Friday 30 December 2011

Books that I am looking forward to reading in 2012

Around this time of the year lots of “best of lists” can be currently found online. I do have a list of my favourite books that I read this year along with some honourable mentions, which can currently be found here in my response to the Guardian’s readers books of the year. I also have my eye on a number of books that are due out the first half of 2012 that I am not only looking forward to getting my hands on but also reading.

The first book that comes to mind is Master and God by Lindsey Davis (Hodder and Stoughton). For you Falco fans out there, I must stress that this is not a Falco novel. Master and God does feature Domitian – son of Vespasian and brother to Titus. It is the story of three people and their intertwining lives. Domitian an unstable Emperor, Flavia Lucillia a wilful determined single daughter of an imperial freedwoman and Gaius Vinius Clodianus a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Lindsey Davis is known for her attention to detail and historical insight and whilst this is not a Falco novel I am fairly certain that Master and God will no doubt find favour with her longstanding fans.

The Golden Scales by Parker Bilal (Bloomsbury). The Golden Scales is the first in a new series by Bilal set in Cairo featuring an exiled Sudanese private investigator who is attempting to escape his own troubled past. Books set in foreign countries often work or they do not. I am hoping that this will work. The premise sounds good and it will be interesting to see how the author manages to marry the two different cultures (Egyptian and Sudanese) together.

Ever since I read
Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips, I have loved the books published by Hard Case Crime. In this case, Lawrence Block’s Getting Off, which I know has already been published in the US, is another book that I am looking forward to reading next year. It is the tale of a beautiful and deadly female serial killer who is working her way across the country tracking down every man she has ever slept with and ruthlessly murdering them.

The Glovemaker by Stacia Brown (Random House) which tells the story of glovemaker Rachel Lockyer during the time of Oliver Cromwell. Lockyer finds herself arrested and accused of murder when the body of a child is found buried. Under a law that presumes that anyone who conceals the death of an illegitimate child is guilty of murder.

The Contract
by David Levien (Transworld). Troubled former cop Frank Behr is working for an exclusive Indianapolis investigation when he finds himself on protection duty for Bernard “Cool” Kolodnik. An attempt is made on his client’s life and Behr must get to the bottom of the attempt.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
by Marcus Sakey (Transworld). A man wakes up naked unsure of who he is and whilst he is trying to work out himself whom he is there are also others on his trail as well.

The English Monster
by Lloyd Shepherd (Simon and Schuster) John Harriott Magistrate of the newly formed Thames River Police Office finds himself investigating a brutal murder. Based on the real life story of the Ratcliffe Highways Murders.

Holy City
by Guillermo Orsi (Quercus) Buenos Aires, Argentina. A passenger liner runs aground on the muddy banks of the nearby Rio de la Plata. The passengers are reduced to sleeping in the corridors of hotels and fall easy prey to the city's criminal class, who are always willing to take a wealthy tourist hostage. The first to go missing are a Colombian drug baron and his girlfriend, apprehended by Federal Police who may or may not be all they claim to be. But criminal celebrities of this calibre are a valuable commodity, and their abductor soon finds that the couple has been lifted from under his nose. Into the confusion steps Walter Carroza, a weary but honest cop. With his sidekick and confidante, Veronica Berutti, a policeman's widow and crusading lawyer, he embarks on an investigation that will lead him from the shanty markets of Buenos Aires' Bolivian quarter through layer upon layer of corruption towards the 'Holy Land', a theme park based on ancient Palestine, where a killer with a grisly taste for memorabilia lurks.

Some Other Body
(Random House) the second novel in the series by Jason Webster to feature Max Cámara with his love of flamenco and brandy, and occasional doped out high. This time around he stumbles into a web of corruption and violence, uncovering deep animosities and hidden secrets, which also forces him to question his own doubts and desires.

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (Headline) August 1845 in New York; enter the dark, unforgiving city underworld of the legendary Five Points...After a fire decimated a swathe of lower Manhattan, and following years of passionate political dispute, New York City at long last formed an official Police Department. That same summer, the great potato famine hit Ireland. These events would change the city of New York for ever. Timothy Wilde hadn't wanted to be a copper star. Timothy soon finds himself on the trail of a brutal killer, seemingly hell bent on fanning the flames of anti-Irish immigrant sentiment and threatening chaos in a city already in the midst of social upheaval. But his fight for justice could cost him the woman he loves, his brother and ultimately his life...

All I Did Was Shoot My Man (Orion) which is the fourth instalment in Mosley’s soon-to-be classic Leonid McGill series In the shadow worlds of New York, PI Leonid McGill is still struggling to ‘go from crooked to slightly bent’. When Zelda Grisham, a woman falsely imprisoned by evidence McGill had planted, reappears in his life, the detective hires a hotshot attorney to help clear her name. Little does he know that powerful enemies are still watching Zelda’s every move.

Taken by Robert Crais (Orion) When the police tell a wealthy industrialist that her missing son has faked his own kidnapping, she hires Elvis and Joe, who find out the boy and his secret girlfriend have been taken. When Cole goes undercover to try to return them, he himself is taken. Now it is up to Pike to retrace Cole’s steps, through the murderous world of human traffickers…

The Namesake by Conor Fitgerald (Bloomsbury) which is the third book in the series featuring Commissioner Alec Blume. When magistrate Matteo Arconti's namesake, an insurance man from Milan, is found dead outside the court buildings in Piazzo Clodio, it's a clear warning to the authorities in Rome - a message of defiance and intimidation. Commissioner Alec Blume, interpreting the reference to his other ongoing case - a frustrating one in which he's so far been unable to pin murder on a mafia boss operating at an untouchable distance in Germany - knows he's too close to it. Handing control of the investigation to now live-in and not-so-secret partner Caterina Mattiola, Blume takes a back seat. And while Caterina embarks on questioning the Milanese widow, Blume has had an underhand idea of his own to lure the arrogant Mafioso out of his hiding place...

Point and Shoot by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland Books) which is the final book in the Charlie Hardie trilogy. On a day like any other day, Kendra Hardie picks up the phone. A voice says, 'leave the house and you're dead'. Then the line is cut. Kendra hasn't seen her husband Charlie for nearly a decade. He hasn't forgotten about her - but neither have his enemies. And he has a lot of enemies. Charlie thought he could protect her by staying away. But now he has access to secrets his enemies will kill to keep hidden, and they're planning to start with his family. After years in exile, Charlie's arming up...and heading home.

Alpha by Greg Rucka (Mulholland Books)ALPHA Jonathan 'Jad' Bell has spent a lifetime in the US army. He can be relied on to get the job done, whatever happens, whatever the cost. So when someone needs to go undercover at the nation's biggest amusement park, Jad is the obvious choice. Aside from dealing with fights and missing children, his main responsibility is to prevent the nightmare scenario from coming to pass. This is the nightmare scenario: A group of well-trained, highly motivated terrorists infiltrate the park. They cut off all escape routes. They take hostages. They ensure every camera in the world is trained on Wilsonville...and then they turn it into a bloodbath. And on the day the nightmare becomes real, Jad and his team are all that stands between a band of ruthless killers and thousands of innocent people...including Jad's estranged wife and daughter.

Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd (Constable and Robinson) London, 1850. Fog in the air and filth in the streets, from the rat-infested graveyard of Tom-All-Alone's to the elegant chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where the formidable lawyer Edward Tulkinghorn has powerful clients to protect, and a deadly secret to hide. Only that secret is now under threat from a shadowy and unseen adversary - an adversary who must be tracked down at all costs, before it's too late. Who better for such a task than young Charles Maddox? Unfairly dismissed from the police force, Charles is struggling to establish himself as a private detective.

Ibrahim Al-Brehm is a respectable husband and a police inspector on Jeddah’s murder squad. But for the past year, he has been having an affair with a woman named Maria. Until one day she disappears. Terrified and with nowhere else to turn, Ibrahim goes to Katya, one of the few women on the force. As she ventures into Saudi Arabia’s underworld, Katya uncovers a murder that connects Maria to a human trafficking ring. Soon Ibrahim realises that the killer is closer to home than he had ever imagined. Kingdom of Strangers by Zoë Ferraris (Little Brown) is a suspenseful story of murder and deception among Saudi Arabia’s shaded alleys, gleaming compounds and vast lonely deserts.

Celebrity in Death by JD Robb (Piaktus) Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no party girl, but she’s managing to have a reasonably good time at the celebrity- packed bash celebrating a new movie based on one of her famous cases. It’s a little spooky seeing the actress playing her, who looks almost like her long-lost twin. Not as unsettling, though, as seeing the actress who plays her partner Peabody – drowned in the pool on the roof of the director’s luxury building. It’s up to Eve, Roarke and the real Peabody to find the killer in their midst.

An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer (Corvus) Milo Weaver is still haunted by his last job. As an expert assassin for the Department of Tourism, an ultra-secret group of super-spooks buried deep in the corridors of the CIA, he fought to keep himself sane in a paranoid and amoral profession. Now, the Department has been destroyed, and with it Weaver's livelihood. Finally he can spend time with his family - without constantly looking over his shoulder and fixing one eye on the exits. Weaver's former boss is not so settled. Soon, Weaver is sifting through what secrets, lies and misinformation he can extract from the sources he still has on the ground. If his time as a Tourist has taught him anything, it's that nothing and no-one can be trusted - even within the CIA itself...

There are of course others but the above are the ones that initially come to mind.

Thursday 29 December 2011

The Resurrection of Alex Mavros - Paul Johnston

Today's guest blog is from Scottish crime writer Paul Johnston. He studied Greek at Fettes College and went on to study ancient and modern Greek at the University of Oxford. He currently spends most of his time in Greece where he moved to in 1987. His debut novel Body Politic won the Crime Writer's association John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award (for best first novel) in 1997. His latest novel in the Alex Mavros series The Silver Stain is published today.

Unless you’re Ian Rankin – which I, though a fellow Scot and Edinburgh denizen, am clearly not –the idea of writing twenty or so novels in the same series is daunting. In my experience, series have their own inbuilt life spans. At least, that’s what I thought until earlier this year. For my sins, I am the author of three series.When each one ended, I had no clear conception of ever going back. Until earlier in 2011……

Let’s do this in reverse chronological order. My most recent series featured crime writer turned investigator Matt Wells (wish fulfillment, moi?) and consisted of The Death List (2007), The Soul Collector (2008), Maps of Hell (2010) and The Nameless Dead (2011), all published by MIRA Books. They did pretty well in the UK, US and globally, but there was a basic problem for me – although the novels can be read as straight crime thrillers, they all have substantial undertones of genre-bending and satire. They’re partly in the first person and, frankly, who would trust a crime writer? Wells may not seem to be a classic unreliable narrator, but… I also had a go at several scared cows and genre conventions – among them, publishers and agents in the first book; Golden Age puzzle clues and – erk – crime writers in the second; Jason Bourne, Nazis and Satanism in the third; and that old chestnut of the hitperson on his/ her last job (spoiler non-alert) in the fourth. Anyone who’s read The Nameless Dead can see that the series reaches a natural end - or at least hiatus. Never say never…..

The situation with my second series was different. Alex Mavros, a half Greek half Scots missing person specialist based in Athens, first appeared in A Deeper Shade of Blue (2002). In the last decade, there has been a huge increase in crime fiction set abroad, written both by locals and by foreign interlopers like me. A decade ago, there was much less. One of my favourite writers was Michael Dibdin, whose Italy-set series featuring Aurelio Zen, eventually ran to eleven novels and was cut short by the author’s untimely death. I particularly admired Dibdin’s decision to set each novel in a different part of the country, increasing reader stimulation substantially, though making the author’s job harder as regards research. I ambitiously (foolishly?) resolved to follow this model.

A Deeper Shade of Blue (now available as Crying Blue Murder, a title change requested by my publishers, which at least removed the danger of being linked with the execrable pop group Steps) found Mavros on an Aegean island, where the white houses conceal some very noir goings-on. I actually invented the island of Trigono(‘Triangle’), as I didn’t want a knife in the back from an enraged inhabitant of the real island I lived on for several years – I wasn’t hugely complimentary about certain aspects of island society. If you write novels set in a country with a history and culture as rich as Greece’s, you have to be prepared to take account of those, so Mavros follows clues to black market ancient statues as well as coming to understand the effects of more modern events like the Second World War and drug smuggling.

Mavros 2, The Last Red Death (2003) remains a very special book for me. For a start, it won the now defunct Sherlock Award for best detective novel of 2004, a real thrill for a lifelong Conan Doyle fan – one who as a child owned a stick insect named Sherlock (I say that up front before the likes of Mark Billingham mention it). More seriously, I wrote the book under sentence of death. Between finishing it and doing the final edits, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced cancer, which needed heavy-duty surgery and a bucket-load of chemotherapy to sort it out. I honestly believe that my subconscious was whispering, ‘Write the best book you can as this might be your last chance’. Weird, huh? Anyway, the book got some really flattering reviews, not least from writers I greatly admire. Set mainly in the Peloponnese and using elements of the Hercules myth, it attempts to explain the phenomenon of terrorism in Greece, linking it to the Axis occupation during the Second World War and the subsequent soul-destroying civil war. The novel was later published in Greece, which caused me a lot of angst beforehand, but it received a hearty welcome – as well as a degree of surprise that a foreign writer was so interested in the country. Well, Britain doesn’t have a glorious record in Greece and I was attempting to redress that in a small way.

The third Mavros book, The Golden Silence (2004), was my take on the gangster novel and was set mainly in Athens. I had Greek friends who said to me, ‘Greek mafia, what Greek mafia?’ Suffice to say, there is one, or at least several warring families and groups, these days in conflict with Albanian, Serbian and Russian gangs. Mavros – who is haunted throughout the series by the disappearance of his brother, Andonis, during the Colonels’ dictatorship of 1967-74 – comes up against a pair of enforcers whose roots are in that repressive period. As in all the books, he thinks he’s finally on Andonis’s trail, but the leads take him nowhere. This reflects the importance of family in Greek life, though Mavros himself is the classic liminal PI, standing at the edge of a society which he understands but does not feel wholly part of. His dual nationality is a crucial part of his character.

My excellent editor Philippa Pride left Hodder and Stoughton before The Golden Silence was published and it soon became clear that the company wasn’t interested in more Mavros books. I turned to Matt Wells and forgot about my fictional renderings of Greece, although I married a Greek in 2005 and have been spending even more time in the country. MIRA Books, who published the Matt Wells novels, decided to reprint the Mavros novels in the UK in 2009. That was good of them, not just because it kept in print the old warhorse with the strange eye (one brown, one flecked with blue). I had another bout of cancer in 2008 and lost a lot of writing time. I’ve since discovered that I have a rare gene malformation, which makes me susceptible to several otherwise unrelated cancers – so if I don’t make it to the end of this blog, you’ll know what’s happened…nah, I’m OK. I just get tested more than the average mortal, which will probably mean I eventually have to change my name to Methuselah. Hang on, that might be a good nom de plume…

Anyway, there was no talk of more Mavros, so I got on with Matt Wells’s increasingly surreal adventures - until the perspicacious Kate Lyall Grant at Crème de la Crime spotted the potential and commissioned two more Mavros novels. I’d written quite an extensive synopsis (not something I normally do) for Mavros 4, but Hodder turned it down. Digging it out and reading it seven years on was a distinctly strange experience. So much had happened in my life (including the arrival of two children) that Mavros was a blast from a different past. Technically, I had to recalibrate as the Wells novels were first person/ third person hybrids, while I had always written Mavros in the third person as if I were perched on his shoulder, though there were scenes without him too. Messing with point of view is one of the great joys of writing.

So, I revamped the synopsis – keeping the basic ideas of Crete as a location and a Hollywood movie about the German invasion in 1941 being shot there - and started writing. I was apprehensive before I wrote the first sentence, but Mavros and his sidekicks – the Fat Man, now without his café, and Niki, the PI’s volatile lover – came back to life with amazing rapidity. The analogy of vampires waiting in their coffins for twilight struck me as apposite more than once. Authors, beware! Your characters suck your blood, at the same time as leading you a merry and, one hopes, profitable dance.

So was born The Silver Stain, in which Mavros comes up against slimy Hollywood types, a starlet nicknamed ‘Twin Peaks’, a mountain village devoted to marijuana production (there is one in reality), and a link, not to Andonis, but to another close family member. I had fun with the locations, as Crete, the ‘Great Island’, is very definitely Greek but is equally very different from the rest of the country. The book is a shorter, less diverse investigation of Greek history and customs, but I think it’s stronger for that. And there are Nazi paratroopers fighting Cretan villagers and Maoris – drama in spades. As in all the Mavros novels, my main interest is the effect of the past on the present. In Crete, the weight of history is very heavy, despite the surface-level pandering to tourism.

And now, to end where I began. My first series (Body Politic, The Bone Yard, Water of Death, The Blood Tree and The House of Dust), set in an independent Edinburgh in the 2020s and featuring Quint (Quintilian) Dalrymple, has recently been republished in digital format by Severn Select. There will also be a sixth Quint novel at some stage in the near future. Truly, never kill off your protagonists and always be prepared for their coffin lids to creak open when the sun disappears over the western horizon…

Paul Johnston’s The Silver Stain is available as a hardback from Crème de la Crime (December 2011 in the UK and April 2012 in the US). There will be a paperback edition later in 2012. For more information, consult his website

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Crime Fiction News

Congratulations go to Quercus Publishers and author Peter May whose book The Blackhouse has been chosen as the winner of the Richard and Judy Autumn Book Club after an online vote by the public on the WH Smith website. The sequel The Lewis Man is due to be published in January 2012.

For those of you waiting with anticipation for the new Batman film, you will be pleased to know that the full The Dark Knight Rises trailer has been released

The Dark Knight Rises is due for release on 20 July 2012.

According to The Bookseller Little, Brown Book Group UK is launching a new imprint focusing on commercial crime, suspense and thriller titles in translation, in a joint venture with fellow Hachette Livre company, Grand Central Publishing in New York. The two houses will jointly acquired and publish up to six titles a year under the Trapdoor imprint in the UK, and under the Grand Central name in the US. Sphere associate publisher Dan Mallory will head up Trapdoor in the UK, with the US programme to be directed by Grand Central executive editor Mitch Hoffman. The first title will be Dark Secrets by Hjorth-Rosenfeldt, a Swedish bestseller featuring psychological profiler Sebastian Bergman. BBC4 have picked up Sebastian Bergman as one of the two Scandinavian crime dramas that they are due to show in 2012.

According to Booktrade Info, Corvus has acquired the rights to a three new books by Robert Fabbri in his epic 'sword-and'sandals' saga charting the rise of Vespasian to become imperial throne of Rome. It has acquired the rights to two new Vespasian titles, and an e-book only novella, based on the story of Magnus, one of the supporting characters in the Vespasian sequence of novels. The e-book novella, entitled The Crossroads Brotherhood, will be published on Christmas day 2011. The third new Vespasian book, False God of Rome will be published in spring 2013; the fourth, currently untitled, Vespasian novel, will be published in spring 2014. Toby Mundy, CEO and Publisher at Atlantic Books and Nic Cheetham, Corvus's publishing director, bought World English Language rights from Ian Drury at the Sheil Land agency. Robert Fabbri's first volume in the series, Tribune of Rome, has sold more than 50,000 copies to date; the second volume Rome's Executioner will be published in May 2012 and Atlantic anticipate increasing Fabbri's sales. Toby Mundy commented: 'Robert Fabbri's seven-volume series on the incredible rise of Vespasian from humble donkey herd to Emperor of Rome is an epic piece of world building. Judging from the responses we have had from Robert's legions of readers they are hungry for more, and I am delighted we will be publishing the next volumes in this exhilarating series.

The Library of Congress have announced the list of films to be Preserved for All Time as part of the National Film Registry. One of the films to make the list is Jonathan Demme's 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs. Also on the list Disney's 1942 tearjerker film Bambi.

According to The Bookseller Anthony Cheetham's new venture Head of Zeus have acquired their first fiction buy. The novel The Babylon Gene is a thriller by an established author under a pseudonym. It will be published as an e-book in January 2012 before being published in print form in the autumn.

Want to know a good place where to start with Scandinavian crime fiction? If so then have a look at the following. A brief introduction to all things Scandinavian crime. Barry Forshaw's book Death in a Cold Climate is due to be published in early January 2012. Watch this space for a guest blog from Barry around publication day.

There are a number of good crime dramas to look forward to in 2012. These include BBC 4's adaptation of Alan Furst's The Spies of Warsaw, The Bridge and Sebastian Bergman two scandinavian crime series also on BBC4. Falcon a four episode drama based on Robert Wilson's bestselling Javier Falcon novels. One can also not forget the new series of Sherlock which is due to be shown on Sunday 1 January 2012. More information about these dramas and others can be found on the

Interesting article in
The Telegraph about The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie which is about to enter its 60th year. Laura Thompson Christie's biographer comments on the fact that whilst The Mousetrap is steeped in gentility, it also has its dark side.

Monday 26 December 2011

Books to look forward to by John Murray

The Elizabethan navy has a secret weapon: an optical instrument so powerful it gives England unassailable superiority at sea. Spain will stop at nothing to steal it and seize the two men who understand its secrets - its operative William Ivory, known as the 'Queen's Eye', and its inventor, the maverick magician Dr Dee. With a second Armada threatened, intelligencer John Shakespeare is sent north to escort Dr Dee to safety. But his mission is far from straightforward. Dee's host, the Earl of Derby, cousin to Elizabeth, is dying in agony, apparently poisoned. Who wants him dead and why? What lies behind the lynching of the recusant priest Father Matthew Lamb? And what exactly is the connection between these events and the mysterious and beautiful Lady Eliska? While Shakespeare attempts to untangle a plot that points to treachery at the very highest reaches of government, he also faces serious accusations far closer to home. With so much at stake, must he choose between family and his duty to Queen and country? Traitors moves from the Catholic heartlands of Lancashire to a vagabond camp in the heart of England, and from the deck of Admiral Frobisher's flagship off the Brittany coast to the secret meetings of Elizabeth's closest associates. Traitors is by Rory Clements and is due to be published in April 2012.

The Poison Tide is by Andrew Williams and is due to be published in June 2012. It is 1915. German guns are on their way to Ireland. The British government faces its worst nightmare; insurrection at home while it struggles with bloody stalemate on the Western Front. A British spy, Sebastian Wolff of the new Secret Service Bureau, is given the task of hunting down its enemies: one a traitor reviled by the society that honoured him as a national hero; the other a German-American doctor who, instead of healing the sick, is developing a terrifying new weapon that he will use in the country of his birth. Wolff's mission will take him undercover into the corridors of power in Berlin, then across the Atlantic in a race against time to prevent the destruction of the ships and supplies Britain so desperately needs to stave off defeat.

Jane Logan is six months pregnant and has moved to Berlin to live with her long-term lover, rich banker, Petra. The women's chic new apartment is in a trendy part of the city but Jane finds herself increasingly uneasy there. She conceives a dread of the derelict backhouse across the courtyard and begins to suspect something sinister is happening in the flat next door, where gynaecologist Alban Mann lives with his teenage daughter Anna. Petra believes her lover's pregnancy is affecting her judgement, but Jane is increasingly convinced that all is not well. Her decision to turn detective has devastating results when her own past collides with the past of the building and its inhabitants. The Girl on the Stairs is by Louise Welsh and is due to be published in August 2012.

It is 1897, Dieppe, Oscar Wilde, poet, playwright, novelist, raconteur and ex-convict, has fled the country after his release from Reading Goal. Tonight he is sharing a drink and the story of his cruel imprisonment with a mysterious stranger. He has endured a harsh regime: the treadmill, solitary confinement, censored letters, no writing materials. Yet even in the midst of depravation, Oscar's astonishing detective powers remain undiminished - and when first a brutal warder and then the prison chaplain are found murdered, who else should the prison governor turn to for help other than Reading Goal's most celebrated inmate! Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Goal is by Gyles Brandreth and is due to be published in September 2012.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Thriller Novel to Thriller Film

With all the excitement in London with the World Premiere of David Fincher’s US version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO held at the Leicester Square Odeon on Monday [with world-wide release on 26 December 2012] – I discussed the “old chesnut” of Film Adaptations of thrillers with Elaine Hirsch. She provided an interesting insight, selecting her top 5 thriller adaptations. Elaine’s list will provide controversy, so feel free to comment [below] on your own favourites, as an Ian Fleming advocate I was surprised to see that ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE did not make the list.

Nothing stops the cinematic heart like a well-constructed thriller. Even the best thrill-makers, however—from Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder to Steven Spielberg—have faltered without the right source material. Developing a great movie based on a book requires a bit of luck, good casting, and an intriguing story, which is a much different task than say, completing a master’s degree program. A great novel-to-film thriller adaptation, thanks to the often difficult-to-distill layers of plotting, makes for one tense night at the movies. Let’s take a moment to look back at some literary adaptations that have stood the test of time. Classics beyond repute—and often adapted from long-forgotten novels—these five films are heart-stoppers to cherish.

The Bourne Identity – The first film of the last decade’s action masterpiece trilogy may or may not stand out as your favorite in the trilogy. However, it stands as the cornerstone of a trilogy of literary adaptations that’s left action fans salivating since 2002. Like most of the films on this list, The Bourne Identity runs buck wild from—even ignoring—its source material. The result, however, is a throwback espionage film for the ages. Matt Damon’s underplayed, sometimes robotic performance may be the best in a suspense film since Gary Cooper rocked High Noon.

The Silence of the Lambs – The finest horror film in the American canon, The Silence of the Lambs gets under your skin within minutes. One of the few films to take home the “Big Five” Oscars—for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Adapted Screenplay, Silence used its literary roots to heady advantage. The horror lies less on disgusting violence (though there’s plenty of than) than airtight close-ups of leads Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as they play a massively complex game of psychological chess. Hopkins, as Hannibal Lecter, has the most terrifying eyes in the canon of world cinema.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Crime novels have made for stellar adaptation material over the years, but The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo stands out as a worldwide cultural phenomenon. On paper, the twist and turns of Steig Larsson’s novel read simply and clearly. On film, those plot mechanics become a grandiose, entrancing mystery, and an indictment of Sweden’s structure.

The Manchurian Candidate – Action master John Frankenheimer boiled Richard Condon’s satirical novel down to its trippiest, weirdest essentials and turned the pulp story into a suspense classic. Frank Sinatra’s perfect performance, the greatest fistfight ever put on film, Angela Lansbury’s Oedipal nightmare of a villainess, and the gut-churning climax make for an unforgettable viewing experience.

The French Connection – Gene Hackman embodied the most hard-boiled detective in film history—forget Humphrey Bogart—in William Friedkin’s adaptation of the true crime novel. The differences between the book and film are profound—there’s no one in the novel called “Popeye Doyle,” and the heart-in-throat elevated railway chase never happened—but the film still stands as a benchmark for action filmmaking.A great thriller often has fine source material. These five thrillers—all suspense classics—are in most cases better remembered than the source material. Not only will these five book-to-movie thrillers provide for ample nostalgic material, they all bring additional layers to their respective stories which will please any thriller fan.

Elaine Hirsch is a freelance journalist with interests in education, history, medicine and videogames. She can be contacted at

Top Photo © 2011 Ali Karim “Publisher Christopher MacLehose and Ali Karim attend the world premiere of David Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO in London Monday 12th December 2011”

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Reed who? Moe who?


He’s been called a hard boiled poet and the noir poet laureate. He has won the Shamus Award for best detective novel thrice, he has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards and has been nominated twice for an Edgar Award. I am of course talking about Reed Farrel Coleman!

If you want to get the lowdown on all things Reed and Moe Prager, (for example what would you find in Moe’s fridge) then hop on over to the Shots ezine and have a read of the brilliant answers I managed to prize out of Reed to the questions that I asked him.

His latest book to feature Moe Prager - Hurt Machine has just been published!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Worldwide Premier

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Worldwide Premier took place yesterday evening at the Odeon Leicester Square, London and I was lucky enough to have been invited to attend alongside my fellow Shots members Ali Karim, Mike Stotter and Chris Simmons of Crime Squad. One must give thanks to Lucy Ramsay of Quercus Books (his UK publishers) for inviting us.

There are of course remakes that work well and remakes that do not. One also sometimes wonders why they bother to make remakes. In the case of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it is clear that some people will like it and some will not. I am going to say from the start that I enjoyed it. Nevertheless, I did have problems with it.

From the start, one can see that no expense has been spared, from the opening credits and scenes, which I admit reminded me of a sci-fi film was dark, metallic and full of flourishes. The score at the start was also just as powerful. The cinematography was wonderful. The excellent sharp visuals, the faultless design, the instinctive ability for melding sound and music, the chill and menace is what one has come to expect from a Fincher film. If you have seen the original films then you will be able to follow the film quite easily. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is stylishly filmed and the photography is outstanding, it is at times especially at the start quite bleak. The film does not however hold back. Compared to the original the blood and gore is not as graphic. The violent sex scenes are still there but they are in my opinion done a lot more subtly. They are still there but unlike in the Swedish version I did not feel the need to want to cover my eyes as some of it took place. Rooney Mara is good as Elisabeth Salander. Hollywood seemed to have used Noomi Rapace as a template. My only gripe is that the hairstyle that they gave her was awful. It did not suit her at all and in fact detracted from the rather good acting. She may not have replaced the original actor as well as she could have but she did a very good job. In my opinion, she came across as a lot harder than Noomi Rapace. But this is her film. Daniel Craig on the other hand was for me a disappointment. He was not Mikael Blomkvist. The original actor who played the character in the Swedish version was much better. Rather sadly, I kept on seeing Bond in his actions and his demeanour all the way through the film. Whilst he was not brash, arrogant or over the top as he sometimes comes across in the Bond films this time around he is diffident, understated, even back pedaling. Nevertheless, one could not dismiss that Bondish attitude especially at a critical moment in the film towards the end. There was a seediness about the original actor that was missing from Craig. He doesn't divulge much that's going on inside him beyond what's already called for on the outside. Christopher Plummer who plays Henrick was good. Unpretentious but well played. There are various bits of the film that have been changed but they certainly do not detract from what is the essence of the film from the book and the original Swedish version. One big change is the ending. No, I am not going to say what it is. Go and see it instead.

My opinion is if you have seen the Swedish version and enjoyed them then please do go and see the Hollywood remake. I was (and still am) a big fan of the original films as it was thus with a slight sense of trepidation and anticipation that I attended the premier. Would I go and see the other two remakes if they are done? Yes, I would if only to compare them to the original Swedish version. Would I get them on DVD? No but I would get the original Swedish versions instead notwithstanding the subtitles.

Friday 9 December 2011

Forthcoming books to look forward to from Random House Group

Private Games is by James Patterson and is due to be published in January 2012. The world is watching - July 2012: The Games have arrived in London. Preparations have gone flawlessly and the stage is set for one of the greatest ever showcases of sporting excellence. But one man has a devastating plan. Having waited years for this chance, he is now ready for vengeance. A killer is plotting. When Sir Denton Marshall, a key member of the London Olympic organising committee, is found decapitated in his garden, Peter Knight, head of Private London, is called to the scene. Private are working with the organising committee on the security for the Games, so Denton Marshall was a valuable client. But there is a more personal link: Marshall was also the fiancé of Knight's mother. The time for vengeance has come. Having only recently lost close friends and colleagues at Private London in a fatal plane crash, this is another torturous blow for Knight and threatens to push him over the edge. But it soon becomes clear that Denton Marshall's murder is no isolated incident, and that the killer's number one target is the Games itself. As the most talented athletes in the world gather in London, Knight knows he must find Sir Denton's killer. Thousands of lives are at stake...

When she disappeared from her rural hometown, Wendy White was a sweet, family-oriented girl, a late bloomer who'd recently moved out on her own, with her first real boyfriend and a job waiting tables at the local tavern. It happens all the time--a woman goes missing, a family mourns, and the case remains unsolved. Stacy Flynn is a reporter looking for her big break. She moved east from Cleveland, a city known for its violent crime, but that's the last thing she expected to cover in Haeden. This small, upstate New York town counts a dairy farm as its main employer and is home to families who've set down roots and never left--people who don't take kindly to outsiders. Flynn is researching the environmental impact of the dairy, and the way money flows outward like the chemical runoff, eventually poisoning those who live at the edges of its reach.
Five months after she disappeared, Wendy's body is found in a ditch just off one of Haeden's main roads. Suddenly, Flynn has a big story, but no one wants to talk to her. No one seems to think that Wendy's killer could still be among them. A drifter, they say. Someone “not from here." Fifteen-year-old Alice Piper is an imaginative student with a genius IQ and strong ideals. The precocious, confident girl has stood out in Haeden since the day her eccentric hippie parents moved there from New York City, seeking a better life for their only child. When Alice reads Flynn's passionate article in the Haeden Free Press about violence against women--about the staggering number of women who are killed each day by people they know--she begins to connect the dots of Wendy's disappearance and death, leading her to make a choice: join the rest in turning a blind eye, or risk getting involved. As Flynn and Alice separately observe the locals' failure to acknowledge a murderer in their midst, Alice's fate is forever entwined with Wendy's when a second crime rocks the town to its core. So Much Pretty is the debut novel by Cara Hoffman and is due to be published in February 2012.

11th Hour is by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro. Lindsay Boxer is pregnant at last! But her work doesn't slow for a second. When millionaire Chaz Smith is mercilessly gunned down, she discovers that the murder weapon is linked to the deaths of four of San Francisco's most untouchable criminals. And it was taken from her own department's evidence locker. Anyone could be the killer - even her closest friends. Lindsay is called next to the most bizarre crime scene she's ever witnessed: two bodiless heads elaborately displayed in the garden of a world-famous actor. Another head is unearthed in the garden, and Lindsay realises that the ground could hide hundreds of victims. A reporter launches a series of malicious articles about the cases and Lindsay's personal life is laid bare. But this time she has no one to turn to - especially not Joe. 11th Hour is due to be published in March 2012.

In a cold, windswept field on the outskirts of Edinburgh, lies the brutally mutilated body of a young woman. As DI Rob Brennan looks at the tangled mass of limbs and blood, he feels his heart freeze. Like Fiona Gow five years earlier, this girl has been strangled with her own stockings, sexually mutilated and her eyes have been gouged out. Is this the work of an Edinburgh Ripper? The press certainly think so. Rob Brennan is determined to uncover the truth - however painful that might be. But truth is hard to come by in a world of police rivalries, media hysteria and copycat crime. Murder Mile is the second book by Tony Black to feature Detective Inspector Rob Brennan. Murder Mile is due to be published in April 2012.

Chief Inspector Daniel Jacquot is on sick leave recovering from gunshot wounds when Isabelle Cassier, an old friend and sometime lover, pays him a visit. After working for the Judiciaire in Paris following the end of their brief affair, Isabelle has returned to Marseilles and rejoined the homicide squad. And her visit, she tells him, is official. Jacquot's name has appeared in connection with an unsolved murder she's investigating and she wants some answers. What does he know about a dead cop called Gilles Barsin? And just how friendly was he with Jean-Louis Lombard, a notorious dockland villain also known as The Seahorse? The two names spin Jacquot back to his days as a rookie cop, a distant time when the lines between law and disorder were often blurred, when silly mistakes were sometimes made, and friendship came at a heavy price. Now, years later, it looks like someone is spilling the beans. The Dying Minutes is by Martin O’Brien and is due to be published in April 2012.

Meet Francis Ackerman, America's most terrifying serial killer. What excites him most is the game of chance. He likes to play with ordinary people. Innocent people. Someone just like you. If you take part in Ackerman's game, he'll stalk you, then take you prisoner. Will he let you live? Or will you die? There are so many different ways to die, and Ackerman knows them all. It's part of his game. Do you wanna play? Francis Ackerman does. And he's found you... The Shepherd is the debut novel by Ethan Cross and is due to be published in January 2012.

Good Bait is by Cartier Diamond Dagger winner John Harvey and is due to be published in January 2012. When a seventeen-year-old Moldovan boy is found dead on Hampstead Heath, the case falls to DCI Karen Shields and her overstretched Homicide & Serious Crime team. Karen knows she needs a result. What she doesn't know is that her new case is tied inextricably to a much larger web of gang warfare and organised crime, which infiltrates almost every aspect of London society, from the back streets and high rises of Tottenham to the multi-million pound hideaways of the new international entrepreneurs. Several hundred miles away in Cornwall, DI Trevor Cordon is stirred from his day-to-day duties by another tragic London fatality. Travelling to the capital, determined to establish the cause of death and trace the deceased's daughter - an old acquaintance from Penzance - Cordon becomes entangled in a lethally complex situation of his own. A situation much closer to Karen's case than either of them can imagine ...

When a man is found stabbed to death floating in the canal, Commissario Brunetti is convinced he recognises him from somewhere. But with no identification on the body and no reports of people missing from the Venice area, it seems as if he has appeared from nowhere, and the case is at a dead end. It does not take long for Brunetti to realise why he remembers the dead man – he saw him at a demonstration a couple of years ago, where farmers were protesting about European milk quotas. But what was his involvement with the protest, and could it have anything to do with his murder? Having nothing to go on but the distinctive shoes the man was wearing, and a disease that had left his body strangely deformed, Brunetti and Inspector Vianello set out to try and discover the man’s identity. Their investigation eventually takes them to the slaughterhouse at Preganziol, on the mainland. It is there that Brunetti discovers the dead man’s connection with the slaughterhouse, and the world of blackmail and corruption that surrounds it. Beastly Things is by Donna Leon and is due to be published in April 2012.

Private: No.1 Suspect is by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro and is due to be published in April 2012. Since former US Marine Jack Morgan started Private, it has become the world's most effective investigation firm - sought out by the famous and the powerful to discreetly handle their most intimate problems. Private's investigators are the smartest, the fastest, and the most technologically advanced in the world - and they always uncover the truth. When his former lover is found murdered in Jack's bed, he is instantly the number one suspect. While Jack is under police investigation and fighting to clear his name, the mob strong-arms him into recovering $30 million in stolen pharmaceuticals for them. And the beautiful owner of a chain of luxury hotels persuades him to quietly investigate a string of murders at her high-class establishments. With Jack and his team stretched to breaking point, one of his most trusted colleagues threatens to leave Private, and Jack realises he is facing his biggest challenge yet. With more action, more intrigue, and more twists than ever before.

Nothing will ever be the same again...In the heart of Philadelphia's badlands, Homicide Detectives Byrne and Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighbourhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room. At first, it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third. Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work. With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one-step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined as they race against time to hunt down their killer, before it's too late... The Killing Room is by Richard Montanari and is due to be published in February 2012.

Following the shocking events of the previous weeks when Tory Brennan, niece of forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan, and her group of disparate friends discovered that they had somehow been struck down with a canine disease that had changed their DNA, and given them powers that they could neither control nor understand, they have lain low. But with their home under threat and the prospect of separation all too real, they need to find a way to preserve their group. But only one thing will save them: money. And lots of it. And as far as Tory can see, there is only one way they can get enough money quickly: they must find she-pirate Anne Bonny’s legendary treasure. Rumour has it that she hid it in Charleston, but in over 200 years, no one has been able to find it. But with the help of their new-found powers. Tory is amazed to find that they might actually be on the right track. The problem is they aren’t the only ones looking for it, and if that wasn’t dangerous enough, Anne Bonny booby-trapped the trail every step of the way, and there are bodies to prove it. One way or another, the path ahead is fraught with danger. And this time, their special powers may not be enough to get them out of trouble. Seizure is by Kathy Reichs and is due to be published in January 2012.

It was the most renowned and respected shrine in the Roman Empire, sought after for generations, the object of veneration by Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Caligula, Hadrian and the world over. It stood for centuries within a sacred precinct the size of a large town at the heart of the greatest Greek city in the world. Yet at the end of the fourth century AD, it disappeared without a trace, creating the greatest archaeological enigma of the ancient world. What became of the tomb of Alexander the Great. The Tomb of Alexander is the debut novel by Sean Hemingway (grandson of Ernest Hemingway) and introduces readers to hero Tom Carr. The Tomb of Alexander is due to be published in March 2012.

The Fear Index is by Robert Harris and is due to be published in March 2012. His name is carefully guarded from the general public but within the secretive inner circles of the ultra-rich. Dr Alex Hoffmann is a legend - a visionary scientist whose computer software turns everything it touches into gold. Together with his partner, an investment banker, Hoffmann has developed a revolutionary form of artificial intelligence that tracks human emotions, enabling it to predict movements in the financial markets with uncanny accuracy. His hedge fund, based in Geneva, makes billions. But then in the early hours of the morning, while he lies asleep with his wife, a sinister intruder breaches the elaborate security of their lakeside house. So begins a waking nightmare of paranoia and violence as Hoffmann attempts, with increasing desperation, to discover who is trying to destroy him. His quest forces him to confront the deepest questions of what it is to be human. By the time night falls over Geneva, the financial markets will be in turmoil and Hoffmann's world - and ours - transformed forever.

Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket fences of towns like Winesburg, Ohio have given way to meth labs, backwoods gunrunners and bare knuckle brawling. The results are, at least, never, ever, boring. Bill’s people are pressed to the brink—and beyond. There is Scoot McCutchen, whose beloved wife falls terminally ill, leaving him with nothing to live for—, which doesn’t quite explain why he brutally murders her and her doctor and flees, or why, after years of running, he decides to turn himself in. In the title story, a man who has devolved from breeding hounds for hunting to training them for dog-fighting crosses paths with a Salvadoran gangbanger tasked with taking over the rural drug trade, but who mostly wants to grow old in peace. As Crimes in Southern Indiana unfolds, we witness the unspeakable, yet are compelled to find sympathy for the depraved. Crimes in Southern Indiana is the debut novel by Frank Bill and is due to be published in January 2012.

Detective Inspector January David is on the hunt for an elusive serial killer but the leads are drying up. The first victim was taken on Halloween and as the months develop more ritualistic murders are discovered. So far, five innocents, each struck down in a public place, have been left dead. Brooke Derry should have been the sixth but she miraculously survives. Meanwhile, January's personal life is in turmoil as he battles the demons which have haunted him all his life. He's desperately seeking his missing sister and his private hell is only intensified by the corruption within his own team. When the killer's picture is leaked to the press, hysteria grips London as the public sees the face of evil and fears they will be next. But no one, including DI David, realises that an unknown vigilante has also seen the front pages and has tracked down the killer and is now holding them captive. January is in pursuit of not just one lost soul, but two... The 2 is the second book to feature Detective Inspector January David by Will Carver and is due to be published in April 2012.

Angelmaker is by Nick Harkaway the acclaimed author of "The Gone-Away World" - A new riveting action spy thriller, blistering gangster noir, and howling absurdist comedy: a propulsively entertaining tale about a mobster's son and a retired secret agent who are forced to team up to save the world. All Joe Spork wants is a quiet life. He repairs clockwork and lives above his shop in a wet, unknown bit of London. The bills don't always get paid and he's single and has no prospects of improving his lot, but at least he's not trying to compete with the reputation of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, his infamous criminal dad. Edie Banister lives quietly and wishes she didn't. She's nearly ninety and remembers when she wasn't. She's a former superspy and now she's...well...old. Worse yet, the things she fought to save don't seem to exist anymore, and she's beginning to wonder if they ever did. When Joe fixes one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. The client? Unknown. And the device? It's a 1950s doomsday machine. And having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie's old arch-nemesis. With Joe's once-quiet world now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realises that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father's old gun... Angelmaker is due to be published in February 2012.

In Her Blood is the first in a series of crime novels starring Catherine Berlin, a civilian investigator whose longstanding heroin addiction is only party of her story. On a bone-chilling February morning, Catherine Berlin, investigator with the Financial Services Agency, finds the almost-headless body of her informant ‘Juliet Bravo’, rolling in a shallow reach of the Thames. That Juliet Bravo’s death is linked to an investigation of local loan shark Archie Doyle is no surprise to Berlin, but when Berlin’s own unorthodox methods are blamed for the murder, she realises bigger predators are circling. To start with, it looks as though Berlin, will pay only with her job. And then, on a routine trip to her GP (on of a dying breed who will still prescribe heroin to long-term addicts) she stumbles across a second body. Suspended, incriminated, and then blackmailed into cooperation by the detective leading the investigation, Catherine Berlin has seven stolen days of clarity within which to solve the crime – and find a new supplier. In Her Blood is by Annie Hauxwell and is due to be published in May 2012.

London, 1649. Oliver Cromwell is running the country, and a law targeting unmarried mothers threatens the life of glovemaker Rachel Lockyer. This is her story.
It is 1649. Charles I has been beheaded, Cromwell is running the country, and a new law targeting unwed mothers and lewd women has been passed. A law that presumes that anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder. When a dead infant is found buried behind the Smithfield slaughterhouse, all fingers point to thirty-nine year old glover's assistant Rachel Lockyer. A fiercely independent woman, Rachel has been carrying on an affair with a married man, a one-time political agitator with a radical group known as The Levelers. Though no one knows for certain that Rachel was even pregnant, she is arrested. So comes an investigation, public trial, and unforgettable characters: gouty investigator Thomas Bartwain, fiery Elizabeth Lillburne and her revolution-chasing husband, Huguenot glover Mary Du Gard, and others. Spinning within are Rachel and William, their remarkable love story, and the miracles that come to even the commonest lives. The Glovemaker is the debut novel by Stacia M Brown and is due to be published in February 2012.

It's summer. A boy is lying on the floor of an Oslo apartment. He is bleeding to death. Outside, the church bells toll, and he begins to tell his story. Autumn. Former police inspector Harry Hole returns to Oslo after three years away. He seeks out his old boss at Police Headquarters to request permission to investigate a homicide. But the case is already closed: the young junkie was shot dead by a fellow addict. Yet Harry is allowed to visit the boy's alleged killer in jail. There, he meets himself and his own history, and he takes on the first impossible case of his career. While Harry tries to uncover the truth, the murdered boy continues his tale. A man walks the dark streets of Oslo. The streets are his and he has always been there. He is a phantom. Phantom is by Jo Nesbo and is due to be published in March 2012.

Bloodman is the debut novel by Robert Pobi and is due to be published in March 2012. For the first time in thirty years, FBI consultant Jake Cole must return to his childhood home in Long Island to look after his estranged and elderly father. But, within hours of being home, Jake is pulled into a double homicide investigation at the request of local sheriff, Mike Hauser. A mother and her young son have been brutally murdered and the local police need Jake – with his photographic memory and ability to recognise killers’ artistic signatures – to help them with this gruesome and baffling case. For Jake, though, this case is personal. He may not know the victims but he is horrified to recognise the killer’s signature as that which was left behind on his own mother, brutally murdered when Jake was just a child and whose murder has never been solved. In a race against time, Jake and Hauser are on the hunt to find this monster – a serial killer who skins his victims alive. Could the ‘bloodman’ of Jake’s nightmares be back?

Black Skies is by Arnaldur Indridason and is due to be published in June 2012. A man is making a crude leather mask with slits for eyes and mouth, and an iron spike fixed in the middle of the forehead. It is a 'death mask', once used by Icelandic farmers to slaughter calves. He has revenge in mind. Meanwhile, with Detective Erlendur absent, his colleague Sigurdur Oli is in the spotlight. A school reunion has left Sigurdur Oli dissatisfied with life in the police force. Iceland is enjoying an economic boom and young tycoons are busy partying with the international jet set. In contrast, Sigurdur Oli's relationship is on the rocks and soon even his position in the CID is compromised: when he agrees to visit a couple of blackmailers as a favour to a friend he walks in just as a woman is beaten unconscious. When she dies, Sigurdur Oli has a murder investigation on his hands. The evidence leads to debt collectors, extortionists, swinging parties. But when a chance link connects these enquiries to the activities of a group of young bankers, Sigurdur Oli finds himself investigating the very elite he had envied. Moving from the villas of Reykjavik's banking elite to a sordid basement flat, "Black Skies" is a superb story of greed, pride and murder.

It’s the weekend of Halloween, and PI John Craine has temporarily closed down his business and gone to stay in a run-down hotel on Hale Island – a small, bleak island just off the coast of Essex. He’s come to hale to get away from it all – the memories and the guilt, and a past that just won’t let go. All too soon Craine stumbles across the dead body of a young girl on the beach. He calls the police, but when they arrive the body has inexplicably disappeared – or did Craine imagine it in the first place? Determined to get to the truth, Craine starts to ask questions. And once more he finds himself tangled up in a deadly network of corruption, fear and violence. But it seems no one on the island is talking. Until the Darkness Comes is by Kevin Brooks and is due to be published by May 2012

It’s Detective Nick Belsey’s summer of trying to behave, and London has decided to go lawless. A stolen vehicle is abandoned, mid-riot, in the shadows of Centrepoint, leading to the discovery of a homeless man bludgeoned to death in his hostel. It seems at first just the nasty edge of a general breakdown, but it leads into the secrets of another age. Under the cover of chaos someone’s been doing historical research, visiting ‘Deep Shelters’, still littered with the remains of 1980s exercises in apocalypse. The trail leads Belsey to a home papered floor to ceiling with photographs of cold-war architecture, maps of the underground tunnels, declassified designs. It’s soon made clear that his own curiosity is unwanted. He is happy to let state secrets lie. Until it becomes personal. With the police force stretched to nothing. Belsey embarks on a chase through a London on edge deep into the strange, paranoid world of JIGSAW, the government’s Joint Inter-Services group for the Study of All-Out Warfare: Doomsday Departure, as it was known. And finally to the core of its secrets. Deep Shelter is the second book by Oliver Harris to feature Detective Nick Belsey. Deep Shelter is due to be published in May 2012.

It is snowing, she's barefoot, but Galya runs. Her captors are close behind her, and she won't go back there, no matter what. Tricked into coming to Belfast with the offer of a good job, all she wants now is to get back home. Her only hope is a man who gave her a cross and a phone number, telling her to call if she escaped. She puts herself at his mercy, knowing she has nowhere else to turn. Detective Inspector Jack Lennon wants a quiet Christmas with his daughter. When an apparent turf war between rival gangs leaves a string of bodies across the city, he knows he won't get it. As Lennon digs deeper he discovers the truth is far more threatening. Soon he is locked in a deadly race with two very different killers. Stolen Souls is by Stuart Neville and is due to be published by January 2012.
The Technologists is by Matthew Pearl and is due to be published in February 2012. Spring 1868, and the population of Boston is being terrorised by technological attacks: first a magnetic storm causes ships in the harbour to collide in flames, then in another bizarre catastrophe every piece of glass in the financial district spontaneously melts - clocks, windows, eyeglasses. Nothing in nature can do this: these are man-made disasters. Someone has unleashed the destructive potential of science on an innocent population. The city's fate relies on four young students of the recently founded Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Marcus Mansfield, a Civil War veteran determined to repay MIT's founder for taking a chance on him, brash Bob Richards, meticulous Edwin Hoyt and the eccentric but brilliant Ellen Swallow, the first woman at MIT, who experiments secretly in a basement laboratory. Together, they are "The Technologists". In a climate of rising hysteria, these four courageous individuals must unite against the forces of darkness to uncover the mastermind before he can stage his greatest outrage.

Max Cámara is feeling low. Ominous cracks have appeared in the walls of his flat; the body of a well-known paella chef has been washed up on the beach; there are rows and threats about abortion clinics; the town hall are set on demolishing El Cabanyal, the colourful fisherman’s quarter on Valencia’s seafront. As Cámara untangles these threads, he stumbles into a web of corruption and violence, uncovering deep animosities and hidden secrets, and forcing him to question his own doubts and desires. Some Other Body is the second novel in the series by Jason Webster to feature Max Cámara with his love of flamenco and brandy, and occasional doped out high. It is due to be published in June 2012.

'If you were to ask me to tell you about my wife, I would have to warn you at the outset that I don't know a great deal about her. Or at least, not as much as I thought I did...' So speaks Alex, the narrator of this unforgettable literary thriller. Alex is in his thirties, a solitary man who has finally found love in the form of his beautiful and vivacious wife, Rachel. When Rachel is brutally murdered one midsummer night by the lake in the grounds of their alma mater, Worcester College, Oxford, Alex's life as he knew it vanishes. He returns to Oxford that winter, and through the shroud of his shock and grief, begins to try to piece together the mystery surrounding his wife's death. Playing host to Alex's winter visit is Harry, Rachel's former tutor and trusted mentor, who turns out to have been involved in some way in almost every significant development of their relationship throughout their undergraduate years. In his exploration of Rachel's history, Alex also turns to Evie, Rachel's self-centered and difficult godmother, whose jealousy of her charge has waxed and waned over the years. And then there are her university friends, Anthony and Cissy, who shared with Rachel her love of Browning and a taste for the illicit. As Alex delves deep into the past to uncover shocking secrets and constantly shifting versions of the truth, it is with these virtual strangers as his guides that he begins to confront the terrifying reality that neither his life, nor his love, are the things he thought them to be. Part love story, part murder-mystery, this is an extraordinary debut from a powerful new voice in fiction, guaranteed to make your heart beat faster and faster... Every Contact Leaves a Trace is by Elanor Dymott and is due to be published in May 2012

It's Manchester, July 1996, the month after the IRA bomb, and the "Evening News" is carrying reports of two murders. On the front page there's a photograph of a glamorous Egyptian woman, a socialite and heiress to an oil fortune, whose partially clothed body has been found in the basement of a block of flats. It would appear that she has been the subject of a sexual attack. In the back pages of the same paper there is a fifty-word piece on the murder of a young prostitute whose body has been found dumped on a roadside near the McVitie's factory. For Bane - fixer, loanshark and legman for one of Manchester's established ganglords - it's the second piece of news that hits hardest. Determined to find out what happened to his childhood sweetheart, he searches through the tribes and estates of his bombed city for answers. It soon becomes clear that the two newspaper stories belong on the same page, and that Bane's world belongs to others - those willing to profit from gun arsenals, human trafficking and a Manchester in decay."The Doll Princess" introduces the mesmeric narrator, Henry Bane, a conflicted man caught up in a mire of evil. The Doll Princess is by Tom Bane and is due to be published in January 2012.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Robert Knightly - Turning A Life Into Crime Fiction

Our guest blogger today is Robert Knightly. Robert is a former police officer with NYPD with over 20 years’ service. He retired from the police force in 1987 with the rank of Lieutenant. He is now a trial lawyer practising in the criminal and family courts. His short stories can be found in Brooklyn Noir, Manhattan Noir, Brooklyn Noir 3, Best American Mystery Stories 2007 and Queens Noir which he also edited. His first novel Bodies in Winter introduced readers to his protagonist Det Harry Corbin

When I was 12 years old, away at a religious boarding school among the potato fields on the North Shore of Long Island, I read (under the covers, after lights out) the novels of Leslie Charteris, detailing the adventures of Simon Templar, The Saint. Fifty-plus years later, I don’t remember the plots, but do remember that the Saint’s right hand man was Hoppy Uniatz, and that it was okay (not a mortal sin) to kill bad men, as the Saint did regularly to those who needed it.

Was that an early obsession with crime and its uses? Don’t know, but should report that I left the body count behind and devoted my remaining teen years and twenties to ‘literary fiction’, where few died if ever. Although, in the interest of completeness, I must say there was a period there when I referred often to friends and acquaintances as “Old Son” (as the Saint was forever doing). But I never murdered anyone, even in a good cause.

Although I did join the New York City Police Department as a rookie Patrolman in 1967. I trace that event---in a somewhat roundabout way—to what happened to me in a Creative Writing Class in college years earlier. My first ever short story was a murder which I set against the background of the City Room of a large daily newspaper, and it was viciously panned by a student in class as “lacking in verisimilitude” (in fact, she laughed as she said it). I still remember the cutting words, the laughter, her name (which I won’t reveal to protect the guilty). True, I had never been in the City Room, or any room, of a large daily newspaper even though in those days there were seven in New York City, which was my home and the college’s. So, five years later, upon discharge from the U.S. Army, I got a job as copyboy on the New York Journal-American, the Hearst afternoon daily. This was the Fall of 1963. So, on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, I stood amidst the reporters, rewrite men and editors on the wood-planked floor of the City Room of the Journal-American, disbelieving as Walter Cronkite, on TV, competed with the roar of the linotype machines next door to report the death of President Kennedy. The following year. The Journal-American’s machines fell silent as the paper quit publishing. That left me adrift until I landed a job as Editor and sole staff-member of the sister publications, Contract Cleaning and Maintenance Supplies Magazines. Not my cup of tea, however. So…the NYPD.

Truth is, the blue-collar Greenpoint, Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up and swam in the East River off the docks opposite the Manhattan shoreline primarily produced longshoremen, bartenders, roofers, bookies, numbers runners, and civil servants, especially fire, sanitation and policemen. I went through the six-month-long Police Academy training with other young men whose life’s goal had been to become cops. That wasn’t me. But like them, I saw police work as exciting, an adventure, not to mention the good pay, steady work and benefits. Yet, when a college friend, shocked at my new employment, asked me why, I replied as thoughtfully as I could that ‘The Job’ (as we call it) enabled me to go everywhere, even into people’s homes and see how they lived. That reason I gave forty-five years ago for my becoming a cop still holds, I have no greater insight. In a twenty-year police career, I worked the streets as Patrol Officer and Sergeant, instructed detectives-in-training at the Police Academy, wrote speeches for a Police Commissioner, and, as a lawyer in the Police Legal Bureau, counseled units in the field on whether to search, seize and arrest.

I now see a couple of threads running through all that life experience: First , ‘Write what you know,’ the old saw counsels, but the converse of that---Know what you attempt to write about---makes sense to me as more realistic. Second, Get A Life to Write About: yours and/or others’. Find your material and you’ll find your voice.

I began again to think of myself as a serious writer in 1982-83 while I was the Sergeant-supervisor of a team of plainclothes policemen assigned to thwart unlicensed peddling on the streets of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Hot dog vendors, clothing, books, art, bootleg CDs, rugs (yes, room sized, allegedly ‘Persian’) and the Cuban ‘3-card Monte’ men. The 3-card Monte sharks (a dealer, a shill or two, and lookouts on the fringe) operated off a cardboard box set up on the sidewalk waist-high. Three cards lie face down on the box, the dealer then picks up one, an Ace of Diamonds, shows it around, ostentatiously replaces it face down on the box, then in a blur of practiced hands shifts the 3 cards’ positions at the speed of light for less than 30 seconds under the gaze of prospective pigeons. They have already watched as shill-players have guessed the location of the Ace of Diamonds and won money often enough to give them confidence they, too, can beat the dealer. They step up, make a bet, watch the cards move, guess wrong as the dealer turns up one of the other two cars that is the Ace. I don’t know how he does it, either. The team is all men and always Cuban. I know this because my team had been sufficiently stealthy to get close enough to grab the dealer, cards in hand, often enough for me to question one old man. He admitted in workmanlike English to being from the Bronx by way of the Cuban Boatlift. When I asked if all the 3-card Monte men were Cuban, he replied with an elegantly slight lift of the shoulders. A female Judge brand new to the Criminal Court Bench had recently ruled the game of 3-Card Monte to be a game of skill, not a confidence scam, and therefore not illegal. I asked my prisoner if he agreed and his response was a smile enigmatic as the Mona Lisa. (Someday I’ll write the 3-card Monte story; meanwhile, I’ll keep filling notebooks.)

Greenwich Village on Manhattan’s Lower West Side was home then to the well-to-do and professionals in their town houses alongside artists and ordinary folk entrenched in Rent-Controlled apartments handed-down generation to generation (Still is). And colleges, one of which was The New School for Social Research (‘The New School’) where nights I took Creative Writing Courses taught by professional novelists, non-fiction and short story authors. I went there for three years, reading to my teachers the short stories that had started to bubble up in my mind as if from a compost heap. Those men and women, God bless them, assured me that I was a writer and had stories to tell. And they were always short stories. I kept them all, continuing to work on them over the years.

I sold my first story in 2004 to ‘Brooklyn Noir’, an anthology of original crime stories set in Brooklyn, (publisher, Akashic Books). I titled the story, “One More for the Road”, set it in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods where I’d grown up and worked as a young Patrolman. The inspiration was a young cop I’d known (call him Danny) who’d marched this year in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade up 5th Avenue, in uniformed ranks to the cadenced command of the Pipes (as all we Irish cops did), and then fell out at its end on East 86th Street—and into all the Irish Bars along Third Avenue, north and south (also, traditional). Somehow, Danny ended the night in a car in Brooklyn with his Sergeant whom he’d shot to death but had no recollection of the event. What happens now, I asked myself?

I sold other cop tales to ‘Manhattan Noir’, ‘Best American Mystery Stories 2007’, and edited ‘Queens Noir’. Danny’s story stuck with me over the years and became the seed of my first novel, “Bodies in Winter,” (publisher, Severn House, 2009). The real Danny had put up no defense at his murder trial, been convicted and sentenced to 15-years-to-life in one of New York State’s maximum-security prisons. Danny’s prison experience and fateful meeting with the real life Joseph ‘Mad Dog’ Sullivan provided the grist for my only non-fiction piece, “Getting to Know Mad Dog” in Akashic’s ‘Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing But the Truth’.

In the novel, “Bodies in Winter”, the Danny-character is an alcoholic, violent cop who is accused of beating to death a prisoner in the Precinct cell-block, remembers nothing, takes a plea rather than face trial and is sent away to Attica for seven years. While serving his sentence, David Lodge regains his memory. I asked myself: What happens when a disgraced ex-cop gets out, believing he was set up by his fellow cops? Another impetus to the novel was the case of Abner Louima, a prisoner sodomized with a broom handle by a cop in the washroom of a Brooklyn Precinct in 1997. During the subsequent trial in Federal Court, the guilty cop confessed and was sentenced to 30 years. According to the victim, there was another cop standing watch in the bathroom while the assault took place. He was never positively identified but prosecutors focused on Police Officer Charles Schwarz, and when he swore he was not the lookout in the bathroom, he was indicted and tried for perjury--- twice. Schwarz had many defenders in the legal community who were convinced of his innocence. Ultimately, he served five years in prison. I asked myself: what would a tough cop like Schwarz do when released if he knew the identity of the lookout who had not come forward to save him?

The underlying theme of “Bodies In Winter” is Loyalty: one cop for another, one partner for another. To deepen the theme, I recast the protagonists as Detectives Harry Corbin and Adele Bentibi, partners in a Queens Precinct Detective Squad, investigating a murder that none of the police brass seems to care about solving. Det. Harry Corbin is the best-liked cop in his Precinct—“everyone’s go-to guy”—while Det. Adele Bentibi is aloof, principled, a seeker of justice. A Sophie’s Choice for Harry: his partner or ‘The Job’ (his family)? In pursuit of the killer, the pair cover a lot of ground in the varied neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

My second novel, “The Cold Room,” (Severn House, Dec. 1, 2011), a sequel, starts on a sweltering July morning in a vacant lot underneath the Williamsburg Bridge with Det. Harry Corbin baby-sitting the dumped body of a young woman, mutilated and seemingly unidentifiable. Harry is awaiting the arrival of the City Medical Examiner, having had to process the crime scene by himself (except for an old derelict on the scene whom he pressed into service). Harry is persona non grata, shunned by his fellow cops of Brooklyn’s 92nd Precinct. The grapevine says he’s a rat, an informer for Internal Affairs. According to Harry, his transfer is in the works the day after he arrives at his new Command. As for Harry, he could care less. He’s finally got a homicide he can work. Det. Harry Corbin knows that he “speaks for the dead.”

The Cold Room” was sparked in my imagination by a news account I read a few years back and kept the clipping. A domestic, a maid in the Manhattan home of an Iranian diplomat, jumped from a second floor window to escape her employers. Investigation showed her “job” to be, in reality, an indentured servitude she’d been lured into by false promises. All that remained for me to do was dump a corpse in Brooklyn, invent the back-story and a worthy opponent for Harry—in this case, Aslan Khalid, a very bad actor from Chechnya.

More information on Robert Knightly can be found here.