Wednesday 25 November 2009

The Queen of Crime: Maj Sjöwall

There is an excellent article in the Observer on Sunday (22 November 2009) 0n Maj Sjöwall the co-author of the excellent Martin Beck detective series set in Sweden. The article can be found here.

Monday 23 November 2009

Murder Is Everywhere

Dan Waddell emialed me to mention a new blog that he is part of, with an international feel: Yrsa Siguroardottir, Leighton Gage, 'Michael Stanley', Cara Black and myself blog each week on different days from our different corners of the globe. An original initiative (the group thinks) and one that will hopefully appeal crime fans of many hues.

Here's the link

Thursday 19 November 2009

Mike Ripley - he writes, he publishes...

Crime-writer, critic and SHOTS columnist Mike Ripley – in a poacher-turned-gamekeeper move – has become a publisher!

Mike had been appointed Series Editor for Top Notch Thrillers, an imprint of print-on-demand Ostara Publishing, with a remit to “revive Great British thrillers which do not deserve to be forgotten, each title to be chosen not just for its plot or sense of adventure but for the distinctiveness and quality of the writing.”

Top Notch Thrillers will be drawn in the main from the 1960s and 70s, a period, says Mike, when British thriller writers reigned supreme, not just in the bestseller lists but in a wide range of writing styles. The first four titles, out this month, attempt to show the range and versatility of the writing on offer in what is being increasingly seen as a Golden Age for British thrillers.

TNT has launched with: Snake Water by Alan Williams, a rip-roaring treasure hunt adventure in a South American banana republic, first published in 1965 (Williams, a journalist and much-travelled foreign correspondent, went on to international fame as a spy writer, possibly the first to have real life traitor Kim Philby as a character in fiction); The Terrible Door an atmospheric 1964 debut novel by the late George Sims, a well-known rare book dealer, who went on to be elected to the famous Detection Club; Night Of Glass, a neglected gem form 1968 by Philip Purser in which four students engineer an escape attempt from Dachau concentration camp in 1938; and Geoffrey Rose’s 1973 fantastical and slightly surreal chase thriller A Clear Road To Archangel, set in the wintry wastes of Russia in 1917.

“We are using the latest print-on-demand technology to revive thrillers – and thriller writers – who do not deserve to be forgotten,” says Ripley, “bringing back fond memories for some readers and hopefully enthusing a new generation. The response to the concept so far has been very encouraging. Even before our first titles appeared – and they look really good – I was being lobbied by fan about writers such as Desmond Bagley, Andrew Garve, Francis Clifford and Geoffrey Household

“For me, it is a pure pleasure, and an honour, to be reissuing the books of some great authors – and getting to meet some of them. Everyone knows and respects the history and traditions of British crime novels and detective stories, but thrillers have somehow got sidelined, yet we have a rich and very varied heritage.

“People still remember the big names like Alistair Maclean, Hammond Innes and Gavin Lyall, but many of their titles are now out-of-print and in danger of slipping from popular memory, which would be a terrible shame.”

Wednesday 18 November 2009

CWA unveils Crime Week for 2010

The Crime Writers Association (CWA) is to hold a National Crime Week in 2010 to celebrate crime writing. During the week, which runs from 14th June, members of the CWA will take part in readings, discussions, readers' group events and workshops all over the country.
The winner of the Young Crime Writers Competition will also be announced. Taking place from 18th January—19th February 2010, the competition, which is organised by the CWA in partnership with nationwide library authorities, will be judged by members of the CWA.
CWA chair Margaret Murphy said: "Building on the success of our partnership with Oxfam Bookfest in 2009, the CWA is looking forward to promoting crime fiction through a variety of events.
"The crime genre is very broad, ranging from spine-tingling suspense, through historical, to edge-of-seat thrillers. Add to that non-fiction—increasingly popular with readers fascinated by forensic aspects of crime—and events organisers can create a programme of events that will tempt the most fastidious palate."
The shortlists for some of the 2010 CWA Daggers will be announced in May as part of the Bristol-based convention, Crimefest.

Otto Penzler joins Cheetham at Atlantic
Atlantic has expanded its publishing outfit once again, with Otto Penzler joining to create his own imprint under the Corvus division in January. Otto Penzler Books will publish six-to-10 new crime fiction, spy and thriller titles a year.
The move reunites Penzler with Atlantic's director and associate publisher of Corvus Anthony Cheetham, with whom he worked at Random House and Quercus. Cheetham said: "Otto helped to found the Quercus trade list, and was the first to champion Stieg Larsson. But we’re definitely saving the best for our third collaboration."
Penzler will kick off with a debut novel by Lou Manfredo, entitled Rizzo's War. The publisher described the book as the most exciting discovery of the last decade. Set in a Brooklyn police precinct, the novel explores, through the lives of veteran detective Joe Rizzo and his ambitious young partner, the byzantine procedures and grubby politics, the trading of favours, and the grey areas between practice and malpractice, which form the real basis of modern police work.
Scheduled for next Christmas is Agents of Treachery, a 400-page anthology of stories from the world of espionage, edited by Penzler himself. The contributors include Charles McCarry, Lee Child, Stella Rimington, Dan Fesperman and Robert Wilson. A number of the stories are of novella length, and none has been previously published elsewhere.
Penzler is the founder/ owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan, recipient of an Edgar Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Mystery Writers of America. In the US, Otto Penzler Books is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Monday 16 November 2009

Newsy stuff

Italian author Giorgio Faletti's first two books Io uccido (I Kill) and Io Sono Dio (I am God) have been bought in a two booked deal by Constable. The English rights were bought for an undisclosed 5 figure sum. I Kill which has sold over 5 million copies has been translated into 25 different languages and will be published in June 2010. I am God which will be published in 2011 has so far sold over 700,000 copies. Faletti is a former lawyer, advertising agent and race car drive based in Italy. I Kill was previously published in the United States in June 2008.

Dead Simple the Roy Grace series by Peter James has been sold to a Macedonian publisher. The first book in the series it brings the number of translations of the crimes series up to 32 different languages. The newest edition to the series Dead Like You will be published by Macmillan in the UK in June 2010. Peter James is a best-selling and much published author whose distinguished writing career was initially with mysteries that had an element of the supernatural, most recently he has been a writer of mainstream thriller. He is also the winner of numerous international awards. The film and television rights to the Roy Grace series have been optioned by ITV.

Transworld has acquired a the UK and Commonwealth rights to the historical novel The Confessions of Mrs Lightfoot, with some advice for Women in General by Hallie Rubenhold which is the first in a trilogy. Set in the 18th century it features Henrietta Lightfoot a courtesan, adventuress, spy and former murderess. Billed as a female Flashman the series is set in one of the most interesting and striking periods in history. The Confessions of Mrs Lightfoot, with some advice for Women in General will be published in the Spring of 2011. The author is an authority on 18th Century history.

The Hard Life of Patricia Cornwell

I have to admit to enjoying the first five novels of Patricia Cornwell, especially 1990’s Post Mortem which came out under the shadow’s of Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs stampede. Publishers were looking for anything that could match the success of Harris’ work – so it was little surprise that Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta debut work was grabbed and found itself in print. Due to the sheer volume of books and dissapointment in her 6th novel, I have not returned to her work since those post-Silence of the Lambs days.

Today The Guardian has an excellent feature length interview with Ms. Cornwell by Nigel Farndale.

Reading the article made me realize how sad a life she has led despite her wealth, and even that seems to have halved –

Well, it’s a stressful business being the biggest-selling crime writer in the world (and the second biggest-selling female writer in any genre, after J K Rowling). It is estimated that Cornwell is worth just over £60 million although, as I am to discover, she has just launched a legal action against her financial management company in New York, suing them for alleged negligence. Since 2005, according to one source, they may have lost her as much as £25 million, almost half her fortune. The case is ongoing and she is not sure of the exact figures yet.
We shall come to that. For now it is worth reminding ourselves of her USP as a crime writer: that she knows whereof she writes, having spent six years working in a chief medical examiner’s office in Virginia, one that dealt with murder cases, usually ones involving sexual assault. There she watched many an autopsy being performed. And this is another reason why her readers often confuse her with her heroine, Dr Scarpetta.

But Cornwell’s back-story is more interesting than Scarpetta’s. More Gothic. And one she wouldn’t get away with in fiction.

She was five when her father, a lawyer, walked out on the family, on Christmas morning. She clung on to his leg as he left, pleading with him not to go. Soon after this she was molested by a security guard, a case that ended with her giving evidence in court.

Her mother by now was spiralling into chronic depression. This meant that Cornwell had to be sent to live with foster parents. Sadistic foster parents. She became anorexic in her teens and recovered only to succumb to depression herself, in her twenties. This has come and gone over the years.

When I ask how her own depression compares with her mother’s she answers in an accent that combines briskness with a Southern drawl, like someone driving with her foot on the accelerator and the brake at the same time.

'Hers was much worse than mine because she was admitted to hospital. Mine has never been that dark or debilitating. I think mine has got better as I’ve got older. And it is the only good thing about getting older, by the way. I’m bipolar but my moods are more stable. I don’t take medication for it,’ Cornwell says.

In her twenties she married her professor (male) who was 17 years older than her. Now, as of three years ago, she is married to a professor (female) who is 10 years younger. Her name is Staci Gruber and she is associate director of Harvard’s McLean psychiatric hospital. They met when Cornwell was researching sociopaths for a novel. Cornwell says with a laugh that Gruber’s first impression of her was that she was a narcissist.

Read the complete piece here

I think I should read one of her newer books to see if the promise of her early work has held up.

Edward Woodward Dies

Today we hear about the passing of English actor, Edward Woodward. Best known as the eponimous Callan and The Equalizer. Tributes have been pouring in from all quarters and here are just a few of the links:
I remember the opening credits to the 1960s TV series Callan quite vividly, and you can see it here again. British spy writers James Mitchell created the series and the books are fairly hard to find nowadays. He produced four titles from 1969 to 2002: Magnum for Schneider (1969) aka A Red File For Callan Death and Bright Water (1974) Smear Job (1975)Bonfire Night (2002)
A sad day for all who enjoyed his work.
RIP Edward Woodward

Friday 13 November 2009

SKY 1 drops THE SEARCH with MARTINA COLE and Drama round up

News has reached me that Sky 1 had commissioned The Search With Martina Cole, which was scheduled for transmission in early 2010. The documentary planned to search for the remains of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett but has now been dropped after his mother confirmed she was not prepared to take part.
Martina had been lined up to front the show, which would have investigated the whereabouts of Keith Bennett’s remains by revisiting existing evidence and interviewing new witnesses as well as those who were involved in the case.
A Sky 1 spokeswoman said: “The goal of this programme was to help Winifred Johnson conclude the search for her son, Keith Bennett. However, Mrs Johnson has made it clear that she prefers to pursue that search separately. There was never any question of going ahead without her full support, so we decided immediately to end the project.”

Other Small Screen Drama News

The Secret Life Of The Novel - BBC2 Documentary series presented by Sebastian Faulks. Explores the history of the novel through its characters, focusing on a different archetype and looking at the development over the centuries of The Hero, The Lover, The Snob and The Villain. Transmission date Spring 2010

The original ITV1 series Whitechapel, featured DI Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), an obsessive compulsive inspector who had to solve a series of Jack the Ripper copy cat killings. The second series ( Whitechapel II) looks at the gangster culture of the Krays and the faded glamour of the East End overlords, which haunted the East End, with plenty of maiming and murder thrown in the mix. It will be as sharp, intense and as visually distinctive as Whitechapel I with the gangster culture the Krays instilled never far away. Produced by Carnival Films, the new story will broadcast in mid 2010 as three episodes.

An adaptation of crime writer Ann Cleeves’ novel Hidden Depths is set in modern day Northumberland and Brenda Blethyn, star of Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Secrets and Lies, will play the role of a lonely detective inspector investigating the murder of two young people found in the water. This will be a one-off two hour drama for ITV1 scheduled for 2010

Neil Cross - a writer on Spooks and The Fixer has penned Luther (working title), which will show detective John Luther struggling with his personal demons while attempting to track down a killer each week. In a twist on the traditional format, the killer’s identity will be known to the audience. The BBC series is set for transmission in 2010 and runs for 6 x 60 minute episodes.

Sherlock is a contemporary take on the classic stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the new Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his loyal friend, Dr John Watson. Sherlock is a thrilling, funny, fast-paced adventure series set in present-day London.
3 x 90 minute episodes for BBC1 in 2010 .
Benedict Cumberbatch -

24 returns for its eighth, and possibly final, season in January 2010.
The real-time action drama impressed with its seventh outing, reaching a shock-filled finale. Turncoat Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) revealed his motives for heading up the terrorist campaign: he wanted to get close to and exact revenge on the man responsible for killing wife Michelle and their unborn child. Meanwhile, Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) came to a pathogen-infected Jack’s (Kiefer Sutherland) rescue, volunteering to undergo a stem cell procedure.
Day 8 relocates from Washington DC to the mean streets of New York City where Bauer’s services are required to prevent an assassination plot against a visiting foreign leader (Slumdog Millionaire’s Anil Kapoor). 24’s return will also be bolstered by the turns of Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff as brainy bombshell Dana Walsh and Freddie Prinze Jr’s CTU field agent Cole Ortiz. Returning cast members include Annie Wersching (Renee Walker), Mary-Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’Brian) and Elisha Cuthbert.
Promising an explosive eighth day, 24 delivers high-impact television packing plenty of twists.
Transmittance is currently planned for January 2010

Bestseller Peter James on the trail....

Bestselling crime author Peter James is on the promo trail visiting libraries in Bristol, Newport and Cardiff to talk about his latest novel Dead Tomorrow.
Schedule and contact details are as follows:
1st December @ 7.30pmBristol Central Library, College Green in association with Borders, Bristol.
Tickets £2. To reserve tickets please call: 0117 903 250

2nd December @ 2.30pmNewport Central Library, John Frost Square, Newport.
Tickets are free but must be reserved. To reserve tickets please call: 01633 656 656

2nd December @ 6.30pm Cardiff Central Library, The Hayes, Cardiff.
Tickets £2. To reserve tickets please call: 02920 780920

Monday 9 November 2009

Men on a Mission

Many younger thriller readers may not be familiar with the work of Alistair MacLean, but many of us owe a huge debt to this tremendous Scottish writer for his wonderful novels and screenplays that hit the bestseller and box office charts in the 1970’s. Over the years I’ve interviewed many of today’s bestselling thriller writers such as Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais, Brett Battles and many others who all credit MacLean as a major influence on their desire to write thriller fiction.

Thanks to Harper Collins UK, much of his backlist which has been criminally out of print for over a decade, is back on the shelves.

The Bookseller reports even more are coming to our shelves –

HarperCollins will reissue a series of novels about an international crimefighting organisation by the author of Where Eagles Dare next spring.

Publication of the series by Alistair MacLean will complete HarperCollins’ repackaging of his backlist. The publisher has already reissued 29 MacLean novels, including The Guns of Navarone, and Ice Station Zebra.

Five titles will be reissued in paperback in March 2010, with the remaining five to follow in the autumn. The series was originally published in the 1980s and 90s and follows the United Nations Anti-Crime Organisation (Unaco), a team of crimefighters combating terrorism.

The first book, Hostage Tower, is about a criminal who kidnaps the mother of the US president and holds her to ransom on top of the Eiffel Tower. Tasked with rescuing her is Unaco, comprising a weapons expert, a cat burglar and a man blessed with extraordinary strength and cunning.

The series and the characters were created by MacLean but the books were developed and written by three authors: John Denis, Alistair MacNeil and Hugh Miller.
David Brawn, publishing director for estates, said: “Because of his [MacLean’s] film success, he was writing a lot of screenplays. It became much easier for him to write a film treatment and for other people to turn them into screenplays.”

Read more

Many people reported that MacLean’s later work became formulaic once he settled in Switzerland and his drinking habit took hold, but my word, what a formulae!
My personal favourites from his work include Breakheart Pass, Circus, Fear is the Key, Night Without End, Guns of Navarone and of course the deeply disturbing tale of interpol agents battling the Heroin trade in Amsterdam - Puppet on a Chain [pictured above in the original Pan Paperback Edition and the newly re-issued Harper Collins paperback]