Sunday, 14 August 2016

Benjamin Myers's Top 5 Crime Novels

GBH by Ted Lewis
Is there anywhere more sad and oppressive than an English seaside town in winter? Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire is the setting for the masterwork of one of the UK’s great under-rated crime writers. Lewis is best known for Jack’s Return home, which was filmed as Get Carter, but this is more nuanced, and of an ever darker tone. It is to the fringes of this seaside town that a gangster retreats from the London crime scene, as past events creep up on him and a taut dual narrative tightens like a ligature round the throat. Though not even in print, the influence of GBH is surely evident in a number of televisual, cinematic and literary works that followed.

I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond
The first twenty-five pages of this book are probably the  second most nihilistic piece of fiction I’ve ever read, while the closing pages are the most nihilistic. Raymond takes the notion of noir to a whole other level in this story of an axe-wielding psycho amok in London, and his ties to the Soho underworld in the burgeoning AIDS-era. It’s a novel utterly devoid of hope. It is a book that is pornographic in its unflinching depiction of violence, one entirely constructed of shadows.

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
Is murder-suicide a crime? Spark’s story of an elusive protagonist suffering what appears to be a very public breakdown that ultimately leads to a grim and sad conclusion is a short, unnerving  and utterly brilliant piece of prose, a puzzle that has no real solution but digs deep in its portrayal of a distinctly modern sense of alienation. Spark herself described it as a “whydunnit”. I’d describe it as unforgettable.

Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn
I tell everyone that Happy Like Murders is sick, disturbed, haunting and haunted – and brilliant. It takes a special writer to elevate the diabolical story of Fred and Rose West into a viable work of art high literature, in fact but Gordon Burn has the sense of humanity, as well as an awareness of time and place to pull it off. His eye for detail is second to none, and he does not judge this barbaric pair he merely teller their story. I say ‘merely’, but a lesser writer would have cracked after the first chapter. I rank it as one of the best British books of the last century, and the reason I have yet to visit Gloucester. I’m in no hurry to do that.

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
I first saw the TV movie adaptation of this, starring Tommy Lee Jones as the rather hapless and not entirely dislikeable double killer Gary Gilmore, when I was about ten years old and have been a firm opponent of the death penalty ever since. Mailer’s account is one of the great American works, a totemic work of journalism that crosses over into the realm of the novel (a mode Truman Capote pioneered with In Cold Blood – both of which were later an influence on Gordon Burn too) . It’s forensic, poetic, ebullient, tragic, epic. The USA in a nutshell, then.

Benjamin Myers is a journalist, poet and the acclaimed author of Beastings (2014) which won the Portico Prize for Literature, a Northern Writers Award and was long-listed for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. His previous novel Pig Iron (2012) won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. Turning Blue is Myer's first crime novel, published by Moth in August 2016.

Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers is published by Moth Publishing, £7.99

Nothing stays hidden forever! In the depths of winter in an isolated Yorkshire hamlet, a teenage girl, Melanie Muncy, is missing.  The elite detective unit Cold Storage dispatches its best man to investigate. DI Jim Brindle may be obsessive, taciturn and solitary, but nobody on the force is more relentless in pursuing justice. Local journalist Roddy Mace has sacrificed a high-flying career as a reporter in London to take up a role with the local newspaper. For him the Muncy case offers the chance of redemption.  Darker forces are at work than either man has realised. On a farm high above the hamlet, Steven Rutter, a destitute loner, harbours secrets that will shock even the hardened Brindle. Nobody knows the bleak moors and their hiding places better than him.  As Brindle and Mace begin to prise the secrets of the case from the tight-lipped locals, their investigation leads first to the pillars of the community and finally to a local celebrity who has his own hiding places, and his own dark tastes.

More information about Benjamin Myers can be found on his website.   You can also follow hm on Twitter @BenMyers1. 

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