, a gang story in very small font that turned out to be about 950 pages, just ridiculously long. And one or two very rough fantasy books that I’d written, but I’d never had anything published at all, other than maybe in school magazines when I was about 15. So there was this sort of range of books I’d written, but they did get better as they went along. Just, you know, not that much better. So none of them will ever see the light of day, no doubt about that.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I’m a bit of an outdoorsy person, which means I should be living in New Zealand really, because every time I’ve been talking to Rebecca my [NZ] publicist about what she gets up to, she kind of does the things I love doing. Which is hiking - I love walking, I mean often on a weekend where I don’t have my children I’ll do a 25-mile, a 40km walk, which is very tiring but great fun. Kayaking, I’m a big kayaker - river kayaking, I live on the river with a good stretch of water, and I’m planning on doing some longer trips on a bigger river, with some white-water. I love SCUBA diving.

What else do I do? I love cooking, and I do love to go to the pub and see my mates. It’s a two or three nights a week thing. I have a full life, I very rarely get bored.

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 would hire a kayak and go kayaking down the river, a little bit out of town and there’s some great little nooks and crannies. I live in Henley on Thames, about an hour outside of London. Outdoor activities; kayaking, walking - it’s beautiful, they film Midsomer Murders around there, and they filmed Miss Marple around there... take a walk through there, it’s gorgeous.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Blimey, that’s a good ‘un. Brad Pitt to capture my good looks, obviously. Oh God, that’s a question I’ve never been asked. Ah... you always imagine you’d go to actors you like now, and I’m thinking who I really like. Bloody hell, you’ve really caught me off guard here. I love the actor Clive Owen, yeah, Clive Owen - he was always going to be the Dennis Milne, my detective character, in my mind. Yeah Clive Owen, he’s a good actor, and there’s something solid about him.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Not necessarily the best, but the one that’s my favourite is the second book that I wrote, THE MURDER EXCHANGE, and the reason is I really enjoyed writing it, because parts of it are quite funny, and I enjoyed the comedic element, the gallows humour, and I really enjoyed it when I got a few good one-liners in there. And I don’t usually write with that level of humour much these days. The thing about it was that when I first wrote the first draft, it was bloody awful, and then I went on a trip to Australia and New Zealand and had a bit of time away from it, came back, and then it all just came together, and that’s what I loved about it as well. It just worked on the second draft. I was really worried about it, it was the classic second book, the classic ‘sophomore slump’, and then it just worked, and it was funny, and I think it’s quite a good plot - two thirds of the way through it, I came up with a final plot twist for the end, which I never normally do, and I thought oh yeah I’m glad I did 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?
When I first walked into a bookstore and saw a book with my name on it on a shelf, I just stood there for about ten minutes looking at it, I remember. I was just so, so happy. Then I just celebrated to myself really, I went for a walk afterwards and just thought about it, and thought it’s been a brutal path in terms of rejections and thinking I’m never going to make it, and real ups and downs - a lot more downs than ups - and then I’ve done it. It was just an ecstatic feeling, a real ecstatic feeling.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Well I can think of one that was hugely bizarre. A woman was convinced that we were all being watched by aliens, and actually came up to me and said “do you know they’re watching?” She was an older woman dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, Daffy Duck or something; a very old lady in her 70s... and then the conversation went on from there. It was in a library, and the staff were trying to move her away from me, probably thinking it might be liable to turn into something more dramatic, they kept trying to shift her away, and she’d look back over her shoulder and say “they’re watching you, they know about you, I know you’re not one of them, but they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere”. And it’s like, ‘My God’, and she even had me convinced near the end, so I was scared [laughing].

Thank you Simon Kernick. We really 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 THE LAST 10 SECONDS, THE MURDER EXCHANGE, or any of Kernick's other fast-paced thrillers? Have you met Kernick at any author events? What do you think? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What are your top five favourite crime novels?

Over the past few years there has been a growing annual campaign to get more New Zealanders trying, appreciating, celebrating and enjoying books and reading. New Zealand Book Month is a non-profit initiative promoting books and reading – and as a result, literacy – in New Zealand. One month each year we celebrate books and encourage all Kiwis to get involved.

Each year there are lots of events at a local level, across the country, allowing people the opportunity to share their love of reading. In late 2009 I went to the TVNZ7 New Zealand Book Month debate in Auckland, which was quite a cool event. From a crime fiction perspective it was also great to see that Dame Ngaio Marsh was among a handful of Kiwi writers who were highlighted in large photo format as a backdrop to the debate. Too often Marsh's achievements are overlooked amongst some of our other 'classic' New Zealand authors.

I was also very pleased to hear the head of NZ Book Month talk about the importance of valuing our popular or genre fiction, as well as the literary fiction, poetry and short stories we are sometimes so proud of as Kiwis. And I was flattered rather than perturbed when I realised that part of her opening speech was, uh, 'borrowed' from an article I'd written for a magazine.

Unfortunately there is no New Zealand Book Month in 2010. However, the very silver lining to that dark cloud is that the structure and organisation of New Zealand Book Month has been overhauled to ensure it returns bigger and better in 2011, and earlier in the year too - in March 2011 rather than late in the year (so there will have been about a 17-18 month gap, rather than a 12 month gap - so not too bad considering the exciting future it's created). The new website has recently been launched, and you can check it out here.

I will be talking more about New Zealand Book Month as it approaches, and of course doing my best to get a few crime fiction events on the agenda. For now though, I thought I would highlight something that is happening on the website; readers are voting for their favourite books of all time (NZ and international), and some well-known people are sharing their top 5 lists, along with the 'book that changed their lives'.

I went to start voting the other day, and was flummoxed. Couldn't narrow it down to five favourite crime novels, let alone five books of all types. And I've had a few different books that have changed my life, in small and larger ways. But it got me thinking - for you crime fans out there, what would your Top 5 favourite crime novels be? And what was a book (crime or not) that changed your life?

I thought I'd share a couple of personal anecdotes and examples, rather than nailing down my own top 5 and life-changing books list yet. One book that changed my life was THE HOBBIT, which my mother bought for me from a mail-order book club that provided books to primary schools when I was growing up. It was the first real 'adult' book that she'd bought for me (I was about 8 I think), even though according to the school I had a 16+ year old reading age even then. She bought it in order to read it to me, thinking I wouldn't quite understand all the 'big words' yet. I was bored, honestly. I remember sitting on the couch listening to her read "In a hole in the ground there was a hobbit..." and then all this description of the hole, with nothing happening. Aarrggghhh (remember, I was only 8 or so). But then, apparently, when she left to go and do something else, I picked up the book and started reading it myself. And quickly fell in love with it, and started reading more and more young adult and adult books. So that was a bit of a life-changing moment for me.

What are your favourite crime novels? What are some of the books that have changed your life?

Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: MORTAL REMAINS by Kathy Reichs

Over the past decade Kathy Reichs (herself an accomplished forensic anthropologist) and her popular heroine Tempe Brennan have leapt towards the head of the class when it comes to forensic thrillers, taking the baton from the likes of Patricia Cornwell and Kay Scarpetta. I have enjoyed several of her books over the years, such as FATAL VOYAGE, MONDAY MOURNING and DEADLY DECISIONS.

In the twelfth in the popular series, Tempe Brennan - who echoes her creator Reichs in that she regularly splits her anthropological duties between Quebec and North Carolina - finds herself following a puzzling trail to Hawaii after a body is discovered in a Canadian lake. The victim of an autoerotic effort gone wrong causes even more consternation when he’s identified as a man who apparently died in Vietnam forty years before. Bodies in Carolina and Hawaii add to the intrigue and muddy the waters, as it becomes apparent someone wants the past to stay well buried.

As well as taking the Brennan show on the road to Hawaii, MORTAL REMAINS continues the evolution of the will they-won’t they, on again-off again relationship between the heroine and Lt-Detective Ryan of the Quebec provincial police, complicated by the clash between each of their daughters. The evolution of the ongoing relationships will probably interest longtime Reichs fans, while they and those new to the author might both be a little underwhelmed by the mystery storyline, which although intriguing is rather 'one note' rather than layered.

There are some twists to the tale, some interesting medical anomalies, and some action-packed moments, but for me they didn't really add much depth, and it felt like Reichs had settled into cruise mode, much like her forensic predecessor Cornwell. The story unfolded, and was a reasonably enjoyable read, but there just didn't seem that much to it, plot or character-wise, or anything to really make it rise above the masses in the crime fiction world.

Overall I would say that MORTAL REMAINS is by no means a classic, but would still be enjoyably readable for Reichs fans.

3 STARS

Have you read MORTAL REMAINS? Do you intend to? What do you think (of the book or my review)? Comments welcome.

Monday, October 25, 2010

9mm: an interview with RJ Ellory

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of author interviews; 9mm - 9 Murder Mystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors
Today, for the 40th instalment in the series, I have another fantastic international author for you; RJ Ellory, who earlier this year won the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Award. Ellory visited New Zealand last month in support of his latest novel THE SAINTS OF NEW YORK, and I got the chance to sit down and have a chat with him over a drink in Auckland. He's a very interesting, intelligent, and down-to-earth guy, as well as being a terrific writer. We did get a photo, although it looks a bit strange as the flash on my camera died just as the photo was being taken, giving an unusual effect (see below).

As some of you may be aware, RJ Ellory has an unusual background; he was orphaned as a young boy, later spent time in jail for poaching, became a rock guitarist, wrote 22 unpublished novels in longhand before he was first published, and now has published several acclaimed novels set in the United State, although he is a British author.

You can read more about RJ Ellory and his books here.

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

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: RJ Ellory

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Sherlock Holmes; it was just the first real crime fiction I read, and there was something fascinating about a morphine-addicted, cocaine addict genius. And it was the darkness, the dark underbelly that is not really conveyed in a lot of television adaptations and films, the tortured genius aspect of this crazy guy. As a young guy, 11, 12, 13, 14 years old, all these short stories and four novels, just tremendous. And I re-read them periodically.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The book that I read that really made me understand the power of fiction - I was orphaned at seven and ended up at different schools and homes and so forth, and I remember being 12 and getting chicken pox. And in a residential facility if someone gets chicken pox you quarantine them, and I was quarantined in a sanatorium, essentially locked in a 12-bed dormitory, and out of the porthole window of the dormitory door was a black and white chequerboard corridor with doors off it into different sections and different rooms, and I was at the far end of the room. And every so often they’d put food through the door, and I’d run to the door and look down the corridor, and never see anybody. By the time I got to the window whoever was there was gone, so I was constantly hearing footsteps but not the seeing the people.

And while I was in there, I read THE SHINING - half of it I didn’t understand, and half of it scared the living crap out of me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night in the middle of a nightmare, but at the same time compelled to keep on reading it. That book really got under my skin and really made me understand the power of fiction.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Well you already know the story; 22 manuscripts that were unpublished and will continue to remain unpublished. Some detective stuff, some legal thrillers, some horror stories, it was just my learning curve.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I have a blues band. I sing and play guitar in a blues band. I played the guitar for a couple of years when I was a teenager, and then a year or so ago my son said he wanted to learn so I said I’d teach him, and I hadn’t played the guitar for 20 years. His interest lasted about three weeks, and mine continued, to the point where I started practising three to four hours a day and got professional lessons, to the point now where I’m performing live with other guys. It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, and now I’m in the situation where I sort of have the time and the wherewithal to do it.

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?
The best curry in the world. We even have a section of the city where I live [in Birmingham] where you get the finest Asian food you could ever hope to eat. Also there’s a lot of very, very good artists that perform. If you come to Birmingham, organise a weekend where you get some proper Birmingham beer, some proper Birmingham curry, and go and see a band.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Philip Seymour Hoffman; I saw him do Capote, and Mission Impossible, and other films. I just think he’s a phenomenal actor and I really like him.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS - nothing to do with its commercial popularity, but my books are based so much on research, and I do a tremendous amount of work to get them right. I often end up learning a great deal more about something than I can ever use it for, the CIA or the Kennedys or whatever, and often I walk away from finishing a book not only having already started another one, but also feeling that I’ve added something to myself, added something to my repertoire of knowledge.

When I finished A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS I honestly, honestly, honestly felt like I’d left something behind. It was the emotionally demanding, emotionally draining, most emotionally involved I’ve ever got in a book.

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?
If you can imagine meeting the love of your life, and you know she’s the love of your life, no question about it, you have no hesitation, no doubt, this is the girl that you’re meant to spend the rest of time with. And she lives next door. Every day you ask her to marry you, you ask her every day for 15 years, and she ignores you every day for 15 years. And then on one day, after 15 years, she looks at you and says ‘you know what, yeah, I will’.

That’s what it was like. And I went into a bookstore very near the offices where I work, and it was available, and I went to the counter and bought a copy for myself - I paid cash - and the guy behind the counter said “I’m really, really looking forward to reading that book, I’ve heard such great things about it”, and I asked him his name, he said ‘Ben’, and I opened the book and wrote ‘To Ben, with my very best wishes’, and signed it and gave it to him. And he said “are you Roger?”, and I said yeah, and then bought another one for me. So he got the first one I bought, and I got the second one.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you’ve had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Someone came to me with an 11-page document typed in font size 8, single spaced, explaining to me what I really meant in one chapter of one of my own books. It was wild stuff, and she took it literally sentence-by-sentence, ‘what you’re saying in this sentence is so-and-so, what I think you mean is so-and-so, what I know you mean is so-and-so’. And she just gave it to me and said ‘I want you to read this, and if you read this and know what I am saying you will become a better person’, and then she walked away. I read some of it, and it was just like ‘oh... okay...’ [chuckling].


Thank you RJ Ellory. We really 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 A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, or any of RJ Ellory's other books? Have you met Ellory at any author events? What do you think? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel: watch this space!

CE8XE897KGPN Due to the Canterbury earthquake last month, what was looking like it would be an absolutely fantastic edition of The Press Christchurch Writers' Festival, was understandably cancelled.

Unfortunately this meant that the presentation of the first-ever Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (pictured right) was also affected, as the winner was due to be announced at the marquee Friday night event at the Festival. However, in some good news, we are now very close to confirming a replacement one-off event in Christchurch next month for the presentation of the inaugural award. I will have specific details regarding the date and venue etc for you in the coming days.

You can read a little more about the Ngaio Marsh Award and contemporary New Zealand crime fiction in a terrific article by Philip Matthews of Fairfax Magazines, here.

Once event details are confirmed, publicity about the Award and the New Zealand crime writers involved will step up a notch again - in some ways it feels like we all just took a big breath after the earthquake, and things have been put on hold for several weeks. But we are now back on track, and I will keep you all up to date with what is going on for what will, I suppose, perhaps be something of a landmark event in the history of New Zealand crime fiction. Just a little delayed. It should make for a good story in years to come, about the first year of what will hopefully become a longstanding and sought-after award (especially as no-one was too badly hurt, physically, in the earthquake).

So those of you who are reading the three finalists now have 3-4 weeks to formulate your own opinion, before the official announcement. And booksellers have more time to promote all three finalists prior to the winner being announced. If any of you need any help sourcing copies of the three finalists, or other New Zealand crime fiction you'd like to give a go, please feel free to get in touch with me (craigsisterson[at]hotmail[dot]com) and I'll do my best to help.


THE THREE finalists for the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, which will be presented at a ceremony in Christchurch next month, were announced in August. The award is made for the best crime, mystery, or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident, published in New Zealand during 2009.

A panel of seven local and international judges considered the best of locally written crime and thriller fiction published last year. The three finalists are:

The international judges said CUT & RUN was “complex and suspenseful” and had “scenes and incidents which are jaw-droppingly good”, that BURIAL “maintained the tension and the atmosphere from beginning to end, keeping the atmosphere creepy”, and that CONTAINMENT had “an attractive series heroine (feisty but vulnerable)” while starting with a “superb” opening scene that by itself would make the judge “want to read more Vanda Symon”.

The Awards namesake, Dame Ngaio Marsh, is renowned worldwide as one of the four “Queens of Crime” of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, having published 32 novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn between 1934 and her death in 1982. With sales in the millions, and her books still in print to this day, Dame Ngaio is possibly New Zealand’s bestselling author, ever.

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After the nature-caused delay, are you still keen to find out who has won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award? What do you think of the three finalists for the first-ever award? Have you read any of them? Do you agree with the judges? Which is your favourite? What Kiwi crime novels might be in the running for the 2011 award, based on this year's books? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

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

There have been some more great crime fiction stories on the Web this past week - from newspapers, magazines, and fellow bloggers. Hopefully you will all like finding an interesting article or two linked here, that you enjoy reading. Of course several of the blog posts and stories from early in the week related to the terrific Bouchercon by the Bay crime writing festival held in San Francisco last weeked. It sure looked like a fantastic time, and I hope to make it to a Bouchercon one day myself.

Onto the round-up.

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

  • John Barber of the Globe and Mail looks at the strengthening crime fiction cohort at the upcoming Toronto Festival of Authors (where IFOA Noir has become something of the 'centrepoint'), asking if this is the year when 'murder got respectable', after Canadian crime writers suffered blatant snobbery by other authors in years past.
  • The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the TV retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes character, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a modern-day Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson, calling it "superior sleuth TV".
  • In an interesting interview with BBC News, Welsh author and Gold Dagger recipient Belinda Bauer (the first person to win the top award with a debut novel in 40 years) talks about enjoying horror fiction before writing crime (like our own rising star Paul Cleave), unexpected success, and the writing of BLACKLANDS.
  • The Sowetan has an article on South African crime writer Diale Tlholwe, who will be appearing for the Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club session at the African Literary Bookshop in Johannesburg today (Saturday).
  • In good news for the crime fiction world, The Bookseller reports that Titan Books has acquired worldwide distribution rights to paperback series Hard Case Crime, whose former publisher Dorchester Publishing ceased mass market paperback publishing in August.
  • Bob Patterson of OpEdNews.com gives one fan's perspective of the happenings at the recent Bouchercon festival. You can also read some other thoughts on Bouchercon from Ruth Jordan of Crimespree magazine here, from J.Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet here, from Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts here, and from Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders here.
  • In an interesting interview with a new author, The Anchorage Daily News takes a look at a new crime novel written by Juneau Fisheries Biologist Scott Kelley.
  • In a long-ish article, Peter Craven in The Australian takes a broader look at crime fiction, particularly Scandinavian crime fiction, on TV and in books, including comments about art and trash, popularity and quality, as he examines the second Swedish-language film instalment in Stieg Larsson's trilogy, which is now showing in Australian cinemas.

Have you (or will you) read Bauer's Gold Dagger-winning debut BLACKLANDS? Do you think the literary world is starting to respect crime fiction more? What do you think of the modern-day Sherlock Holmes? Have you been to Bouchercon? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gregg Hurwitz interviews Michael Connelly

Like many who couldn't attend the fantastic Bouchercon festival in San Francisco last weekend, I have been following along various great blogs and reports from people who were there - the likes of Ruth and Jon Jordan of Crimespree magazine, J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet, Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders, and Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers International.

It looks like it was a terrific few days, filled with lots of great events. One event that was highlighted by Ruth Jordan on the Crimespree blog yesterday particularly made me groan (that I'd missed it) - Gregg Hurwitz interviewing Michael Connelly. That would have been very cool.

Both are terrific writers who set their novels in Los Angeles, and their conversation would have been something to see. As Jordan said on her blog, "Last weekend in an overcrowded room fans of both Special Guest Michael Connelly and Hurwitz himself got to watch a young man talk to one of his hero's. They spoke of character, crimes and setting. Two animated men speaking with passion about that they love most, the construction of the best in fiction set in a City full of both promise and dread. L.A. is a very special town. With more facets than the world's brightest diamonds there are no limitations to what the writer can find within the county limits. Both Connelly and Hurwitz continue to find something new and brighter with each outing."

Fortunately someone has put some snippets of the conversation online today, which you can watch below (hat tip to Janet Rudolph for the heads-up):




I am fortunate enough to have interviewed both Hurwitz and Connelly in the past year and a bit. Hurwitz was here in New Zealand late last year, touring in support of OR SHE DIES (the UK/Aust/NZ title for THEY'RE WATCHING - for some reason it was released here a year before it was in the USA), and I met him at an event in Auckland, and had lunch with him and his publicist. He's a terrific guy, and a very good thriller writer. You can read my later 9mm interview with him here as well.

Of course I also recently interviewed Michael Connelly about his latest novel THE REVERSAL too, for an article in the Weekend Herald (read here). Two terrific guys - intelligent, interesting, and generous with their time. Top notch crime writers too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bid on BLOODLINE and support MS research

A British booklover and multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer who has set up a website-based organisation (Helen's Charity Auctions) to raise funds for MS research has just listed a fantastic auction item today that may be of great interest to crime fiction fans.

Mark Billingham, one of Britains top crime writers, has donated TWO signed galley editions of the upcoming US edition of his acclaimed recent Tom Thorne novel BLOODLINE. Galley editions are copies given to bookshops and reviewers - they are NOT available for sale. You won't be able to get your hands on these anywhere else.

BLOODLINE was released in New Zealand, Australia and the UK in late 2009, and was one of only two books I gave a 5-star rating to amongst the dozens of crime fiction reviews I wrote for Good Reading magazine in 2009. It is a terrific book, from one of the very best contemporary crime writers. The US edition won't be released until July 2011. You will also not be able to buy this edition in shops in the UK.

No matter where you are in the world, you can bid on the signed galley copies of BLOODLINE (and support a fantastic cause) here. The auction holder will ship internationally.

All proceeds from the auction go to MS research, and it's a great opportunity to get your hands on a signed copy of a rare version of a great book.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition of the central nervous system that can cause numbness, dizziness and balance issues, cognitive difficulties, severe fatigue, speech and swallowing difficulties, and bowel and bladder problems, amongst other symptoms. It is an autoimmune disease, which in effect means the body's immune system attacks itself. It is the most common disabling neurological disorder among young adults and affects over 2.5 million people worldwide. Women are around two to three times as likely as men to develop MS. Once diagnosed, MS stays with the person for life, but treatments and specialist care can help people to manage many symptoms well. Currently there is no cure.

For those interested in bidding for this signed, rare version of a great book, and/or supporting a great cause, bid here.

UK publisher picks up self-published Kiwi murder mystery

Back in 2007, Nelson-based clinical psychologist and writer Jan Marsh self-published her first novel, a murder mystery called BUTTERFLY SOUP. Now in 2010 the novel has been picked up for UK publication by independent publisher Onlywomen Press, and is available for sale in Great Britain (with a new cover, right - click on the link above to see the old NZ cover).

The story in BUTTERFLY SOUP starts when Gabrielle, a soft-hearted lesbian psychologist, stumbles across the definitely dead body of a man recently out of prison. According to the blurb, "This is a thriller that's hard to put down. Soon you'll want to know why, and who, killed him.. But Gabrielle wants to find those answers herself even if she's distracted by at least one of her professional colleagues. Just how tough is soft, sexy Gabrielle?"

For those in the UK, the RRP for the new version of BUTTERFLY SOUP is £8.99, however I see that you can get it from MoonHorseBooks.com for £8.01.

Marsh has also written several short stories and poems, and a non-fiction work, Harnessing Hope: take control of your life and master depression. You can read more about this Kiwi author at her website here.

Flash Fiction: read the Derringer Award winner

At Bouchercon over the weekend, along with the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Award announcements, the winners of the annual Derringer Awards of the Short Mystery Fiction Society were revealed.

I love reading full-length crime novels, but I do also really enjoy crime-centred short stories, whether in the form of author collections like Peter Robinson's enjoyable The Price of Love, collections with numerous contributors like the recent The Dark End of the Street: New Stories of Sex and Crime by Today's Top Authors edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S.J. Rozan, or one-off stories in mystery magazines or on the Internet. It's nice to be able to just dip in and quickly finish a good story.

And for those who want to be able to really quickly pick up, read, and finish a good short story, then the Flash Fiction category (Up to 1000wds) might interest you. This year's Derringer winner in that category was "And Here's To You, Mrs Edwardson" by Hamilton Waymire, published in the webzine Big Pulp, November 23, 2009, a story of a pizza boy and an older woman.

The great thing is not only does it only take a couple/few minutes to read, the entire thing is available online, so you can all dive in and sample some award-winning crime fiction, right here.

What do you think of the winning Flash Fiction story? Do you like crime and mystery short stories, as well as novels? If so, what are some of your favourite authors/stories? What makes a good crime fiction short story? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SURRENDER now available from all New Zealand bookstores

In great news for independent booksellers and those of you who don't have a Whitcoulls or Borders store nearby, Donna Malane's award-winning debut crime novel SURRENDER is now available through all bookstores in New Zealand, with the exclusive REDGroup deal (which restricted initial distribution to award sponsors Whitcoulls and Borders) now expired.

"We are excited to be able to open up distribution to all stores nationwide," says New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) President Maggie Tarver. "This is a great opportunity for all bookstores to show their support for New Zealand fiction."

Orders can be placed through the NZSA bookshop on their website, http://www.authors.org.nz/.

The book is $20.00 per copy, although orders of five or more will be priced at $10.00 per copy. Price is exclusive of postage and packaging, which will be $5.00 for a single copy. Larger orders will be priced by size.

For more information, please feel free to contact Sarah Gumbley on 021 861 956 or at sarahgumbley@me.com. Alternatively, more information on Surrender can be found at http://www.surrendernz.com./

"Surrender is an impressive debut powered by a vivid and captivating narrative voice"
Craig Sisterson, New Zealand Herald

Review: THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND by Roy Vaughan

Reviewed by Rob Poole

Despite the effect of texting and the wide-spread acceptance that the ‘younger’ generation are out of touch with the ability to express themselves well on paper, Kiwis continue to be one of the most published peoples in the world and Mangawhai numbers several authors in a variety of categories.

One of the most recent releases is a novel by Roy Vaughan. One would think after 20 years as a journalist for a major newspaper enough was enough, but a break reignited the creative juices leading the production of the novel entitled The Mereleigh Record Club tour of New Zealand.

In a plot where life imitates art, ex-pat Vaughan brings to life a group who, as teens from the Home Countries, were members of the Marlow record club in the 60s immersed in Buddy Holly, Cliff Richard and the emerging Mersey sound from which came the Beatles.

Fragmented by life, love, children then grandchildren, divorces and business dealings both legal and illegal, the group gather, 35 years on, for a reunion trip to New Zealand where one of their number now resides.

Our author owns his own travel company in Auckland so the itinerary of our intrepid travellers includes all the usual tourist spots plus, of course, Mangawhai. However, it soon moves from being just a fun trip as an element of rivalry and intrigue creeps in and an undercurrent of international deceit pervades. This quickly turns into a police sting operation where neither reader nor characters quite know the goodies from the baddies but where unsung heroes gradually rise to the occasion.

The Mereleigh Record Club tour of New Zealand is an easy read, rarely stodgy, and one to which readers in the mid 50-plus age group will easily relate, and while it appears to come to a somewhat dramatic yet satisfying end, is that really the case?

This book is the first of a trilogy so while readers may finish this issue with a satisfied sigh, our cast are set for more adventures as they expand their horizons through travel to other parts of the world where, again, all is not plain sailing.

Some good night time entertainment here.

At your local bookstore.

- Rob Pooley

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This review was first published in the Mangawhai Focus newspaper earlier this year, and is reprinted here with kind permission.

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Do you like the sound of THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND? Of crime fiction with some 'older' protagonists? Of mystery fiction incorporated with travel? Or music? Thoughts and comments welcome.

Monday, October 18, 2010

King of crime offers clues to success: my Weekend Herald feature interview with Michael Connelly

King of crime offers clues to success
American author Michael Connelly talks to Craig Sisterson about chronicling contemporary LA

TWO UNPUBLISHED manuscripts that are gathering dust “in a box somewhere” in Michael Connelly’s Tampa home deserve a slice of credit for the creation of one of the most compelling characters in contemporary crime fiction, even if the acclaimed author says his earliest efforts “got the fate they deserved”. For it was in the process of those first attempts at writing full-length fiction that Connelly, then a newspaper reporter, had a revelation. “I learned that, at least for me, the books I write were going to live and die with character,” he says, his measured voice resonating down the line from Florida. “The protagonist was what they were going to be about, not a tricky plot.” Connelly admits those first efforts - private eye tales set in Fort Lauderdale - were “strong on plot, short on character”, so for his third attempt he concentrated more on creating a complex hero, and relentless LAPD Detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch was born. Two decades, millions of copies, and shelves full of awards and accolades later, Bosch and Connelly are both back this month with The Reversal, released in New Zealand this week.

The 16th of Connelly’s 22 crime novels to feature Bosch, who earlier this year was voted ‘World’s Favourite Detective’ in an online poll, The Reversal sees the aging cop teamed up with another multilayered Connelly character, defense attorney Mickey Haller, who first appeared in 2005’s The Lincoln Lawyer. This time Haller is recruited to ‘switch sides’ to act as a special prosecutor in the retrial of a man released due to shaky DNA evidence after 24 years in prison for a child murder. Convinced the man is guilty, Haller takes the case on the proviso he can choose his own investigator; Harry Bosch.

Having his defense attorney hero cross the aisle to act as an independent prosecutor may be unusual, but is typical of Connelly’s approach; he’s always looking to evolve and stretch both his writing and his characters, book on book.

“If you’re going to engage readers with a character that comes around [regularly], there’s just no way the character can remain static,” he says. “There has to be change and evolution and self-exploration and understanding.” Woven into gripping storylines, of course.

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Everyone is entitled to the most vigorous defence possible
Michael Connelly

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Connelly says he first created Haller because he wanted to stretch himself by writing a legal thriller, and he was attracted to the idea of a hero who had a very different view of the justice system from Bosch. While Bosch is a loner who sometimes plays outside the rules, so considers himself an outsider within the police department, he isn’t a true outsider like Haller, says Connelly. “Bosch carries a badge, carries a gun, he represents the Government, and Mickey Haller is on the opposite side of that. And you know defense attorneys are pretty much despised by society because people don’t take the time, at least in American society, to really think about how one of the foundations of our country is that everyone is entitled to the most vigorous defense possible.”

Haller is also a complicated person in that what he gets out of his career, even when he’s successful, isn’t enough, says Connelly. “He doesn’t feel that successful as a man or a person. He’s trying to figure out why - he’s not someone who says ‘I need this and then I’ll be successful’ - he’s not sure what he needs, and I think that makes him interesting.”

Along with his great touch for characters like Haller and Bosch, Connelly is also renowned for evoking the contemporary ‘character’ of Los Angeles, a city where he worked the crime beat for several years, including during the LA riots. Connelly is a master of the ‘telling detail’, utilising short description or insight to bring things to life, rather than a laundry-list of attributes. “I still treat my research like a reporter,” he says. “I go to the places that I’m going to write about, and stuff kind of sifts through. My years as a reporter gave me pretty good skill at observation, so I look for these things. Rather than 50 details about something that really add up to nothing, I look for the one thing that really opens a window to the character… or place.” While researching The Reversal Connelly drove around Los Angeles taking pictures on his iPhone of locations he could use, that had thematic or symbolic touches as well as working physically. Such as a kidnapping site; a nice house in a nice neighbourhood, with the Hollywood sign visible in the distance, a high hedge to provide concealment, and a crack running up the path. It was this final detail that caught Connelly’s eye. “You know, there is something wrong here, the entrance is cracked.”

The other part of capturing ‘telling details’ is “having a good ear for dialogue, or a good ear for the telling statements someone will make”, says Connelly. The “whole Mickey Haller odyssey” really kick-started when he was regularly having lunches and drinks with lawyers while researching his first legal thriller. Talking about innocent clients, one defense attorney said “You don’t want to have an innocent client, the scariest thing you can have is an innocent client because the stakes are so high”. It was a perspective Connelly had never heard expressed in movies, books or TV shows about lawyers. “So that was the starting point for Mickey Haller, and you know it’s the first line of the first book he’s in. That for me was a telling detail about that life.” The big-screen adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer recently finished shooting, and is due for release early next year, with Matthew McConaughey playing Haller.

Connelly also regularly weaves wider contemporary issues into his crime novels; the Bosch tales have chronicled a fair chunk of the city’s social history and landscape over the past two decades, from the aftermath of the riots to homeland security issues following 9/11. Addressing such issues “keeps him interested” and adds dimension to his crime novels, admits Connelly. “It makes me feel like I’ve elevated my game if I can reflect a little bit of what’s going on in the world, or in my world. The trick is never to be didactic, don’t tell people what should be done. What I try to do is finesse into my stories a sense of what’s going on out there, and maybe raise some questions in the readers’ minds. You want to have different views, or opposing views, and then the reader can draw their own conclusions.”

The Reversal (Allen & Unwin, $38.99)

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This feature interview was first published in the Saturday 9 October issue of the Weekend Herald, and is reprinted here with kind permission.

Who the hell is Alix Bosco?

This morning on his always-excellent Beattie's Book Blog, my fellow Ngaio Marsh Award judge Graham "Bookman" Beattie has asked a question that has been puzzling many in the New Zealand books world for over a year now; just who the hell is 'Alix Bosco'?

Beattie has his suspicions, based on the little we know about Bosco, who is of course the author of the critically-acclaimed CUT & RUN, one of the three finalists for the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, and this year's follow-up SLAUGHTER FALLS.

He lays out some possible reasons for someone "to decide to use a pseudonym and go to some lengths to prevent people finding out her/his real identity," before revealing his "hottest suspect at the moment" (see here) - someone who hasn't featured much in the various debates that have flared up in the comments section here on Crime Watch in the past few months.

So, the list of 'suspects' lengthens. Beattie, like me, does lean towards it being a female writer - this is a 'gut feel' on my part based more on the writing style, perspective and content, and particularly the way of dealing with violence and the issues covered etc, in the two Anna Markunas books thusfar, rather than just because the pseudonym and main character are female - although one of the most strident commenters on Crime Watch has repeatedly assured us that playwright Greg McGee is in fact Alix Bosco (and there is certainly some circumstantial support for this, as there is with other suspects). I've also heard the McGee rumour elsewhere too, not just on the Internet.

Other than McGee, potential 'suspects' here on Crime Watch, from commenters, include established novelist and former social worker Rosie Scott, television writer Maxine Fleming, and former Prime Minister Helen Clark (Bernadette with the scoop there).

Rather than a journalist (Beattie's "hottest suspect"), although that's certainly a very strong possibility, my gut tells me it's someone closely involved, or who runs in the same circles, with New Zealand television, especially those involved with the TV show Outrageous Fortune. The speed at which CUT & RUN was picked up for a TV adaptation, with Robyn Malcolm tabbed as Markunas (which does seem ideal casting by the way), and the fact that Malcolm gave the quote for the first book - meaning she'd read the manuscript or a very advance version (prior to the covers being printed - my advance copy already had her quote on it)...

Fleming would fit that profile (apparently she has been involved as a writer with Outrageous Fortune), as would others like series creators/lead writers James Griffin (if it's not a female) and Rachel Lang. But this is of course all supposition.

So, who do you think Alix Bosco is? You can read my 9mm interview with Bosco (done via email via a third party, to protect his/her identity) here - one of the few interviews s/he has given.

Please share your thoughts with Beattie on his blog too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A sunny day in Devonport...

Yesterday I had the pleasure of catching up in person with another fascinating Kiwi crime writer, Roy Vaughan, author of THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND, and guest contributor to Crime Watch recently with his excellent, must-read recollection of meeting Dame Ngaio Marsh, "Memories of a Dame" (read here).

Eating fish'n'chips in the park (a very Kiwi thing to do on a late spring/early summer day) we chatted about all sort of things related to writing, publishing, books and crime fiction, as well as travel and the wider world.

Roy is a fascinating guy - a former officer in the British and New Zealand Merchant Navies, and journalist for the New Zealand Herald, he started an Expo Association and did a stint in Fiji setting up a PR and information section for the South Pacific Forum, he now runs a travel tour company and has started writing thrillers - THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND is the first in a planned series, and he is just finishing the edits on the second book, THE MERELEIGH RECORD CLUB TOUR OF JAPAN, which will be launched in 2011.

It was interesting talking to Roy about writing for a small New York publisher, and doing some low-key publicity but effective publicity here in New Zealand and in the UK. The hardcover book has received some good reviews, but is a little hard to find on bookstore shelves here in New Zealand - although it has sold very well to libraries, and is quite popular there (in terms of readers getting the book out on loan). Roy says he is just very happy that people seem to be enjoying the story, and isn't too worried about big sales. I am very much looking forward to reading the book, as the story sounds intriguing, and Roy is certainly passionate about the different aspects of the book (the 'older' group involved, the travel and music aspects, the New Zealand scenery, and his Customs Officer hero who will continue into further books).

A paperback version of the book will be available later this year, which will hopefully see even more people give the book a go (as the cost will be significantly reduced). The hardcover is currently available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Book Depository - keep an eye out for a paperback release in the coming weeks.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ellis Peters Award shortlist announced

The Crime Writers’ Association will next month announce the winner of this year’s prestigious Ellis Peters Historical Award. Established for the best historical crime novel (set in any period up to 35 years prior to the year in which the award will be made) by an author of any nationality, the award commemorates the life and work of Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) (1913-1995), a prolific author perhaps best known as the creator of Brother Cadfael.

The winners will be announced on November 4 during an event at Little, Brown Book Group, 100 Victoria Embankment, London

The Ellis Peters Historical Award Prize £3,000
Sponsors: The Estate of Ellis Peters, Headline Book Publishing Company and Little, Brown Book Group

Shortlist

Revenger – Rory Clements
Publisher: John Murray
This second novel to feature the Elizabethan ‘intelligencer’ John Shakespeare captures all the danger but also all the excitement of living in capricious times when a wrong word can get you sent to the Tower. An exuberant novel that revels in the sights and smells of Tudor England.

Washington Shadow – Aly Monroe
Publisher: John Murray
This novel shows that your allies can do you as much harm as your enemies as MI6 agent Peter Cotton gets caught up in diplomatic intrigue in Washington. Monroe conjures up a world of murder and double dealing in beautifully lyrical prose.

Heresy – S J Parris
Publisher: HarperCollins
An astonishingly accomplished first outing for Giordano Bruno, monk, poet and sleuth, investigating skulduggery in Elizabethan Oxford. Parris has resurrected an undeservedly forgotten figure and her depiction of a society riven by religious intolerance is timely.

Heartstone – C J Sansom
Publisher: Mantle
Massive, colourful and ambitious, this is a double mystery for Sansom’s wily lawyer Mathew Shardlake. The background of Tudor England - with Henry’s ill-advised foreign wars having modern resonances - is a stunning backdrop.

The Anatomy of Ghosts – Andrew Taylor
Publisher: Michael Joseph, Penguin Books
This is Andrew Taylor at his considerable best; a wonderfully atmospheric - and labyrinthine -- mystery set in a period Cambridge evoked with all the skill that Taylor is famous for.

To Kill A Tsar – Andrew Williams
Publisher: John Murray
Compromised characters with difficult moral choices are at the centre of To Kill a Tsar. Set in a strongly realised nineteenth-century St Petersburg and dealing with the first significant terrorist cell of the modern era, this is bravura storytelling.


For press enquiries or more information on the CWA, please visit the website, www.thecwa.co.uk, or contact media.enquiries@thecwa.co.uk

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

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

Onto the round-up.

Crime Watch Weekly Round-Up: In the News and on the 'Net
  • The Portsmouth News takes a look at a a unique new event lined up for this month's Portsmouth BookFest, where forensic and crime scene experts from Hampshire Constabulary and the University of Portsmouth will team up with top crime writers to look at how much fact is behind the fiction of your favourite crime novel.
  • Margaret Cannon of the Globe and Mail reviews some of the latest crime fiction to hit booksellers' shelves, including FROM THE DEAD by Mark Billingham, EVIL IN RETURN by Elena Forbes, and SAINTS OF NEW YORK by RJ Ellory.
  • The Berkshire Eagle takes a look at a busy theatre company, and a new Egyptian mummy-themed murder mystery play they're showcasing, where audience members get a chance to 'guess the murderer'.
  • Luaine Lee of the McClatchy-Tribune News Service reports on how eight of the most prominent US mystery writers (including Harlan Coben, David Baldacci, Sandra Brown and Sarah Paretsky) will discuss how real-life cases inspired them to pen their best-selling books in the TV show "Hardcover Mysteries," which began this week and will air on Monday nights.
  • New York Times Bestseller Tess Gerritsen chats to Susan Fogwell of the Huffington Post about Camden, Maine, Ice Cold & the TNT series based on her books.
  • The Hollywood Reporter notes that legendary actor Robert De Niro and gritty crime writer Richard Price are teaming for a new police drama for CBS television, "Rookies," about a team of six freshman cops who are sent into high-crime trouble spots.
  • Children’s book publisher Albert Whitman & Co. has reached an agreement with Open Road Integrated Media to publish all 150 titles of Whitman’s Boxcar Children Mysteries series in e-book format, reports Publishers Weekly.
What do you think of the round-up? Which articles do you find interesting? Did have you read RJ Ellory or Mark Billingham's latest? What do you think of the 'reality' of crime writing? have you watched Rizzoli & Isles? What mystery books did you read as a child - Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, something else? Please share your thoughts. I'd love to read what you think.

Friday, October 15, 2010

9mm: An interview with Donna Malane

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

We've had a bit of a run of international authors in the 9mm series lately, so I thought that today I would share another New Zealand writer with you. So, for the the 39th instalment in the 9mm series, Crime Watch is talking to Donna Malane, the author behind SURRENDER, which won the inaugural NZSA-Pindar Publishing Prize, and was released last month.

Although SURRENDER (read my review for the New Zealand Herald here) is Malane's first foray into book-based crime fiction, she does have quite a true crime and crime fiction pedigree on the small screen. During her years researching and writing re-enactments for television’s Crimewatch series, Donna had unprecedented access to police files and cases. During that time she formed enduring relationships with police, forensic scientists, lawyers, victims and their families, as well as with the odd (and some not so odd) criminal.

Then, while continuing to write and produce a wide variety of prime-time television dramas and documentaries, Donna continued her interest in and enjoyment of writing crime drama. She wrote for the television police drama series Shark in the Park, the international doco-drama series Indelible Evidence, crime drama series Duggan (for which she won Best Drama Script at the New Zealand Film and Television Awards in 2000) and in 2008 co-wrote and produced the film for television Until Proven Innocent, the story of the wrongful conviction of David Dougherty for the rape and abduction of his 11 year old neighbour. Until Proven Innocent won seven major awards at the 2009 Film and Television Awards, including Best Drama. You can read my review of that telemovie here.

I understand SURRENDER is intended to be the first of a series featuring heroine Dianne Rowe. For those of you in the Wellington area, Malane will be signing copies of SURRENDER at the Whitcoulls Lambton Quay store at 12:30pm.

But for now, Donna Malane stares down the barrel of 9mm.

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Donna Malane

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Kinsey Millhone because she’s so resilient. Kurt Wallander because he’s so bleak. Taggart because he was so grumpy. DCI Jane Tennison because she was so flawed.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Black Beauty. The chapter in which Ginger dies had me howling for weeks. Actually, the very first book I remember reading was a little ‘first reader’ of Chicken Little. I must have been five I guess. I distinctly remember the first time I read a sentence and I realised that those black squiggles on the page had meaning. That words had the power to make things appear in my imagination. To be honest, the realisation terrified me.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Heaps of television: In the crime genre, Until proven Innocent (90 minute drama). Bloodlines (90 min drama). Duggan (2 x 90 min dramas and 2 x 1hr), Indelible Evidence (2x 1hr doco-dramas). I also wrote the re-enactments for television’s Crime Watch for years. Books; A GIRL'S GUIDE TO RUGBY (humour/sports), ALIENTIME (young adult fiction).

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Swim. It’s become an unhealthy obsession.

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 visit the dog beach at the airport end of Lyall Bay. At times there’s around 50 or so dogs there having a great time. It’s definitely where dogs go to have fun. But actually, Wellington is my adopted home town. Dunedin is my real home town. It’s where I was born and where my family live. The creepy kelp at St Clair is really worth a look.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Any answer to that question is way too revealing! Okay, well, I identified with Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect but that was probably more to do with Lynda LaPlante’s writing as Helen’s acting. Still, I’d be pretty happy to have Helen play me.


Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
That would have to be Surrender. It’s only been on the shelves for a [couple of weeks] so I think it deserves to be my favourite.

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 felt it didn’t belong to me anymore. While I was writing Surrender, I kept it very private. Hardly anyone knew I was writing it and I didn’t ask anyone to read the manuscript until it was finished. Even then I didn’t really want to share it. When I saw the published book in the shops I thought it belongs to readers now, not me. It is a bit like watching your child head off into the school playgrounds for the first time. You know they’ve gone off into the world and you hope like hell people like and are nice to them. And you hope they don’t get run over by a bus or picked on by bullies...

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
When I was signing books at the launch in Auckland this week, someone asked me to write ‘thanks for the great shag’ in their copy.


Thank you Donna Malane We really 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 SURRENDER? Or seen any of Malane's TV projects? Do you like the sound of crime fiction set in the seedier side of Wellington? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The consensus finalist: THE SHANGHAI MOON by SJ Rozan

As I discussed yesterday, the 2010 Bouchercon festival is about to kick off in San Francisco - four days of fantastic author events and crime fiction festivities.

At Bouchercon by the Bay, the winners of three major crime fiction awards will be announced; the Thursday night Opening Ceremonies will include the presentation of the Barry (run by Deadly Pleasures magazine) and Macavity (run by Mystery Readers International) Awards, followed by a festive reception. And of course later in the weekend the winners of the festival's own long-running awards will also be announced; the Anthony Awards (I understand the winners are based on the votes of attendees at the convention itself).

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the finalists for the three different awards, and see what sort of repetition and crossover there was between the books on each of the three lists. As you'd expect, some crime novels appear on more than one list - but when it comes to the major Best Novel award, there is one novel that is on all three finalists lists; THE SHANGHAI MOON by SJ Rozan. So, win or lose, walking away from Bouchercon with three awards or none, you could say that SJ Rozan at least has the honour and distinction of being the 'consensus finalist' of each of the three judging panels. Quite an achievement in an awards world that often throws up some pretty interesting results.

Rozan is an author I had heard of, and I've read some of her short stories in a couple of crime fiction anthologies, but never any of her novels (yet). I might have to try to get my hands on THE SHANGHAI MOON however, and see what the fuss is about.

Here is the 'blurb' for THE SHANGHAI MOON:

Estranged for months from fellow P.I. Bill Smith, Chinese-American private investigator Lydia Chin is brought in by colleague and former mentor Joel Pilarsky to help with a case that crosses continents, cultures, and decades. In Shanghai, excavation has unearthed a cache of European jewelry dating back to World War II, when Shanghai was an open city providing safe haven for thousands of Jewish refugees. The jewelry, identifed as having belonged to one such refugee - Rosalie Gilder - was immediately stolen by a Chinese official who fled to New York City. Hired by a lawyer specializing in the recovery of Holocaust assets, Chin and Pilarsky are to find any and all leads to the missing jewels.However, Lydia soon learns that there is much more to the story than they've been told: The Shanghai Moon, one of the world's most sought after missing jewels, reputed to be worth millions, is believed to have been part of the same stash. Before Lydia can act on this new information, two men are murdered, Lydia is fired from the case, and Bill Smith finally reappears on the scene. Now Lydia and Bill must unravel the truth about the Shanghai Moon and the events that surrounded its disappearance sixty years ago during the chaos of war and revolution, if they are to stop more killings and uncover the truth of what is going on today.


You can read an excerpt here.

When the book was released in 2009, Maureen Corrigan in The Washington Post called it an "ambitious and absorbing riff on the classic Nancy Drew mystery", and said that THE SHANGHAI MOON demonstrated that "there's plenty of possibility lurking in the old missing-gems plot. It just takes a master like S.J. Rozan to restore the luster of a classic".

You can read the full review here.

It certainly sounds intriguing. I'm not sure if Rozan will win many or any of the three awards - THE SHANGHAI MOON would have to be a truly exceptional book to beat out John Hart's exquisite Edgar and Dagger Award-winning THE LAST CHILD for the Barry and Anthony Best Novel Awards - but you never know with these things, and regardless of eventual results, Rozan certainly deserves hearty congratulations as the 'consensus finalist', and someone who has a claim on having the most lauded book at Bouchercon.

You can see the full list of finalists for the Macavity Awards here, the Barry Awards here, and the Anthony Awards here.

Have you read THE SHANGHAI MOON? If so, what did you think? If not, do you like the sound of it? Which of the finalists do you think should win each award? Which have you read? Does winning an award matter, one way or the other? Thoughts and comments welcome.