Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Romance Novelists as Literary Rock Stars

Love Between the Covers, a new film by Laurie Kahn (Tupperware!, A Midwife’s Tale), shows the romance writing industry to be “one of the last meritocracies left on the planet.”

In the current issue, Macleans magazine takes a close look at Kahn’s documentary, which is debuting right now at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.
Romance writers may get little respect from the literary world, but they are, without a doubt, its rock stars. “We don’t really care what the establishment thinks, because we’re paying off our houses,” says Bates. “Readers vote with their wallets. I think the big-publisher business models will have to become more author-friendly if they want to retain their authors.” 
Or perhaps they’ll have to embrace diversity. The notion that steampunk, for example, wouldn’t sell, or would be too difficult to market, is a sensibility at odds with other forms of popular entertainment—from television to Hollywood movies—where many producers have realized that diverse ideas and new voices do well in the mainstream. Because publishers sell books to retailers, as opposed to readers themselves, they have an often confused perception of what readers want and who reads what.
The full piece is here. You can view a trailer below.

Chinese Reading Up, But Digital Wins Out

A survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication has shown that while the amount of time Chinese spent on reading books, newspapers and magazines all increased in 2014, digital media have overtaken traditional books as the most read media in China.
The survey, conducted from September, polled the reading habits of about 35,500 adults in 29 provincial divisions. From China.org:
The survey … revealed that 51.8 percent of the respondents read on their mobile phones while 49.4 percent on ordinary computer and 5.3 percent on e-reader such as a Kindle. 
Tablet computers were first listed this year and 9.9 percent of those surveyed used them.
Digital reading has picked up quickly. In 2008, only about 24.5 percent of respondents read digitally. About 22.3 percent of Chinese adults read e-books in 2014, up from 19.2 percent in previous year.
Each person read 3.22 e-books on average, up from 2.48 in 2013, while 4.56 books were read per capita in 2014, slightly down from 4.77 in 2013.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Crime Fiction: The Lady from Zagreb
by Philip Kerr

The 10th entry in Philip Kerr’s impressive Bernie Gunther historical crime series, The Lady from Zagreb (Putnam) finds the former Berlin homicide detective as one of many people who have come to serve Nazi masters during World War II, and who constantly strive to walk the narrow (and dangerous) path between following outrageous orders and maintaining some vestige of personal integrity. In his new outing Gunther does both. In the process, he alternates between solving more than one murder … and adding to the death toll himself when it proves necessary.

This tale begins in 1956, on the French Riviera, but initially has Gunther recalling the events of an earlier time -- the mid-1940s -- and his brief but intense relationship with a devastatingly beautiful Croatian actress named Dalia Dresner. The story soon returns abruptly to Berlin during that same era, just after the infamous Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich’s security chief in Bohemia and Moravia, was mortally wounded by Czech patriots, an act that incited horrific reprisals by the Nazis.

In the midst of this turmoil the Germans, of all people, have arranged an international crime conference, and its organizer, General Arthur Nebe, has tapped Gunther to be the keynote speaker. He’s been ordered to give a talk on a well-known case in which he ran to earth a notorious strangler. Gunther does not miss the irony of focusing on a lone killer’s actions in the face of the much more significant atrocities being perpetrated at that very moment by Nazi commanders. Adding to this macabre piece of theater, the conference is taking place at Wannsee, the very Berlin suburb where senior Nazi officials had earlier met to determine the fate of Germany’s -- and indeed, Europe’s -- Jewish population.

During the conference Gunther is introduced to Paul Meyer-Schwertenbach, a Swiss policeman and crime writer who takes a professional interest in Gunther’s work. Kerr’s protagonist is drawn reluctantly into playing host to the officer and his assistant during their visit. But when an elderly lawyer is murdered nearby, Gunther begins to wonder if those two might have been involved.

Meanwhile, Joseph Goebbels, the Reich’s Minister of Truth and Propaganda, has become besotted with motion-picture actress Dahlia Dresner. She’d been a star with German film production company UFA, but has since gone to live in Zürich, Switzerland. Goebbels wants her to make a film for him. The problem is, Dahlia isn’t interested. Goebbels dispatches Gunther to Switzerland with carte blanche to persuade her otherwise, but fearing that the headstrong ex-cop might, like so many before him, fail to return, Goebbels arranges for a hostage to remain behind as an incentive.

Complicating the plot further, Nazi General Walter Schellenberg “asks” (a word that has a special connotation in Adolf Hitler’s Germany) Gunther to pick up a brand-new Mercedes-Benz roadster from the factory and drive it to Zürich, a gift for Meyer-Schwertenbach. It seems that, despite their famous neutrality, the Swiss are involved with the Germans in some sort of arrangement, and Gunther figures the roadster is meant to sweeten the deal.

Before The Lady from Zagreb reaches its conclusion, Gunther will find himself in some very strange company, searching Yugoslavia for a Catholic priest, or maybe a Slavic war criminal -- he’s not sure which -- who’s trying to convince shadowy interrogators that he’s not a high-ranking Nazi officer, while he endeavors to avoid the Swiss police. It will require all of Gunther’s wits to survive, let along succeed in his several missions.

This yarn eventually returns to the Riviera in 1956, where Gunther will be reunited with someone from the events of the ’40s, before it reaches an end that fits perfectly with the jaded plot line and leaves the reader wanting more.

Left: Novelist Philip Kerr, photographed by Ali Karim

As we’ve come to expect from Philip Kerr, his latest book, though nominally a work of fiction, is based solidly and uncompromisingly on fact. The major characters are all drawn from the events of the day, and run the gamut from Germans to Swiss to Slavs to Americans, though in some cases the names have been changed. As a result, the reader is left with a clear idea of how things worked and who shaped them during the yarn’s time frame. And in a bonus at the end, Kerr describes the post-war fate of many of the real-life figures in this story.

Peppered with dark humor and dialogue fueled by its protagonist’s insolence, The Lady from Zagreb will have readers wondering constantly just how far Bernie Gunther can -- or will -- go before he crosses the line and prompts his Nazi bosses to get rid of him. Kerr has done the nigh-impossible: given readers an admirable figure who is more than a little flawed, and set his actions against a background of the brutalities of the Third Reich and all the other horrors of war. It is a superb example of “Nazi noir,” the narrative and dialogue echoing the glib, cynical interplay we have come to admire in the great period noir classics of the silver screen. With seeming effortlessness, Kerr weaves together a complex tale that moves from the corridors of the Nazi hierarchy, where everything is black or white, to the morally ambiguous arena occupied by generally ordinary folk on the fringes of power, people who are trying desperately to stay alive. The real trick is figuring out who belongs in which camp. As Bernie Gunther says,
Evil doesn’t come wearing evening dress and speaking with a foreign accent. It doesn’t have a scar on its face and a sinister smile. It rarely if ever owns a castle with a laboratory in the attic, and it doesn’t have joined-up eyebrows and gap teeth. The fact is, it’s easy to recognize an evil man when you see him: he looks just like you or me.
The Lady from Zagreb is, hands down, the best thing I’ve read for many months -- if not longer. ◊

Jim Napier is a crime-fiction reviewer based in Quebec. His book reviews and author interviews have appeared in several Canadian papers as well as on such websites as Spinetingler Magazine, The Rap Sheet, Shots, Crime Time, Reviewing the Evidence and Amazon.com. Napier also has an award-winning crime-fiction site, Deadly Diversions.

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Invisible Man Reboot Set for Production

H.G. Wells’ classic The Invisible Man is getting ready to go into production at Sony, reports Tracking Board, with Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick set to produce.

The original novel, published in 1897, followed the character of Griffin and his descent into madness upon becoming invisible as the result of a scientific experiment. Griffin becomes corrupted by his new power, and uses it to cause anarchy. The studio is developing a new spin that will make the Invisible Man the villain of the film, with the audience following the hero that is tasked to hunt him down. 
This new project is, of course, not the first film version of The Invisible Man:
The iconic character was first brought to life by Claude Rains in the 1933 Universal horror film of the same title directed by James Whale. The character has since become an iconic “monster” for the studio, spawning multiple sequels, including The Return of The Invisible Man starring Vincent Price in 1940. The Sony project is unrelated to Universal’s shared monster universe, which is currently developing a separate project featuring the character. The concept of the novel has been the inspiration for numerous thrillers, including Hollow Man, which starred Kevin Bacon. Other projects include 1992’s Memoirs of the Invisible Man, which starred Chevy Chase and the Invisible Man Syfy series that aired between 2000 and 2002. 
Read the Tracking Board piece here. Cinemablend adds their two bits here.


Reese Witherspoon Will Narrate Harper Lee Novel

Actress Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Water For Elephants) will set her hand to narration for the first time for the audiobook edition of Harper Lee’s hotly anticipated second novel, Go Set a Watchman.

In a statement, Witherspoon said she is looking forward to the challenge. “As a Southerner, it is an honor and privilege to give voice to the Southern characters who inspired my childhood love of reading, Scout and Atticus Finch.”

Witherspoon was born in New Orleans and partly raised in Nashville. Her roles have included Southern characters, including roles in Sweet Home Alabama and an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.

January Magazine has previously written about Go Set a Watchman here and here.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Fiction: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

True charm and genuine innovation mark the debut novel of Pushcart Prize-winning author, Cynthia Swanson.

In Sliding Doors style, The Bookseller (Harper) tells the twinned stories of two women in the early 1960s. In 1962 Denver, 38-year-old Kitty Miller lives an austere life. By day she runs a bookshop with her best friend. By night the unmarried bookseller mostly hangs out with her cat and reads.

In 1963 Denver, Katharyn Andersson is the wife of Lars, the man of her dreams. Their life is perfect and looks exactly like the life Kitty once dreamed of for herself. The catch? Katharyn’s life only exists in Kitty’s dreams.

And Kitty has dreamed a beautiful, seductive place. The more time she spends there, the more the lines between fantasy and reality begin to fade.

Swanson writes beautifully, compellingly and we want to stick with Kitty to find out where this all will end. Sadly, that ending doesn’t deliver the surprise one might have hoped, for this reader anyway. That doesn’t stop me from recommending The Bookseller, and highly. I anticipate that Swanson’s debut will be one of my reading highlights for 2015.

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This Just In… Repeat Offender: Sin City’s Most Prolific Criminal and the Cop Who Caught Him by Bradley Nickell

Millions in stolen property, revolting sex crimes and murder-for-hire were all in the mix for a Las Vegas police detective as he toiled to take Sin City’s most prolific criminal off the streets for good. 

Las Vegas Police Detective Bradley Nickell delivers the inside scoop on the investigation of the most prolific repeat offender Las Vegas has ever known. 

Daimon Monroe looked like an average guy raising a family with his diffident schoolteacher girlfriend. But just below the surface, he was an accomplished thief with an uncontrollable lust for excess. His criminal mind had no bounds -- he was capable of anything given the proper circumstances. 

You can order Repeat Offender here. Visit author Bradley Nickell on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jaws Overtime

Jaws the movie turns 40 this year. Don’t expect that to happen without at least a little bit of hullabaloo. And it starts here. A new video essay series begins their journey with “An Absurdly In-Depth Study Of the Beach Scene In Jaws.

With that set-up, you wouldn’t necessarily think it worth watching, but this is stellar stuff. From Film School Rejects:
“Spielberg at his most Hitchcockian.”
That’s how the team behind The Discarded Image (a new video essay series focused on cinema) describes the beach scene in Jaws where Brody watches a ton of potential beach-loving victims, helpless to save a little boy who’s ripped apart by the shark. I can’t disagree. Mostly because Alfred Hitchcock also loved bad hats.
The video does a striking and thorough job explaining how Steven Spielberg tortures the viewer by forcing them to identify with a powerless figure caught in the middle of a violently chaotic moment. It’s about framing, camera direction and dramatic irony. It’s also about color coordination, foreground imagery and the culmination of earlier character decisions. It’s also about a dozen other things that allow us to marvel at Spielberg’s genius and allow aspiring filmmakers to shudder at the sheer level of detail that goes into making something this powerful.
Film School Rejects sets up and then shares this first episode of a new video essay series called The Discarded Image here. Want to see the beach sequence without commentary? That’s here.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orson Welles’ Lost Last Film: The Hemingway Connection

Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind, was never finished and no one knows with certainty what it was meant to be about. John Huston once asked Welles and got a cryptic answer. “It’s a film about a bastard director…” Welles answered Huston. “It’s about us, John. It’s a film about us.”

The May issue of Vanity Fair publishes a piece adapted from Josh Karp’s new book, Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind (St. Martin’s Press). It’s a book to look for, all about the making and non-making of a film whose title couldn’t even be explained. According to Karp, Rich Little, who was also in the cast, asked Welles about the title:
“Orson,” Little asked, “what does The Other Side of the Wind mean?” 
Looking down over his reading glasses, Welles, in his rich baritone, said, “I haven’t the foggiest.”
Though the film came to be about the film industry, it was initially going to be loosely based on novelist Ernest Hemingway:
The initial inspiration for The Other Side of the Wind can be traced back to an event that took place more than 30 years before Graver walked into Schwab’s that summer day and found Orson in the pages of Variety. 
Orson Welles in 1937.
It was May 1937 and Welles entered a Manhattan recording studio to narrate a Spanish Civil War documentary whose script had been written by Ernest Hemingway—who happened to be in the sound booth when Orson arrived.
Only 22, Orson was not yet the Orson Welles, but he was on his way as a talented voice actor earning $1,000 a week during the Depression and a Broadway wunderkind who’d had the audacity to stage an all-black Macbeth.
Looking at Hemingway’s script, Welles suggested a few changes, as he recalled to a reporter decades later. Wouldn’t it be better, for instance, to eliminate the line “Here are the faces of men who are close to death,” and simply let those faces speak for themselves?
Hemingway was outraged that anyone would dare tamper with his words and went after Orson, implying that the actor was “some kind of faggot.” Welles responded by hitting Hemingway the best way he knew how. If Papa wanted a faggot, Orson would give him one.
“Mr. Hemingway, how strong you are!” Welles said, camping it up with a swishy lisp. “How big you are!”
Grabbing a chair, Hemingway attacked Orson, who picked up a chair of his own, sparking a cinematic brawl between two of the great creative geniuses of the 20th century, who duked it out while images of war flickered on a screen behind them.
Eventually, however, the pair realized the insanity of their fight and soon slumped to the floor laughing, cracked open a bottle of whiskey, and drank their way into friendship.
Twenty years after this encounter, Welles would work on a screenplay about a hyper-manly, middle-aged, American novelist living in Spain who has lost his creative powers and become obsessed with a young bullfighter in whom he sees the promise of youth and perhaps something more. Meanwhile, a Greek chorus of sycophantic biographers, worshipful grad students, and literary critics trailed the writer, reminding him of his own greatness.
Sometime after Hemingway killed himself, on July 2, 1961, Welles changed the locus of the film to Hollywood and turned the novelist into a sadistic man’s-man filmmaker who may also be a closeted homosexual. He decided that all of the action would take place on a single day—July 2—which became his main character’s birthday and the last day of his life.
There is so much more to this stellar piece: so many other anecdotes, angles and stories. It can all be found in the May issue of Vanity Fair, and here. Look for the book later this month and -- maybe! -- we’ll finally get to see the film within the year.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New True Detective: Official Tease

And here it comes: a brand new season of the much ballyhooed True Detective will debut on HBO Sunday, June 21st. Here's the first official tease.

A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California.

Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, LA County.

Vince Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life’s work, while his wife and closest ally (Kelly Reilly), struggles with his choices and her own.

Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Taylor Kitsch plays Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol who discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.

True Detective is written and created by Nic Pizzolatto. The first two of this season’s eight episodes will be directed by Justin Lin.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Interview: Ona Russell author of Rule of Capture

In Ona Russell’s latest novel, Rule of Capture, we are in Los Angeles in 1928.

One of the victims of a Ponzi scheme, Ohio probate officer Sarah Kaufman is in the city to attend the trial of the perpetrators, in particular of the “friend” who convinced her to invest. Sarah is eager for justice and committed to seeing the trial through. But when a Mexican woman she barely knows winds up dead, Sarah’s plans are thrown upside-down. She finds herself in a nightmarish trial by fire, one that takes her from the glamour of Hollywood to the Tijuana frontier, tests her deepest beliefs and leads her to discover not only a killer, but a part of Los Angeles built on a terrible secret.

The full interview is here.


This Just In… The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True

Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… 

Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he’s nine-months sober from sex with grad students. 

Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. 

Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. 

Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. 

Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. 

Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others.

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands' addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.

You can order The Wednesday Group here. Visit author Sylvia True on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Salman Rushdie’s Ratings of Other Authors Goes Viral

From the “It happened on the Internet so it must matter a lot” department, Salman Rushdie’s social media gaff in rating fellow authors has gone viral. The author of The Satanic Verses is getting a lot of criticism right now for rating books on Goodreads. From The Independent:
The outspoken writer gave Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis only one star, and Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mocking Bird – thought by many to be one of the greatest novels of all time – just three stars.
When fellow readers challenged his judgement, Rushdie declined to justify his ratings and blamed ignorance of social media for his indiscretion. “I’m so clumsy in this new world of social media sometimes. I thought these rankings were a private thing designed to tell the site what sort of book to recommend to me, or not recommend. Turns out they are public. Stupid me. Well, I don’t like the work of Kingsley Amis, there it is. I don’t have to explain or justify. It’s allowed,” he wrote.
The full piece is here. January Magazine’s 2002 interview with Rushdie is here.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Fiction: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

If Kazuo Ishiguro is to be believed, he is way past his prime. In a London Telegraph article last autumn, he was quoted as saying he thinks novelists peak in their late 30s and early 40s. “It’s rather like footballers,” he said. “Although novelists peak three or four years after footballers.”

One wonders why, if he really thinks this is so, he would, at 60, publish the novel that seems likely to be remembered as his most ambitious to date.

The Buried Giant (Knopf) is so outside what we understood to be Ishiguro’s oeuvre, it’s been easy for some fans to shake their heads in wonder, while others wring their hands in consternation and still others (an apparent minority) feel this is the best thing Ishiguro has produced.

And me? I’m on the fence a little bit. To be honest, I found aspects of The Buried Giant, Ishiguro’s crack at Arthurian England, to be a bit of a slog. But weeks after reading, aspects and images hang with me. The very best fiction does that, doesn’t it? (That’s what I tell myself.) You don’t always “get” it while you’re reading, but months and years later pieces/passages/images hang with you, having perhaps somehow impregnated themselves in your mind. I suspect that will be the case with The Buried Giant, a book that somehow seems better with the last page turned than it did while reading.

So what’s the hold up? In the first place, it’s very different than the Ishiguro we know and love. Light years, in its own way, from Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day, for which he won the Booker (when he was just 35. Big surprise). And this is not a condemnation, but it has been ten years since his last novel was published. We’ve been waiting a long time. Now… this?

And yet, in some ways, this astonishing work of fantasy truly is Ishiguro’s most audacious -- and ambitious -- novel to date. He has created a classic fantasy journey that brims with messages and memos for our own times.

The Buried Giant is a tapestry: carefully woven, beautifully wrought. One can barely imagine a 35-year-old writer wrapping his mind around it. But the mature Ishiguro has given us one for the ages. Don’t plan on a fast read. This is one you’ll be chewing on for a while.

January Magazine’s 2000 interview with the author is here. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.


This Just In… Conjure Woman’s Cat by Malcolm R. Campbell

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order. 

When some white boys rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the sawmill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.” 

But Eulalie has secrets of her own, and it’s hard not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending. 

You can order Conjure Woman’s Cat here. Read more about Malcolm R. Campbell on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Sharpen Your Crayons

A lot of people have told Johanna Basford that they secretly colored when their kids were asleep. That’s probably the reason Basford, a Scottish illustrator, is currently killing it on Amazon with two titles. Both Secret Garden and the recently released Enchanted Forest (both from Laurence King Publishing) are, you guessed it, coloring books. And, at time of writing, they are one and two on Amazon, respectively.

Basford’s drawings are intricate and beautiful… and were given a bit of a push through social media. From The Guardian:
Basford’s intricately drawn pictures of flora and fauna in Secret Garden have sold 1.4m copies worldwide to date, with the newly released follow-up Enchanted Forest selling just under 226,000 copies already. They have drawn fans from Zooey Deschanel, who shared a link about the book with her Facebook followers, to the South Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum, who posted an image on Instagram for his 1.6 million followers.
“It’s been crazy. The last few weeks since Enchanted Forest came out have been utter madness, but fantastic madness,” said Eleanor Blatherwick, head of sales and marketing at the books’ publisher, small British press Laurence King. “We knew the books would be beautiful but we didn’t realise it would be such a phenomenal success.”
But the real secret to Basford’s success is very same one you hear from most mega-sucessful authors: the author created the book that she wanted to see.
The illustrator, who lives in Aberdeenshire, has been astonished at the reaction since she released Secret Garden in 2013. “I had a kids’ book commissioned and I told them I would like to do one for grown-ups. It really wasn’t a trend then. I drew up the first story and they thought, ‘Let’s go for it’. I was thinking simply that people like me would like to do it. My intention was just to make a book I would like to have. So it’s been a real surprise, to see the category bloom.”
You can see The Guardian piece here.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

McDermid: Politics in Crime Fiction? Mysteries Left, Thrillers Right

Mystery novels lean to the left. Thrillers lean to the right. That’s what crime fiction superstar Val McDermid wrote in a piece for the Guardian a few days ago. McDermind writes:
As my compatriot Ian Rankin pointed out, the current preoccupations of the crime novel, the roman noir, the krimi lean to the left. It’s critical of the status quo, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly. It often gives a voice to characters who are not comfortably established in the world – immigrants, sex workers, the poor, the old. The dispossessed and the people who don’t vote.
The thriller, on the other hand, tends towards the conservative, probably because the threat implicit in the thriller is the world turned upside down, the idea of being stripped of what matters to you. And as Bob Dylan reminds us, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
Do these thoughts hold water? Well, it should be pointed out that McDermid started putting these ideas together while in France where, she says, they take their crime fiction pretty seriously.
I was asked questions about geopolitics, and the function of fear. I found myself saying things like “escaping the hegemony of the metropolis” in relation to British crime writing in the 1980s. 
What they are also deeply interested in is the place of politics in literature. Over the weekend, there were local elections in France, and a thin murmur of unease ran through many of the off-stage conversations with my French friends and colleagues. They were anxious about the renaissance of the right, of the return of Nicolas Sarkozy, the failure of the left and the creeping rise of the Front National.
McDermid’s most recent novel is The Skeleton Road, published last September. Upcoming this year is Splinter the Silence, the ninth book in McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, it will be out in December.

The full piece is thoughtful, unsurprisingly articulate and here.