Friday 30 January 2009
So, as they said in Sound of Music - So long, farewell Auf wiedersehen, adieu.
Bad Traffic is the first in a series of crime novels to feature Chinese detective Inspector Jian. It began life as a response to two real life crimes: the death by suffocation of more than fifty illegal Chinese immigrants in a lorry container, and the drowning of the cockle pickers on Morecombe Bay. Lewis combines a unique and moving thriller with the vicious and topical issue of people trafficking. He finds himself not only having to deal with persuasive and nasty killers but in a situation where he is not able to make himself understood properly because of the language barrier.
Thursday 29 January 2009
Tuesday 27 January 2009
Monday 26 January 2009
News from my friend David Thompson’s Busted Flush Blog is that Ken Bruen’s London Boulevard will start filming soon with Colin Farrell and Kiera Knightley on board.
Oscar Winner William Monahan (screenwriter of The Departed) is set to direct the film which is due to start filming during the summer.
London Boulevard is the story of criminal known as Mitchell. When Mitchell is released from prison after serving three years for a vicious attack he doesn't even remember, Billy Norton is there to pick him up. But Norton works for Tommy Logan, a ruthless lowlife with plans Mitchell wants nothing to do with. Attempting to stay out of Logan's way, Mitchell finds work at the Holland Park mansion of faded movie actress, Lillian Palmer. But it isn't long before Mitchell's violent past catches up with him. When innocent people start getting killed and his eccentric sister's life is put in danger, Mitchell is forced to act.
If done well London Boulevard will certainly be worth going to see.
You can see him in the UK this July when he comes over to promote his new Kathryn Dance novel, Roadside Crosses.
More info is on this link
Saturday 24 January 2009
Following on from the interview in the Daily Telegraph last week end there is another excellent interview with Dennis Lehane in today's Guardian (24 January). A Life in Writing.
He talks about his latest novel The Given Day and the length of time that it took him to write. As he says in the interview "I feel like if this bombs, God: it's going to be my Heaven's Gate, my Waterworld". The Given Day which took him 5 years to write is to be the first of a trilogy. He also talks about his series featuring detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro of which has a massive fan base. Lehane is very forttunate with Hollywood. Firstly there was the success of Mystic River which in 2004 was nominated for best picture and also won awards for two of the actors Tim Robbins and Sean Penn. Then there was Gone Baby Gone which was filmed by Ben Affleck and featured Casey Affleck in 2007.The film of course was not released in the UK until 2008 allegedly as a result of the disappearance of Maddie McCann. Fans of the Kenzie and Gennaro series are of course pleased to hear that there will be another one in the series soon. Lehane also talks about his stint writing for the Wire and the fact that it seemed to be a daunting task. The interview is certainly worth reading and is illuminating about his writing as it is about what makes him tick.
Dennis Lehane will be at Borders Charing Cross Road on 12 February 2009
Friday 23 January 2009
Further to Ali Karim's blog earlier about the forthcoming visit of Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerristen to the UK, on January 18 there was an excellent interview with Dennis Lehane in the Daily Telegraph. Initially it was not available on line but it appears that someone sensible at the Daily Telegraph has now decided that it should be. The full interview can be found here.
I for one am looking forward to the event with Tess Gerristen that is going to be taking place at Borders Charing Cross Road on 12 February. I am sure that it will be a fascinating evening.
The movie ended with the back of the bus laden with gold bullion perched over a chasm in the Alps, and Sir Michael's character Charlie Croker says: "Hang on a minute lads - I've got a great idea."
However, the riddle of how they could have extricated the gold - and themselves - from the cliff-hanger scenario has never been solved - until now.
John Godwin, 39, an IT manager from Godalming, Surrey, beat 2,000 other entrants in a competition organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to work out how it could have been done, in a time limit of 30 minutes.
His strategy is designed to redistribute weight, involving knocking out windows, draining the fuel tank, and loading extra ballast (rocks) on to the front of the bus.
With various windows broken, a member of the team could be lowered from one of them to let the air out of the front tyres, to make the coach more stable.
Croker could then have used an access panel to get to the fuel tank, near the rear of the vehicle, and remove its drainage plug.
One man could then safely leave the coach, and pass ballast in to weigh the vehicle down at the front. The gold could then be moved to the front and taken off.
Mr Godwin adds: "What happens then? Separate problem I suppose, but waiting for a passing motorist and either hijacking (feels quite bad) or buying their vehicle with stolen gold (still feels bad, but less damage and no blood) would see the men on their way to Switzerland..."
Thursday 22 January 2009
I have at last got my hands on the excellent short story collection called “These Guns for Hire – 31 Short Stories about Hitmen” which was edited by JA Konrath. I have been trying to read these stories since it was first published.
Wednesday 21 January 2009
Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award
Nox Dormienda, A Long Night Sleeping - Kelli Stanley (Five Star)
Touchstone - Laurie King (Bantam)
Tell Me Pretty Maiden - Rhys Bowen (St. Martin Press)
A Royal Pain - Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
A Fatal Waltz - Tasha Alexander (Harper Collins)
Angel Falls - Baron Birtcher (Iota)
Fractured - Karin Slaughter (Delacorte Press)
The Black Path - Asa Larsson (Delta)
The Angel of Knowlton Place - Kate Floral (Five Star)
Mahu Fire - Neil S. Placky (Alyson Books)
Death of a Cozy Writer - G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Thugs and Kisses - Sue Ann Jaffarian ( Midnight Ink)
Six Geese a Slaying - Donna Andrews (St. Martins)
Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill - N.M.Kelby (Shaye Areheart Books/Random House Group)
Greasing the Pinata - Tim Maleeny (Poisoned Pen Press)
Getting Old is to Die For - Rita Lakin (Dell/Bantam)
It Happened One Knife - Jeffrey Cohen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
Congratulations to all the nominees.
Tuesday 20 January 2009
As with all lists, though, it's who was left out and my quick scan of the online version suggests the following notable ommissions:
Margery Allingham, John Ball, John Bingham, Christianna Brand, Sarah Caudwell, G K Chesterton, James Crumley, CHARLES DICKENS!!!!, C.S. Forester, Dick Francis, David Goodis, Cyril Hare, Fergus Hume, Dennis Lehane, Ted Lewis, John D Macdonald, Philip MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, Leo Malet, Horace McCoy, William McGivern, William McIlvanney, Manuel Montalban, Robert B. Parker, Anthony Price, Ellery Queen, Minette Walters,Hilary Waugh, Charles Willeford, Charles Williams.
There are many other personal favourites (Jonathan Latimer, Kenneth Fearing, Alan Furst, P M Hubbard, Robert Player etc. etc.) I would make case for were I asked, but ignoring some or all of the above is ridiculous.
I'm sorry, but picking three James Bond books and two Michael Crichtons and thus (in theory) missing out any 3 of the above is disgraceful.
Any other howlers spotted?"
I had a quick scan and was surprised that Michael Connelly, John Harvey, Michael Dibdin, HRF Keating, Philip Kerr, Steig Larsson, Stef Penny, Mickey Spillane and Gaston Leroux were missing.
Have a look and tell me what you think.
The company, which describes itself as "a jack of all trades", works with newspaper and magazine publishers and offers online magazine subscription and polywrapping services.It said it has already printed between 500 and 600 books since the on-demand book-printing machine arrived last October.Using the Espresso, Newsstand offers items from publishers' backlists, along with enlarged type for the visually impaired, which a spokesperson for the company described as "quite a good market".The books are all paperback and perfect bound and Newsstand charges £10 for the standard version and £14 for an enlarged book. Costs may be higher depending on arrangements with specific publishers, and the company said that for out-of-copyright books, Newsstand would make a charity donation.The company is using version 1.5 of the Espresso Book Machine, of which there are just nine in the world. "They're basically prototypes," said the spokesperson.The news comes at a time when on-demand services are tightening their belts. Self-publishing company Lulu.com recently made a quarter of its staff redundant. And although Blackwell said last June it would bring an Espresso machine to the UK, it will now do this in late spring, according to a Blackwell spokesperson. The machine will run at its London Charing Cross store.
Monday 19 January 2009
Patricia Cornwell the best selling crime writer has given debut author Philipp Meyer a big push up the ladder by ingeniously endorsing his debut novel America Rust in her latest Kay Scarpetta novel Scarpetta. Could this be a co-incidence or are there other forces at work here? While Cornwell and Meyer are published by two different publishing houses they do share something in common and that is an agent, Esther Newberg of International Creative Management.
Further information can be found here:-
Phillipp Meyer’s book is not due for publication until next month. It will be interesting to see what effect Ms Cornwell’s endorsement has on his sales!
I recently wrote my thoughts about Atkinson’s crime novels at The Rap Sheet, as her three Jackson Brodie novels were the highlights of my Christmas reading.
I have been aware of the critical acclaim and awards Ms. Atkinson has received over the years. But being a genre animal, I had avoided her three crime novels, because she was always pegged as a “literary writer.” That term raises my hairs like the quills on a porcupine. I now realize, much to my embarrassment, that Atkinson’s three crime novels are remarkable feats of plotting and characterization, and that the “literary” edge does indeed add something special, something I’ve not experienced before in such a delightful manner. Discovering her work was, for me, like striking a rich Klondike seam.
It seems that everyone is equally enthralled by Atkinson’s crime-novels, including Shots Columnist Mike Ripley, who wrote –
I have to admit to being a late-comer to the crime fiction of Whitbread Book of the Year winner novelist Kate Atkinson, but my goodness, I’m impressed. When Will There Be Good News? (from Doubleday) is far from a conventional detective novel, even though it involves several detectives and numerous crimes, and it will not appeal to the more conservative crime reader.
But I would urge thriller fans of all persuasions to give it a try, for Ms Atkinson has a truly fascinating approach to plotting as well as a highly intelligent and witty writing style. Is this the shape of crime writing to come? It might just be.
In fact Ripley reviewed “When Will There Be Good News?” at Karen Meek’s Eurocrime website last September -
Kate Atkinson's new novel When Will There Be Good News? (Doubleday, £17.99) is nothing like a conventional thriller, but might just be the crime novel of the year.
This is a book which revels in outrageous plot coincidences and has a huge cast of characters fluttering like moths around the unconventional detective duo of ex-soldier, ex-cop, ex-private eye Jackson Brodie and Edinburgh cop DCI Louise Monroe. Yet their fates and actions are governed by the novel's "victims" including a traumatised female doctor and a gutsy, streetwise sixteen-year-old orphaned girl trying to improve the hand life has dealt her.
Along the way there is murder, kidnapping, extortion, arson, drug-dealing, a considerable amount of violence aimed at women and an awful lot of unsatisfactory marriages. This is not a thriller which delivers comforting, morally-sound resolutions. It is a novel about love, fate, death and the sheer business of getting on with life; written quite brilliantly with cheeky literary references and an eagle eye for human foibles and weaknesses.
Kate Atkinson has pulled off a fantastic trick. With sparkling prose, intelligence and wit, she has shown how clever the crime novel can - and should - be.
The Times interviewed Atkinson in a fascinating feature which illuminates her life and work –
Atkinson, who is in her mid-50s, claims not to write detective fiction, although that's the general direction her novels are moving in: the next one will feature two familiar female characters, Gloria and Louise, at a murder mystery weekend. “I do like secrets in books,” she says, digging into an oversweet pistachio thing. “There have always been mysteries in my books. I don't give that much thought to my books actually. I'd rather talk about cake, or shoes or Posh” - by which she means, presumably, Victoria Beckham.
All right, let's talk about cakes; she and I rhapsodise about Betty's tea room in Harrogate and York. At a literary festival a woman complimented her on the shoes she was wearing, and the usual Q&A about plots and character degenerated into a fashion free-for-all. Today she is wearing a lovely scoop-necked green cardigan and surprises me when, without warning, she produces from the cleft of her bosom a cloakroom ticket. She has a wonderful, wicked laugh and manner - quite unsuited for someone determined to be discreet and withholding.
“I was an only child and read a lot,” she says of growing up in York. “I read Just William, E. Nesbit - the greatest children's writer.” She was “never” a happy child. “You can be a happy adult - I am - not a happy child, or a happy child and not a happy adult. I think I was probably just too solitary.”
Her parents ran a surgical supplies shop. “Even as a small child, I thought that was weird. The other shops sold fairly normal things like bread and clothes. We sold rubber sheeting.”
Atkinson lives in Edinburgh, near her 84-year-old mother, two daughters and grandchildren. “I like my own company,” she says. “I might have been a more sociable child had I had siblings. My father was very sociable, my mother less so.”
She went to universty in Dundee, where she married and almost became an academic, but her doctorate - on the American short story - was refused at its viva. Does she like living alone? “I don't want to live with anyone. I'm having my garden done at the moment and the builders are trailing through the house, which is full of dust, as are my lungs. My whole being at the moment is crying, ‘Leave me alone, leave me alone'.”
If you’ve been as tardy as I have in catching up with Kate Atkinson, may I indicate that her three crime novels – “Case Histories”, “One Good Turn” and “When Will There Be Good News?” are all out in paperback from Transworld Publishing and are essential reading.
The nominees for 2009 are:-
Trigger City by Sean Chercover
The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
The winner will be announced at Left Coast Crime which is taking place in Hawaii between 7 -12 March 2009.
Congratulations to all the nominees!!
Sunday 18 January 2009
The crime section is of course quite eclectic and even I have to say that I am quite impressed with the selection of books that they have come up with. I am also pleased by the fact that most of the books on the list I have either got or read or both! There are also a number of books on the list that I am going to have to hunt down and read as a result. However, I am sure that there will be those who will not only be fuming at some of the books that have been excluded as well as the books that are on the list.
Personally there is only one book that I would have liked to see on the list and that is Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution.
The list of crime novels can be found here :-
So what books would you like to have seen on the list and are there any books on the list that you think should not have made the cut?
Saturday 17 January 2009
The exhibition includes personal belongings of Ian Fleming and his family and range from letters to Christmas stockings and all things in between along with photographs of his family, his time at Eton and his naval work. There are also a number of interactive screens (including a roulette wheel) which visitors are encouraged to play with. Alongside this there are artifacts from a number of James Bond films including the gun used by Scaramanga, the blood stained shirt worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and my favourite Rosa Klebb's flick-knife shoes in From Russia with Love. There is also a collection of various James Bond books from throughout the world.
If you have not managed to see the exhibition then I would suggest that you hot foot it down to the Imperial War Museum as it is due to close soon, as a matter of fact on 1 March 2009.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore it has not been without its problems with some fans feeling that it is an impossible graphic novel to film. The film charts the fortunes of a group of crime fighters struggling for justice in an alternative 1985, where Richard Nixon is still US president and the Cold War is raging.
Further information can be found here:
Friday 16 January 2009
Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House – Delacorte Press)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Prince of Bagram Prison by Alex Carr (Random House Trade)
Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
Enemy Combatant by Ed Gaffney (Random House - Dell)
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli (Random House - Bantam)
BEST FACT CRIME
For The Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz (HarperCollins)
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It To The Revolution by T.J. English (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Hans van Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez (Harcourt)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Company)
African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland & Company)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by Leonard Cassuto (Columbia University Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by David Geherin (McFarland & Company)
The Rise of True Crime by Jean Murley (Greenwood Publishing – Praeger)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Sterling Publishing – Metro Books)
BEST SHORT STORY
"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" - Hardcore Hardboiled by Sean Chercover (Kensington Publishing)
"Skin and Bones" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by David Edgerley Gates (Dell Magazines)
"Scratch a Woman" - Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
"La Vie en Rose" - Paris Noir by Dominique Mainard (Akashic Books
"Skinhead Central" - The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House Children's Books – Wendy Lamb Books)
The Witches of Dredmoore Hollow by Riford McKenzie (Marshall Cavendish Children's Books)
Cemetary Street by Brenda Seabrooke (Holiday House)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Random House Children's Books – David Fickling Books)
The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Harry N. Abrams Books – Amulet Books)
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children's Books)
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
Torn to Pieces by Margo McDonnell (Random House Children's Books – Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the story by Robert Lewis Stevenson (Arizona Theatre Company)
Cell by Judy Klass (International Mystery Writers' Festival)
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
"Streetwise" – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Paul Grellong (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"Prayer of the Bone" – Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC America)
"Signature" – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Judith McCreary (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"You May Now Kill the Bride" – CSI: Miami, Teleplay by Barry O'Brien (CBS)
"Burn Card" – Law & Order, Teleplay by David Wilcox (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY
The Bank Job, Screenplay by Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (Lionsgate)
Burn After Reading, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Focus Features)
In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Tell No One, Screenplay by Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre, based on the book by Harlan Coben (Music Box Films)
Transsiberian, Screenplay by Brad Anderson & Will Conroy (First Look International)
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)
James Lee Burke
Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, Maryland
Poe House, Baltimore, Maryland
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Random House - Doubleday)
A Song for You by Betsy Thornton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Congratulations goes to all the nominees!
The 63rd Annual Edgar® Awards Banquet will be held on Thursday April 30, 2009 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City
The four volumes will appear on 2 July, and will each contain "at least five" original pieces of work.
Ox-Tales will be "beautifully produced" £5 paperbacks, with 50p of the cover price going to Oxfam. They will be sold through the charity's 139 bookshops as well as through the trade. Oxfam Book Fortnight begins on 4 July.
The editor of the books is Mark Ellingham, who said: "Ox-Tales has my dream cast of British and Irish based writers."
They are Kate Atkinson, Beryl Bainbridge, Sebastian Barry, William Boyd, Jonathan Coe, Geoff Dyer, Michel Faber, Sebastian Faulks, Helen Fielding, Giles Foden, Esther Freud, Xiaolu Guo, Mark Haddon, Zoe Heller, Victoria Hislop, M J Hyland, Hari Kunzru, A L Kennedy, John le Carre, Maggie O'Farrell, Tony Parsons, DBC Pierre, Ian Rankin, Vikram Seth, Nicholas Shakespeare, Helen Simpson, Kamila Shamsie, Lionel Shriver, Alexander McCall Smith, Rose Tremain, Joanna Trollope, Robert McLiam Wilson, and Jeanette Winterson.
Further information can be found here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7833156.stm
Thursday 15 January 2009
This date is scrawled in my diary in bold flashing red, as both Dennis Lehane and Tess Gerritsen have been favourite writers of mine for many, many years. I have bumped into Tess several times over the years, while I only recently met Dennis Lehane for the first time last year, despite corresponding with him previously. Lehane’s novel THE GIVEN DAY has received huge praise in the US when it was released last year, while bestselling Gerritsen’s KEEPING THE DEAD continues the adventures of Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles and also has garnered huge praise from critics when it was released in the US last year under the title ‘The Keepsake’.
They are over in the UK to talk about their work, so it would be excellent if we can have a good attendance for them. Their respective books are important works that I can not recommend highly enough -
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Danny Coughlin is Boston Police Department royalty and the son of one of the city's most beloved and powerful police captains. His beat is the predominately Italian neighbourhoods of the North End where political dissent is in the air - fresh and intoxicating. On the hunt for hard-line radicals as a favour to his father, Danny is drawn into the ideological fray and finds his loyalties compromised as the police department itself becomes swept up in potentially violent labour strife. Luther Lawrence is on the run. A suspect in a nightclub shooting in Oklahoma, he flees to Boston, leaving his wife behind.He lands a job in the Coughlin household and meets Danny and the family's Irish maid, Nora, who once had a powerful bond. As the mystery of their relationship unravels, Luther finds himself befriending them both even as the turmoil in his own life threatens to overwhelm him. Desperate to return to his wife and child, he must confront the past that has followed him and settle scores with enemies old and new. Set at the end of the Great War, "The Given Day" is meticulously researched and expertly plotted, it will transport you to an unforgettable time and place.
Keeping The Dead by Tess Gerritsen [US Title ‘The Keepsake’]
She's Pilgrim Hospital's most unusual patient, and on this Saturday night, a media circus is gathered to record every minute of her visit to the X-ray department. Crammed into the small CT scan room are reporters, TV cameras, a select group of medical technicians - and forensic pathologist Maura Isles. Maura is there because the patient being scanned tonight isn't alive. She's probably been dead for centuries. She is, in fact, a mummy. As the CT scan proceeds, everyone in the room leans in close - and gasps in horror as an image of a bullet is revealed. Maura declares it a possible homicide case and calls in Detective Jane Rizzoli. When the preserved body of a second victim is found - and then a third - it becomes all too clear that not only is a maniac at large but he is taunting them. And that, unless Maura and Jane can find and stop him, he will soon be adding yet another chilling piece to his monstrous collection.
As this is a big opportunity for British readers to listen to two of America’s bestselling writers - so get there early.
As a teaser, here’s a snippet from the upcoming interview on the SHOTS website between Ali Karim and Erland Larsson
AK:I read in the press that he wrote the Millennium books privately and didn’tQuercus/MacLehose Press has set up a new Web site filled with interesting information about Larsson and his work.
EL: He did discuss the Millennium books with me, but I don’t know if he discussed them with anyone else. He told me about them, and sent me the manuscript for the first book and asked me for my opinion. I told him at the time that there was too much violence and sex in them. He told me that sex is selling. Then he sent me the second manuscript.
AK: Is that when you saw his talent?
EL :Hey, I saw his talent when he was a boy that is why we bought him the typewriter. Two more years he continued writing the Millennium books but all the time he was working to expose the dangers of the Nazi’s in our midst. He used to come to London often and speak to Scotland Yard, as well as in Germany and Sweden – even speaking to Ministers and politicians.
Wednesday 14 January 2009
The Crime Writers' Association announced yesterday (13th Jan) that the 2009 Cartier Diamond Dagger, awarded for sustained excellence in crime writing, goes to Andrew Taylor.
Andrew Taylor is the best-selling author of the Richard-and-Judy choice ' The American Boy ' and the highly-acclaimed ' Bleeding Heart Square ' which is just about to come out in paperback. We reviewed the book when published which you can read here.
Andrew Taylor's first novel ' Caroline Minuscule ' won the CWA's John Creasey Award. He is the only author to have won the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger twice, for ' The Office of the Dead ' and ' The American Boy ' (about the English boyhood of Edgar Allan Poe), which also won the US Audie in the literary fiction category. He has been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger, the Edgar, and many other awards in the UK and abroad.
Andrew is still on cloud 9 but said, “'I am hugely honoured to receive this award. It's the sort of award that validates an entire career. What makes it particularly special is that I have been chosen by my fellow crime writers."
Lesley Horton, chair of the CWA, said: "The Cartier award acknowledges the work of an author who has made an outstanding contribution to the genre, and Andrew Taylor has consistently shown his ability to do just that. He is a worthy recipient. The recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award is chosen by the members and committee of the CWA and is very much an honour awarded by the author's peers and thus makes it special."
Previous winners of the top award, which remains sponsored by Cartier, include P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, John le Carre and Ian Rankin. The presentation will be on 6 May at the Gore Hotel, in London. The SHOTS team will be there (as in previous years) to support and cheer the winner. From all here at SHOTS “Well done, Andrew!”
Thursday 8 January 2009
DONALD WESTLAKE RIP
DONALD WESTLAKE: IN MEMORY OF A CON-MAN by Michael Carlson
Most obituaries of Donald Westlake concentrated, and rightly, on his prolific output, more than 100 novels and an equal number of short stories, as well as some exceptional screenplays. Westlake was one of the last of a dying breed, the generation which followed the great pulp magazine writers, and made their livings pounding out paperback originals on manual typewriters. For Westlake, the habit was so ingrained he never gave up his typewriters; he once explained to me that, although he stockpiled old machines to cannibalize for parts, the real difficulty was finding ribbons, which he went through at a prodigious rate.
I met Westlake a couple of times; the last was a wonderful lunch thrown by Quercus at Chez Elena in Charlotte Street, where Don and Abby were literally the life of the party. I started thinking how that Donald Westlake was the antithesis of his Richard Stark alter ego, in much the same way that the Dortmunder books are a reflection in a fun house mirror of the Parker novels, and then it occurred to me that a central theme of Westlake's work has always been human frailty. His characters are done in, or nearly so, by their weaknesses, their foibles, and in his plots, which he basically made up as he went along, letting the characters find their own ways through situations which usually arise out of those flaws. Then they generally run up against people with more serious flaws, most commonly greed, and things accelerate from there. 'You never really know whay you're doing,' he said to me, and I think that applies to most of his characters too.
Even Parker, who wants to know, and control, everything. In fact, Parker is a successful professional thief precisely because he has none of those human failings, the reason for that being he has very little in the way of human feeling, especially in the first series (the redux is a somewhat kinder, gentler sociopath), and he takes advantage of, or takes revenge on, those who do have them.
Like many great comic writers, Westlake's humour had dark roots. The best comedians see the world as a noirish place, and find it funny. Westlake described the Parker books as growing out of an image he had of a man walking across the George Washington Bridge, the feeling of being an outsider he'd experienced himself coming to New York during a peripatetic youth. When he said that, it reminded me of the somewhat lost hero of 'Up Your Banners', a straightforward comic novel he wrote around the student protest movement in the late 1960s, and Westlake loved being reminded of that. He made the connection to Parker himself, saying he'd introduced Grofield, the actor and part-time thief, to the Parker novels in order to have a little comic relief. Grofield spun off into a few books of his own, and at about the same time Westlake, as Tucker Coe, wrote five novels about the ex-cop Mitch Tobin, whose existential angst in expressed by his working on a wall in his backyard. It was as if Tobin were the antithesis of Grofield. Remember too that the opening of the Grofield novel Blackbird, with its failed armored car robbery, was used as the opening of the Parker novel Slayground which was also made into a British movie starring Peter Coyote, Robbie Coltrane, and Billie Whitelaw, Beckett's favorite actress.
It's tempting to concentrate on the playfulness of Westlake's writing: how he and Joe Gores inserted their characters into each other's books, how Grofeld pops up in The Hot Rock (still one of the great heist movies, and one of Robert Redford's best roles, with Ron Liebman and Zero Mostel stealing every scene they can from him) or how in Jimmy The Kid the Dortmunder gang use a fictional Parker novel, Child Heist, as the blueprint for their own kidnapping. It was while contemplating how one can write the words 'fictional Parker novel' with a straight face that it finally occurred to me that what Donald Westlake actually was, what made him such a treasure as a writer. Westlake was a con man, a first-class con man, and we readers were the marks.
This is no great revelation. Go to Westlake's website and you're greeted with a quote 'I believe my subject is bewilderment' and then another one 'but I could be wrong'. He even wrote a novel called 'God Save The Mark', which won the first of his three Edgars. When he wrote an Arthur Hailey-style paperback original, Confort Station, as J. Morgan Cunningham, the book appeared with a blurb saying 'I wish I had written this book'. Signed Donald E Westlake!
Think about it. Westlake started out working for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, writing critiques of manuscripts sent in, with a fee, by hopeful would-be writers from across America.
Meredith found some great wordsmiths there. Evan Hunter, of course, like Westlake, would establish a second identity for a different sort of book. Lawrence Block would, like Westlake, move between hard-boiled and comic crime. This crowd included Brian Garfield and John Jakes, who would become best-sellers. All of them would write to order under multiple pseudonyms. Some, like Robert Silverberg, could turn out perfectly-typed manuscripts as quickly as they could type. These guys would play poker every week, and practice their con games. They even wrote one novel as a joint enterprise to help one of them out, one player sitting out and writing as chapter while the rest played on, then another sitting out, and so on.
Meredith, as their agent, would get them bulk contracts for paperback originals and contract the work out. This included a huge number of adult novels, of which Westlake claimed to have written 28, though others put the number at 39, or more. He used the name Alan Marshall (or Marsh) for most of them, wrote some with Block who was writing as Sheldon Lord, but also let other writers use the name to sell books published under imprints like Bedside, Nightstand, and the probably unintentionally punning Midwood. It was the same publisher who printed Jim Thompson's later novels, including The Grifters, for which Westlake won another Edgar, and an Oscar nomination. He described writing these books by doing exactly one chapter, fifteen pages a day, for ten days, and figured out that at $900 a pop, he was earning $22.50 an hour. In the Dortmunder novel Bank Shot (filmed with George C Scott lisping for reasons best-known to him) Kelp hits a car whose trunk is filled with adult novels, and all the titles Westlake lists as being visible are ones he wrote.
Westlake then wrote a very funny novel, Adios Scheherazade, about a man who writes porn, cashing in one more time on that genre which is probably the biggest con of all, when you think of con-men as giving the mark what he thinks he wants. I wonder if one of the reasons Westlake wasn't more successful in Hollywood was that those guys never really know what it is they want. But you look at his best work, like the screenplay of The Grifters, or the original screenplay for The Stepfather, or his adaptation of his own novel Cops & Robbers, or the Hammett adaptation Fly Paper (despite some odd casting) for Showtime's Fallen Angels series.
Or maybe it was because he simply liked sitting at the typewriter and being the master of his own destiny.
But I can't escape this sense of Westlake carrying on the con as the reader turns the pages, and I think that's why the Parker books are so special, and may remain the focus of critical attention on Westlake's career. Critics tend to value seriousness over humour, and Richard Stark's books were written with such a taut prose, especially considering the early Sixties milieu in which they first appeared, that they jumped out at you. He was performing that same con, keeping your attention focused, but with such economy that the story-telling was subsumed totally in the force of the story. I remember being transfixed by them when I discovered them, somewhat bizarrely, in the library at Dickinson College, where I found myself teaching. I've written at length for both Shots and Crime Time on the film adaptations of the Parker books, although Point Blank remains a classic film, and was Westlake's own favourite, I remain exceptionally fond of John Flynn's The Outfit, with Robert Duvall the screen's best Parker (though, like all the adaptations, not called Parker). It is a small and perfectly formed crime film that deserves a higher reputation.
Westlake's reputation, on the other hand, has probably never been higher. The early Parker books are being reprinted by the University of Chicago, which says something about American academe as well as the quality of Westlake's writing. Those fabulously entertaining Sixties novels are re-appearing, and as for the early adult stuff, well, let's say university presses need not worry.
But anyone who knew Donald Westlake, even casually, was aware of how full of life he was.
You imagine someone who writes seven days a week as being an introvert, but he was anything but. He died on New Year's Eve, as he and Abby were about to go out, and although that is tragic, I see something touching in the thought that he lived his life at a full pace until he just suddenly stopped.
Writers never die, of course, as long as they are being read. And I believe Donald Westlake will go on being read for a very long time. Readers love being conned, after all, and who could do it better?
The famous London Crime Book store MURDER ONE is to close its doors just short of reaching it's 21st birthday. Sarah Weinman was one of the first to blog on this. Every one is the business will have fond memories of the store (where ever it was located). It was a great place to not only find books, but to bump into authors and attend some really good launches. The owner, Maxim Jakubowski, seemed to be keeping it on an even keel whilst all around him failed but alas, the current economic crisis forced him into "early retirement" from the book trade. Mind you, that leaves him more time to write.
ALEX KAVA ON THE MOVE
This isn't the news I was expecting to give you from Sphere/Little Brown this January but Alex Kava has been bought by Nikola Scott and David Shelley at Sphere. She has signed up to write two MAGGIE O'DELL thrillers. Scott and Shelley outbid three rivals for the author, who is moving from Mira. The first hardback, set in Florida during a devastating hurricane, will appear in autumn 2010. "Alex is such a talented writer and I’m a huge fan of her series heroine Maggie O’Dell," Scott said. Sphere has UK and Commonwealth rights; in the US, Kava is moving from Mira to Doubleday.