Monday, December 20, 2010

Four books that made my top three for 2010

I whittled the list of my favorite international crime fiction of 2010 to four books, and then my newspaper asked for my top three. Fortunately another member of the staff made the unlucky fourth book one of his own top picks. Hint: It wasn't the Stieg Larsson.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

49 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Nice picks, though I haven't yet read any of them. But I have read Neville and have Collusion. Should get to it soon.

I think I know the fourth, and I have that one too. I've also read several of his excellent Ross MacDonaldlike books as well.

December 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're right about the fourth.

Did I mention that my resistance to hype made me swear off The Ghosts of Belfast until I'd read Collusion first? I liked Collusion so much that I read The Ghosts of Belfast in one sitting the next day.

And, hey, Neville got married last week.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Well, congratulations to him.

I have to say that the only hype of Ghosts of Belfast that I've seen in my small sector of the world is the hype I've been doing myself, but have been hearing some very positive feedback on the book, now it's in paperback.

Soho has been picked up by Random House. Hopefully they won't screw with their editorial decisions too much and mainly just help with distribution.

Well, in a ideal world, it could happen I suppose.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ghosts of Belfast has been one of the most talked-about titles in my corner of the crime-fiction world (which happens to include a disproportionate number of Irish wirters, readers and fans), though most of the talk came around the times of its hardcover releases in the U.S. and the U.K. It got more ink when it won the L.A. Times Book Prize, and the rave review from James Ellroy created big buzz in the crime fiction world as well.

Did Random House buy Soho, or just reach a deal to distribute the books? I just received Soho's Summer 2011 sampler, which includes two more of James McClure's books and Garry Disher's Wyatt. That is all good news.

I have a v-word highly appropriate for the first part of this comment: mycelt. And yes, it appears in green.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Just distribute, I think.

Yes, I heard a lot about Ghosts of Belfast through the same channels you did, but all the same, people did not seem to know the book in this part of the world, so it did not feel overly hyped to me in the way that say Dan Brown or Stieg Larson is. Or even Michael Connelly is, to take an example where the hype is more justifiable.

mycelt is really almost too good to be true.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger Dana King said...

Reading through the rest of the list, is that the same Bill Marimow who was immortalized in THE WIRE's fifth season?

I read GHOSTS OF BELFAST and loved it. COLLUSION is on my list.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A distribution deal should be good for Soho, shouldn't it? Or is it one more sign of too much power in too few hands?

I should emphasize that the excitement over Ghosts of Belfast seemed more like real axcitement than hype. My initial resistance was a bit perverse, epecially since I had bought a copy well before I read it. I have this idea that readers who buy the book do so because they think it may be good, and not out of peer pressure. And it is good!

I would guess that v-words are not entirely random.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, yes, that is the same Bill Marimow, though didn't the character have a different first name on The Wire?

One impressive feature of Collusion is that it completely abandons that daring central conceit -- the ghosts -- that worked so well in the first book.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, I think if it is just distribution, it will probably be great for them.

I wonder if it would take something out of the experience to know just how the v words are generated.

December 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if I could ride some coattails. I moderated the Soho panel at Bouchercon in San Francisco, and I know a bunch of the folks who work there.

As for inquiring into what lurks behing the v-word, you sound a bit like Martin Luther or at least like Dorothy.

December 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I just hope that Soho still publishes more of Helene Tursten's books, which is supposed to happen.

And that no one stops that from happening.

December 22, 2010  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Didn't like COLLUSION, but then I don't like true noir. I'll have to confess, though, that I only read the start (and found the protagonist caught between hell and a hard place), and then the end (where very bad things happen to the protagonist). It stood to reason that the in-between part would tell of the agonizing slide toward disaster. Sort of like watching a man falling while grasping in vain at branches that break.
As I said: I don't like noir.

December 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I had heard that Soho had changed its plans not to publish more Tursten, but I've heard nothing else since. I'm not sure which of her books are to be translated or when.

December 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., the very end of Collusion leaves room for arguing that the book is not quite noir. And the blurb-worthy "watching a man falling while grasping in vain at branches that break" is fine contribution to the lexicon of noir from someone who claims not to like the genre. Thanks.

Collusion's plot may is more a series of clashes than an agonizing slide. Neville takes great care to make his antagonist somewhat sympathetic while at the same time using an interesting device to draw a clear moral line between him and the protagonist. And he writes quite nicely, so we'll have to differ on this one.

December 22, 2010  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

The writing is fine. No complaints there. As I said, this is a genre thing for me.

December 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In re your genre preferences (and in re my opening-lines post), I wonder if crime writing emphasizes a bang-up opening more than other genres do, and hard-boiled more than other kinds of crime writing.

December 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I haven't read it but here's what the Irish Times literary editor, Eileen Battersby, said about one of her books of the year.
Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (Atlantic) "An appalling series of vicious murders keeps the Peruvian police busy, yet beyond the complex story of this brilliant thriller is the deeply disturbed Associate District Prosecutor Chacaltana, obsessed with his dead mother; he writes reports and then is sent off to oversee a local election. Dark, almost unhinged, Red April is both crazed and as cool as only the truest, subtlest art. Here is a novel that will linger in the memory for years – no, make that forever."

I don't know enough about her taste but it certainly sounds worth checking out

December 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Appalling." "Vicious." "Deeply disturbed."

This isn't a cozy, is it?

I don't know about the book, but the reviewer may be a bit unhinged herself.

December 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I believe she's married to the former Rocky De Valera, so perhaps its catching!

December 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The only De Valera I know of is Eamon.

December 23, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Now, I love noir and the possibility for redemption (at any price) that is a hallmark of some of the great noir novels but TGOB is not among them so I'll place myself in the minority as a reader who did not like The Ghosts of Belfast.

The "ghosts" themselves were a cheap substitute for a real fleshing-out of a man tormented by his past and past deeds. Neville's obvious plea for the reader's sympathy and understanding smacked of pandering. The novel itself read more like a novelization of a screenplay than an original book. The ending was contrived, in order to maintain the "noir" tone. If I seem to hard on Neville, it may be because the book immediately preceding it was Derek Raymond's He Died With His Eyes Open. I can't forget it and I've almost forgotten TGOB.

January 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

We'll have to part ways on this one. The Ghosts of Belfast does seek sympathy and understanding for Gerry Fegan, but it doesn't smack fo me of pandering because I don't think the book ever pretends not to be seeking said sympathy and understanding. (In fact, the plea for sympathy and understanding is one reason I don't regard the novel as especially noir.)

Neville's second book, Collusion, elaborates the sympathy-seeking in a way I found interesting. That novel has both a protagonist (not Fegan) and a main antagonist, and Neville does a nice job of giving certain sympathetic characteristics to both. But one is clearly the good guy and one the bad, and not just because of their deeds. How, then, does Neville establish a clear moral division between the two? Read the book and find out. Or at least try to guess.

I recently started a Derek Raymond novel (He Died With His Eyes Open), but I put it aside, but probably more because of a general period of reading restlessness than anything else. But go ahead. Talk me into reading Raymond.

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Despite my recent post about a Japanese crime story billed as mystery/horror, I don't believe in ghosts. But I thought that far from being cheap, the device was a marvelously efficient way to illustrate Fegan's near-psychosis.

The only thing that gave me pause about the device was that the twelve ghosts had fewer than twelve killers. On the one hand, terrorist acts will certainly often kill more than one person at a time, so the twelve victims might have fewer than twelve killers. But I also thought there was just the ghost of a chance that Neville may have tired of the device, decided that twelve revenge killings would be too much, and thus set the story up so Fegan could avenge multiple victims with a single killing.

January 06, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Yes, we will have to part ways as my "cheap substitute" = your "marvelously efficient."

As for "it doesn't smack to me of pandering because I don't think the book ever pretends not to be seeking said sympathy and understanding" I think the "pretending" could have been sought in a less heavy-handed way. Let the reader come to sympathy and understanding if he is inclined to do so (the way, say, Adrian McKinty and Allan Guthrie do), don't try to demand it or force it upon him.

I found TGOB really quite ordinary in its characterization, prose, storyline, etc., and am at a loss to understand its acclaim by such a stylist as Ellroy let alone its winning a "Best" book prize.

That said, I have Collusion on order at the PL as I understood that it was not a sequel to TGOB. If this one, too, "reads more like a novelization of a screenplay than an original book" I'll have to give up on Neville.

Oh, and how can I "talk [you] into reading Raymond" when I couldn't convince you to finish Macdonald's The Way Some People Die...?

January 06, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elisabeth, speaking of Macdonald, have you read his 'The Zebra Striped Hearse'; of the three or four of his books I've read to date, its the one I was most impressed by, and by some distance.

I haven't read 'The Ghosts of Belfast', and don't plan to read it in the foreseeable future, or any of the 'Girl With The....' whatever series of books; right now its classic American crime writing, all the way.

January 06, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, yes, I've read The Zebra Striped Hearse. Excellent. I also really enjoyed The Chill and The Far Side of the Dollar in addition to The Way Some People Die. I'm reading the novels in order and have only 4 more to go. Speaking of heavy-handedness... Macdonald's increasing use of amateur psychotherapy in his later novels is distracting but I wouldn't let this interfere with readers thinking of dipping into his Lew Archer novels.

"...classic American crime writing, all the way"--yeah, I can understand that! I keep going back to it after periodic forays into the present.

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

right now its classic American crime writing, all the way.

TCK, I've been through a recent period of that myself. I've read three novels each by Chandler and Hammett plus a number of short stories by both in the past couple of months. I consider this something like a pilgrimage, or maybe a refreshing communion with the source of all things.

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"...classic American crime writing, all the way"--yeah, I can understand that! I keep going back to it after periodic forays into the present.

And I return to it from my forays beyond borders.

January 06, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elisabeth.
'Sleeping Beauty' was my first MacDonald, and I was somewhat disappointed with it; 'The Blue Hammer' was a lotta fun, even if the 'mystery' element was somewhat obvious, from a very early stage.
But 'Zebra' is, at least until I've read more, his Masterpiece
I seem to recall William Goldman cited a particular Macdonald Archer as the most impressively plotted detective novel he's ever read; topping 'Zebra' will take some doing, and that one might be my next 'port of call'

Peter, yep, I'll definitely be going back to Hammett, both his classic novels and more of those fun stories.
But I also greatly enjoyed Chandler's short stories that I've read, which I think was where our paths first crossed

January 06, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

well, Peter, you know what Dorothy said!

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorothy Parker?

January 06, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Think of another 'wizard'!

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So Hammett and Chandler are like our Kansas -- good to come home to?

January 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"But I also greatly enjoyed Chandler's short stories that I've read, which I think was where our paths first crossed "

TCK, one bonus from reading Chandler's short stories is finding material -- plots and characters -- he later worked into novels.

January 07, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

My feelings about Ghosts of Belfast is that it was quite impressive for a first novel. What I think, which is only a hypothesis, is that Mr. Neville got some points for being to tackle head on the tricky legacy of Northern Irish history.

I was interested enough in the device of the ghosts to want to write it up in a blog review of this book and a slightly earlier book, The Truth Commissioner by David Parks, which also tackles the consequences of recent Northern Irish history in a brave and sincere and nonsectarian way. But, like The Ghosts of Belfast, it needs a fanciful device in order to speak its own truth about that era. The Truth Commissioner posits a commission similar to the one in South Africa which aimed at truth not punishment as its highest goal. There is a dead boy, who may as well be a ghost, for all the memory he evokes. I didn't write the blog post because the reading weren't contemporaneous, but I wish I had when they were both still fresher in my mind.

January 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the two books are ripe for a post on Things You May Have Missed if you should happen to glance at them again. Perhaps I found the ghost device especially effective because much Northern Ireland crime fiction deals with the afterlife of the Troubles, even in writing as comic as Garbhan Downey's. I was, er, haunted by the notion that a political and social crisis can reverberate long after the events have disappeared from the headlines. Neville's ghosts worked for me that way in addition to functioning as dramatically effective vehicles for conveying that potentially tired character, the man haunted by his past.

January 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Good points, and I agree with you on that afterlife metaphor.

January 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Garbhan Downey deals with that afterlife and so does Brian McGilloway in a very different way. For that matter, so does The Dead Yard.

January 08, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

You'll have to remind me about the afterlife reference in the Dead Yard--if you can do it in a non-spoilerish way for others...

January 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's not a reference, but rather the presence of this ultra-rabid band of Irish killers in the U.S., so bad and such a hindrance to the peace process that even the IRA wants to get rid of them. McKinty certainly does not hammer home the point, but the implication is as plain as day: the Troubles set loose forces that the main antagonists did not intend and cannot control.

January 09, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Ah, I see. I was thinking that one of the characters had been dead the whole time and I hadn't been quick enough to notice.

January 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, I deal strictly in metaphorical afterlives and figurative ghosts.

January 09, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elisabeth, I've just been watching a couple of episodes from the 'Mannix' tv series.
Albeit that it mightn't be that close, but is this the closest any tv detective came to a Lew Archer private eye, who wasn't actually Lew Archer, or Harper?

January 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, that Declan Hughes/John Connolly Bouchercon discussion that I've cited so often here included a reference to Lew Archer as the first Christ figure in crime fiction. Was Mannix the same way?

January 10, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I wouldn't say that, nor, do I think Mannix would claim to have been.
Though, judging by the number of close scrapes and near misses he endured in each episode,
he might be said to have, at the very least, led a 'charmed life'.
The milieu, at the very least, was probably the same as Archer, and Harper occupied.

I don't think I've seen it since my schooldays, over thirty years ago, and it was good to see that, even if you could date it, its appeal hasn't dimmed.
Not quite in the 'Rockford Files' class, but then it doesn't have the humour, or James Garner, for starters

January 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I watched it occasionally in my youth, but I must have been an obtuse or inattentive child. It was just one more action show for me. Maybe I ought to take a look again now that the past is really part of an eternal present as far as television shows are concerned.

January 11, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I was surprised to discover, recently, that in the first season of the show he was employed by an agency which placed great store in the importance of computers in cracking crime.
I daresay the computers they had back then were about 50 times the size of yer average PC, with only 2% of the computing power.

I only ever saw him when he was freelance, with an 'African-American' secretary.
I've just today received a box-set of Season One so I'm looking forward to checking them out, as according to reviewers on Amazon the first series was the best.

btw, I've also just received my Spy v Spy collection

January 11, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've also been surprised from time to time by early uses of computers in crime plots. The original movie version of The Italian Job is one example.

Keep me posted on Spy vs. Spy.

January 11, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, re your query: "Elisabeth, I've just been watching a couple of episodes from the 'Mannix' tv series.
Albeit that it mightn't be that close, but is this the closest any tv detective came to a Lew Archer private eye, who wasn't actually Lew Archer, or Harper?" Sorry, I can't comment as I don't remember ever watching an episode of "Mannix."

January 12, 2011  

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