Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: Following the Detectives edited by Maxim Jakubowski

During the summer of 2009, British editor and former bookstore proprietor asked 11 authors, including me, to contribute to a volume of 21 essays about cities and other places in the world that are closely associated with famous fictional sleuths. Given that he wanted me to write about Dashiell Hammett and San Francisco, a city I have long adored (and about which I had penned two previous books), I was pleased to accept his invitation.

The finished work appeared in the UK earlier this fall: Following the Detectives: Real Locations in Crime Fiction (New Holland Publishers). While I’m not really in a position to review the book, I will say that it’s pretty darn impressive. Oversized and suffused with photographs and colorful maps of the regions over which the fictional crime-solvers under discussion roam, it is a valuable reference book for mystery and crime-fiction fans, but also a travel guide of sorts for literature lovers.

Chapters cover such pairings as Ian Rankin and Inspector Rebus’ Edinburgh (written by Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer’s Southern California (Michael Carlson), Colin Dexter and Inspector Morse’s Oxford (Martin Edwards), Arnaldur Indridason and Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson’s Iceland (Peter Rozovsky), Philip Kerr, Leonardo Padura, Boris Akunin and Michael Walters.

This book is fairly heavily designed, and there are a few pages on which the type is hard to read against a vivid backdrop. But for the most part, the visual appearance of Following the Detectives contributes to the text’s intrigue. Jakubowski has sprinkled the chapters with sidebars, some of them featuring quirky facts about the authors or their protagonists (did you know, for instance, that Donna Leon “will not sanction translation of her books into Italian”?), others looking at how the fictional characters under discussion have been featured in films. In many cases, lists have been made of other novelists who set their stories in the cities addressed in the main chapters, and in the Boston section--which concentrates on works by and Robert B. Parker--there’s a longer sidebar about Dennis Lehane. Jakubowski must have recognized from the outset of this project that he would be criticized for not commissioning separate chapters about Loren D. Estleman and Detroit, Martin Cruz Smith and Moscow, Kathy Reichs and Montreal, Robert Wilson and Seville, Frank Tallis and Vienna, Earl Emerson and Seattle, and other such obvious pairings, but covering all of that territory might have made Following the Detectives several volumes long. He’s found a middle ground in at least mentioning as many imaginary investigators as possible in this 256-page work.

I shall leave it up to others to applaud more of this book’s assets and nitpick its deficiencies. I can only say that I am proud to appear in these pages with such excellent company, and I look forward to giving copies of Following the Detectives away as Christmas presents (even though I’ll have to order them from Britain). There’s lots of material here to satisfy longtime crime-fiction enthusiasts as well as newcomers to the genre.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! I think it would make a great present, too!
Oline Cogdill

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 7:54:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Andi Shechter said...

Oline, thanks for the tip and review. This does look very interesting. there's probably no way to cover all the places we readers would want covered (Tim Hallinan and Bangkok? Stuart Kaminsky and....fill in the blank) Louise Penny and Quebec? Dana Stabenow and Alaska? Charlaine Harris and northern Louisiana among others) one has to deal with what there is, not what there isn't. Though of course, there I go saying that and still have to ask "Where are the women?" (you and Sarah being the only women contributors and the sleuths you've listed are by and large male) It's 2010. I just wish....yeah yeah, i know no one asked but as a long time fan, reader, reviewer, etc. it strikes me as odd not to see more female sleuths/writers in such a cool and possibly useful collection.

I admit I always wish someone would ask ME (what can I say, I'm envious of those of you who get to contribute to such an effort). This looks like a "keep it on the shelf, you'll refer to it a lot" kind of book. Is there a US edition coming?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 12:30:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andi, in addition to my essay on Travis McGee, my other essay in the book looks at all of Florida authors and includes the women who have elevated Florida mysteries such as the late Barbara Parker, etc.

I hope there will be a US publisher will pick this up. seems tailor made.
Oline Cogdill

Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 3:15:00 PM PST  

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