Thursday, August 30, 2012

In the black and yellow corner*: LUTHER: THE CALLING

Well, in less than three days time we will know which of the four finalists have won the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Four cracking novels from four terrific authors are currently in the running:

  • COLLECTING COOPER by Paul Cleave
  • LUTHER: THE CALLING by Neil Cross
  • BY ANY MEANS by Ben Sanders
  • BOUND by Vanda Symon

On Saturday night, after The Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the Christchurch Writers Festival, we will find out who takes home the terrific hand-crafted art trophy designed and created by local sculptor Gina Ferguson (along with the winner's cheque - thanks to the Christchurch Writers Festival Trust - and collection of Ngaio Marsh novels - thanks to HarperCollins, Dame Ngaio's publisher). Before then, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at each of the contenders - four days , four books and authors. Yesterday we kicked things off, alphabetically by author, with COLLECTING COOPER by Christchurch writer Paul Cleave, who won the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award.

Today I am taking a look at LUTHER: THE CALLING by Wellington writer Neil Cross, which is something of a rarity in that it is a novelisation related to a critically acclaimed, award-winning television series (TV to book, rather than the more common vice versa - okay, so that's not completely unique), actually written by the creator and writer of the television series (that's the bit that is more unique).

LUTHER: THE CALLING tells the story of how hulking, volcanic police detective John Luther (wonderfully played by Idris Elba in the TV series) found himself alone in a warehouse with child killer Henry Madsen, making various choices that would affect his career, in the very first scene of the very first series of Luther (read my review of the first season on DVD here). A prequel novel, if you will.

Here's the official blurb:

Meet Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. He's a murder detective. A near-genius. He's brilliant; he's intense; he's instinctive. He's obsessional. He's dangerous. DCI John Luther has an extraordinary clearance rate. He commands outstanding loyalty from friends and colleagues. Nobody who ever stood at his side has a bad word to say about him. 

And yet there are rumours that DCI Luther is bad - not corrupt, not on the take, but tormented. Luther seethes with a hidden fury that at times he can barely control. Sometimes it sends him to the brink of madness, making him do things he shouldn't; things way beyond the limits of the law. Luther: The Calling, the first in a new series of novels featuring DCI John Luther, takes us into Luther's past and into his mind. It is the story of the case that tore his personal and professional relationships apart and propelled him over the precipice. Beyond fury, beyond vengeance. All the way to murder...

Wow, that's an intense blurb. And in all honesty, LUTHER: THE CALLING is a pretty full-on, intense crime thriller too. After first reading the book last year, in a review I called it "unflinching, brutal, and brilliant" - more than a year later I still stand by that description. If you haven't read it already (highly recommended), you can get a taste by downloading the first chapter for free here.

You can watch a short three minute interview with Cross, explaining the book, ties between the book and TV series, why he chose to wrote a book based on the characters in the TV series, and how any further books may tie into the ongoing TV series, below:

You can also read a terrific interview by Diana Wichtel with Neil Cross about the Luther series and LUTHER: THE CALLING, in the New Zealand Listener magazine (full article online here).

LUTHER: THE CALLING has impressed readers and critics alike, here in New Zealand and overseas (Cross, with his British background, is one of our New Zealand crime writers who is actually relatively widely available overseas - great news for international readers). The book will also be released in the United States in September. Here are a few samples of what critics and readers had to say about LUTHER: THE CALLING:

"The story is pretty strong stuff... a grisly tale of warped values and violence that would probably be too hard core for a mainstream TV audience... the writing is economical, taut and evocative. This is, quite literally, bloody brilliant."  Metro (UK)

"Cross has always dealt in darkness and been so adept at conjuring bogeymen from the catacombs of mythology that you start to see them everywhere... at times I had to force myself to keep reading. But I'm glad I did."  The Guardian

“Luther is to crime fiction what his historical counterpart was to religion. The mystery he is trying to solve is the murder of his soul in an imperfect world. Fallen from grace but struggling for salvation, Luther’s most formidable foe is himself. Gripping, taut fiction by a new master in the genre...”  Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

"Unapologetic, brutal and stunning... No doubt about it, Cross is an amazing writer, capable of lyricism and pathos as well as some of the most traumatising scenes you're ever likely to experience in a mainstream crime novel."  Eurocrime

Sensing any consistent themes? The Ngaio Marsh Award judging panel, consisting of seven crime fiction experts from the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, and New Zealand, was likewise impressed by LUTHER:THE CALLING, putting it through to the finals from a tough and closely-contested long-list for the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award. Amongst other comments, the international judging panel praised LUTHER: THE CALLING as a “superbly crafted, brilliant novel” written in “vivid prose that brings the characters and world to startling life”.

But will this be enough for Cross to become 'third time lucky', and walk away with the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award on Saturday night? The only author to be a finalist in all three years of the Award, Cross is facing some pretty stiff competition - from Cleave, Sanders, and Symon, all of whom have penned some very good thrillers that have garnered plenty of acclaim from readers, reviewers, and judges alike.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at another of the contenders for the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award. But in the meantime, have you read LUTHER: THE CALLING? If not, does it sound like the kind of crime thriller you might like to try? Or would it be too dark for you? Thoughts and comments most welcome.

* the colours of each author's 'corner' are based on their home region - Wellington's sporting colours are black and yellow. Canterbury's red and black etc - just a play on the 'in the blue corner' boxing analogy...

No comments:

Post a Comment