I was in Waterstone’s Piccadilly on Tuesday and Barry Forshaw’s Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide caught my eye. I’d been meaning to buy a copy since it came out towards the end of last year. It’s the kind of book I love: short reviews of hundreds of books, accounts of different trends in crime fiction, and biographies of the most important figures in the genre. There are also entries on related films and books. And then there’s the game of looking to see if your favourite writers have been included (what? no Rex Stout? no Fredric Brown?). There’s the pleasure of being reminded of books you’ve enjoyed and of discovering new authors to add to the already tottering reading pile.
Barry is the doyen of crime fiction reviewing and appears to have read absolutely everything by absolutely everyone. All the same, when I turned to the back and riffled through the index, it was with no expectation of finding my own name there. After all, I’m hardly a big hitter. So the thrill was all the greater when I saw that Deep Water, the first of my Katie Flanagan novels, is one of the books that Barry reviews.
It makes it even more of a pleasure to recommend this splendid book, which offers hours of happy browsing and is surely essential reading for the crime fiction aficionado. Great cover, too.
I’ve been so busy writing guest posts and articles for other people’s web-sites to promote my new book that I haven’t had time to write anything for my own!
However, you can go to Martin Edwards’ splendid blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name, to read about where I got the idea for An Air That Kills: http://doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com/2019/11/an-air-that-kills-by-christine-poulson.htm
and to Barry Forshaw’s highly informative and entertaining crime fiction website, Crimetime.co.uk, for an article about the research I did, specifically, on how to murder someone with a mosquito:
Finally, for Female First, I’ve contributed to a feature called, Seven Things I Want My Readers To Know About Me: https://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/christine-poulson-an-air-that-kills-1218145.html
Normal service will be resumed soon.
To find out more, follow this link: http://www.crimetime.co.uk/cold-cold-heart-christine-poulson-talks-crime-time/.
No-one knows about contemporary crime fiction than Barry Forshaw whose splendid website, Crime Time, has interviews, reviews and all the most up-to-date news. He is also the author of a fine series of books that include Nordic Noir, Euro Noir, and Brit Noir, all of which I have on the shelf by my desk.
I am finding it hard to find time to blog at the moment, but here is an article, ‘All in a Day’s Work,’ that I have just written for Barry Forshaw’s splendid website: crimetime.co.uk: http://www.crimetime.co.uk/mag/index.php/showarticle/4741
It’s about how I found out about the science in my new novel, Deep Water, and the benefits of getting out of the study and into the lab.
Joan Smith thought After the Crash was ‘one of the most remarkable books I’ve read in a long time’, Maxim Jakubowski called it ‘a compulsive page-turner’ and Barry Forshaw said ‘Michel Bussi knows exactly how to keep the reader turning page after page.’ So I was expecting great things, and maybe that was the part of the problem. I did read it compulsively – but only until about half way through, when I ran out of steam and found I couldn’t – or rather didn’t want to – suspend my disbelief any longer. Yes, it’s a brilliant premise. A baby survives a plane crash in which everyone else dies and two families fight over which of them she belongs to. I won’t say exactly when I guessed the answer to this conundrum and the final twist in a very convoluted plot, because that might constitute a spoiler, but it was pretty early on. I hope I wasn’t going to be right, but I was.
This got me thinking about the challenges of writing for a crime fiction readership, which includes of course other crime writers. Like many other readers (and writers) I must have read thousands of crime novels, and these days I am rarely surprised by a plot twist, though I love it when it happens. Just at the moment I am especially obsessed with plots as I am plotting a novel myself, so maybe that too was part of my problem with After the Crash. I was too conscious of the machinery. Sometimes that doesn’t matter as long as I am enjoying other aspects of the book, the setting, the characters, whatever. In fact, I often reread favourite crime novels, knowing perfectly well who did it. But this time I did mind and I ground to a halt.
So how do you feel? Are you disappointed if the writer doesn’t manage to fool you, or are you happy to go along for the ride anyway?
Readers of this blog won’t be surprised to learn that I went shopping on Monday intending to buy a cardigan and came back with two books (and no cardigan). Worse: one of them was full of suggestions for more books to buy and read. But I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Barry Forshaw’s splendid Brit Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of the British Isles, not least because one of my books is in it. It is organised by region and I was thrilled to find Invisible in the West Country section.
I’d have bought it anyway to join Barry’s Euro Noir and Nordic Noir on my shelves. They are all great books for browsing and for planning future reading. There are dozens of books mentioned in Brit Noir that could go straight on my TBR pile. I can’t think of anyone who knows more about contemporary crime fiction than Barry and he also has an excellent web-site at crimetime.co.uk.
I am beginning to think that another moratorium might be in order in the autumn so that I can get through some of the books I’ve bought since the last moratorium ended.
I bought two books at Crimefest. One was the excellent Euro Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to European Crime Fiction, Film and TV, by Barry Forshaw, which was launched at Crimefest. Barry knows pretty much everything there is to know about contemporary crime fiction and he moderated one of the most interesting panels at Crimefest, also called Euro Noir. The writers were Lars Kepler (a Swedish husband and wife team), Dominque Manotti (French), Paul Johnston (lives in Greece) and Jorn Lier Horst (Norwegian). For an interesting discussion of the panel you could go to http://mrspeabodyinvestigates.wordpress.com. There is also a lot about translated crime on a splendid website: eurocrime.co.uk
I’ve been reflecting on how much translated fiction I read these days. I’ve read Simenon for years, but my love affair with foreign crime fiction really began sometime in the 1990s when my eye was caught by a copy of Henning Mankell’s Faceless Killers on a table in Waterstones. I think that was the first one to be translated into English and was published by the estimable Harvill press. I was attracted by the stylish black and white landscape on the cover. I bought it and have never looked back. Andrea Camilleri was one of my favourite writers long before Montalbano appeared on TV. Then there is Fred Vargas in France, Arnuldar Indridason in Iceland, and many other Scandanavians. Do I even read more translated fiction than English language fiction? It may well be the case, especially as we read a lot of foreign fiction in my book group. I enjoy it so much, I think, because it is a window into other cultures, even a little armchair holiday.
The other book I bought was The Hunting Dogs by Jorn Lier Horst, a new writer that I’m keen on. This is the third of his books to be translated into English from Norwegian. I am keeping that as a treat, but I read Barry’s book on the train on the way home and it’s given me lots of ideas for future reading and viewing.