Monday, July 19, 2010

So, New Zealand doesn't have a history of crime writing?

Over the past few weeks and months, I've gradually been building up my home library of Kiwi crime, thriller and mystery fiction. As you may have noticed on this blog, the list of Kiwi authors keeps getting longer and longer, as I stumble over more and more crime and thriller writers from both recent times, and days (far) gone by.

About 18 months ago, I was aware of more Kiwi crime writers than most people, but I still would have been in the majority of booksloving New Zealanders who even if they were aware that we produced some great crime fiction, thought our crime writing heritage pretty much consisted of Dame Ngaio Marsh, then a bit of a surge in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Paul Thomas, Chad Taylor, and one-off books from the likes of Simon Snow, Michael Laws, and Nigel Latta etc, then a recent welcome renaissance with authors such as Vanda Symon and Paul Cleave turning out multiple titles.

I took this picture this morning of some of my bookshelves at home. All of the books in the picture could be called 'Kiwi' crime and thriller titles (whether they are set in New Zealand or not - they have been written by people who live in New Zealand or otherwise have a strong connection to this country, eg born here or grew up here even if they are now based overseas, etc). There are around 120 titles there in the photo, which is impressive enough as it is (and far more than most people would think could be collected under the Kiwi crime banner), but I also should point out that:
  • None of Vanda Symon's three Sam Shephard books are in this photo;
  • None of Paul Cleave's four Christchurch set thrillers are in this photo;
  • Only about 1/4 of Dame Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn titles are in the photo (I could have four entire shelves filled up with Marsh - I only have one at the moment);
  • None of Edmund Bohan's five Inspector O'Rorke tales are in the photo;
  • Only one of Joyce West and Mary Scott's five co-written thrillers published from 1960-1965 is in the photo;
  • Only two of Freda Bream's 13 Reverend Jabal Jarrett mysteries (published between 1982 and 1997) are in the photo;
  • Only one of John Dunmore's six crime thrillers (four written under the pseudonym Jason Calder), published between 1964 and 1981, is in the photo;
  • Only one of Gaelyn Gordon's mysteries is in the photo;
  • Only one of Colin D. Peel's numerous thrillers is in the photo;
  • Only one (perhaps two) of Elizabeth Messenger's thrillers (she published several, circa 1960s) is in the photo;
  • None of Norman Berrow's 20 mysteries are in the photo;
  • None of Rose Beecham's many Amanda Valentine mysteries are in the photo;
  • None of the crime novels, mysteries, or thrillers written by the likes of Chad Taylor, Charlotte Grimshaw, Patricia Donnelly, Jeannie McLean, Yvonne E. Walus, and several other 'Kiwi' authors, are in the photo (see sidebar list for more names).
So, a little more than Dame Ngaio Marsh and some modern-day stuff eh?

If you have any information, suggestions, or tips re: sourcing more hard-to-find and out-of-print Kiwi crime, mystery and thriller fiction (or titles/authors I haven't mentioned at all), please do let me know. In the meantime, what do you think of my bookshelves, and the list of others not there? Does it surprise you that there has been so much Kiwi crime fiction, now and in the past, flying well under the radar? Have you perhaps read some of these older titles without realising the Kiwi connection? Which authors have you read? Heard of? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Craig - Great 'photo. And I am always impressed by the number of Kiwi crime authors and great books from New Zealand...

  2. What a fine project!

    Perhaps I should try to collect my Danish crime novels in one shelf? - but to be honest, quite a lot of the Danish novels are mediocre so I don´t want to spend too much money on them.

  3. Get thee a bigger book shelf, Craig!

  4. Yours are on another shelf in another room Vanda (well, actually my girlfriend took CONTAINMENT with her to the UK), same as Paul's. As you say, I need to expand my Kiwi bookshelves section though...

  5. Impressive collection, well organised too.

  6. Have you read them all though? I can see I'll have to visit you just to borrow something. Your shelves are far too neat though

  7. Good list. Also: Mark Richards, Morgan Jones.

  8. Sorry, I see you have Morgan in the sidebar.

  9. What has Mark Richards written Stephen?

  10. You'd have more space if you moved that bowl.

  11. True Chad. I actually have two of your novels (Shirker and Electric - you signed one for me back at a Auck Writers Festival years ago), but they are at my parents house in Nelson at the moment (I left about 20 books I really didn't want to part with there when I went overseas, having had to sell most of my 300-400 books I had at the time)...

  12. Interestingly Stephen, I've actually just picked up a copy of Mark Richards' AS THROUGH A GLASS from a second-hand store last weekend... I think this may be his detective stories you were referring to (novellas starring Simon Bridger)... I understand the late Mr Richards was widely known as a poet.

  13. Hi Craig,

    Do you know how to locate Norman Berrow's publication rights?
    Some publishers are interested in his works.


  14. Hi Fei,

    Sorry, just saw your comment now. I'm not really sure of much about Norman Berrow. His stuff is near impossible to find - although 'Ramble House' seem to perhaps have some available - see link at the sidebar. I'm not sure how up-to-date that website is. It's likely that Berrow died many years ago, so I'm not sure who you would need to contact re: his publication rights. There's even a chance that if he died sufficiently long ago, that his books may be close to out of copyright now too...