Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Adrian McKinty's Cold Cold Ground: Life during sort-of wartime

I've just reread The Cold Cold Ground, by longtime DBB favorite Adrian McKinty, and, by god, that back-cover blurb from Detectives Beyond Borders holds up:
"The Cold Cold Ground is very possibly the best crime novel published in English in 2012."
The book's U.S. edition contains an author's note that goes a long way to explaining the book's richness:
"I wanted to set a book in this claustrophobic atmosphere, attempting to recapture the sense that civilization was breaking down to its basest levels. I also wanted to remember the craic, the music, the bombastic politicians, the apocalyptic street preachers, the sinister gunmen and a lost generation of kids for whom all of this was normal."
Your job, readers, is to name novels or stories similarly rich in telling, surprising detail, particularly those set during wartime or other turbulent circumstances.
*
The Cold Cold Ground is Book One in McKinty's Troubles trilogy, featuring Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Read the first five chapters of Book Four at McKinty's blog.
==============
Adrian McKinty will be part of my Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Irelandpanel at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California. The fun starts at 11:30 a.m, Friday, Nov. 14, in the Regency B room. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014 

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16 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

I have read this one and immediately put his name on my search list for the rest in the series. I will also be interested what he does after he finishes the trilogy.

September 03, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, who knows when the trilogy will finish, if he goes ahead with this fourth book? Books 2 and 3 in the series are pretty damn impressive, and for some of the same reasons as the first book. (Do a search on this blog; you'll find my remarks about both books.)

McKinty's current novel, The Sun Is God, is set far from Northern Ireland, and also pretty far away in time, too.

September 03, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Many thanks for the hat tip. I kinda think the 3rd book is the best one in this set. CCG reads a little bit long I think & isnt quite as funny as I wd have liked. Bk 2 gets closer to what I wanted but bk 3 nails it I reckon.

September 03, 2014  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

In re your question, Peter. Two authors and their series leapt to mind, so these two it is I cite. Marek Krajewski's Eberhard Mock series featuring Eberhard Mock, noirish works, eleven in all, best read in order, i.e., starting with Death in Breslau.

Secondly, a series with very dark moments laced with great wit, extraordinarily good research, something in the way of romans a clef (lovely for historians and history buffs): John Lawton's Inspector Troy series. Two are set during WWII, one after but regressing to it, one a little before and progressing to it. The two that fit the bill most completely are Black Out and Second Violin.

And my capcha today, I see, is 'History'.

September 04, 2014  
Anonymous Jim Benn said...

I'm a long-time fan of the St-Cyr and Kohler series by J. Robert Janes. Set in Occupied France during WWII, it pairs a Surete inspector with a Gestapo cop, a stroke of genius which helps illuminate the moral challenges of solving crimes and pursuing truth during wartime.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ach, Adrian, you'e as self-effacing as a Canadian. Shut her ton and learn to accept a compliment gracefully.

I should say that such jokes as there are in Cold Cold Ground are delightful. My favorite is probably the chapter title "He Kissed Me, and It Felt Like a Hit." Those of us who know our scary Carole King songs will love that.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, the Eberhard Mock series is very high on my list to read once I have some book-related tasks out of the way.

As for John Lawton, you may know that I am a huge fan of his and that I have written about him here. His invocation P.G. Wodehouse in Second Violin and Blackout are superb examples of using humor to dissect England's idea of its own national character. This internment camp scene from Second Violin is one of the funniest and most touching I have read in any kind of fiction, crime, historical, or otherwise.

Lawton is appropriate in this discussion. He was on wartime crime fiction for which I was moderator at the Bouchercon crime fiction convention last year. The author of the comment that follows yours, Jim Benn, was also on that panel, as was the author he recommends, J. Robert Janes. Needless to say, I had great fun preparing for and conducting that panel.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, that "captcha" is strong circumstantial evidence that the computer gods have a sense of humor, I'd say.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jim, the St-Cyr and Kohler scared me off for years because of the milieu, because of what i feared would be the gimmickry of pairing a Gestapo and a Surete officer. But, by God, that series is some of the darkest and most powerful noir I have read.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I neglected to mention that Krajewski chose his location well. The very name of Breslau is probably as rich in dark associations from 20th-century history as any city this side of Berlin.

September 04, 2014  
Anonymous Jim Benn said...

I will add another author, sadly little-known: Ben (Verbena) Pastor. Born in Rome, she is an American academic who writes in both English and Italian. She has a mystery series set in ancient Rome, but also has a WWII series with a German intelligence officer protagonist - Martin Bora - who is based somewhat on Claus von Stauffenberg, of the July 20th plot to kill Hitler. The first in that series is LUMEN, set in occupied Poland, which I thought terrific. There are several others, LIAR MOON and a more recent title which I can't recall - and more only published in Italian. She's worth a look in any language.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall take a look. Thanks. I think she is published by the fine Bitter Lemon Press.

September 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

seana graham said...
Well, I'm a McKinty fan, so that's hard to beat, but how about Carlo Lucarelli for his Inspector De Luca series? Talk about your difficult wartime identities.


Yep, some pretty blurred boundaries, confused loyalties, and overlapping jurisdictions in those books.

September 05, 2014  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Breslau was a dark place indeed. That and your reference to "blurred boundaries" brought to my mind one of the saddest tales I've ever come across, and it certainly involves crime.

I used to do volunteer work at a small, private care home, mostly counselling and sorting out problems. I met the day he arrived a new resident, Stefan. He was 89, brought to the home by a social worker straight from hospital. His last name was not obviously Jewish, but I knew it was. What struck me was how very hard it was for people at meals to get any information about his life out of him. A reluctance very marked, and giving a sense that he was nervous about why people asked. The questions were innocent and obvious ones. I had learnt from him that he was born in Upper Silesia in 1919, father German but gone by the time he was born, his mother Polish. They lived in a region assigned to Poland after WW1 and the Polish uprising in Silesia, though he was ten before that region was fully transferred and he found himself in Poland, and thus twenty when Poland was invaded by the Nazis.

Now is a good moment to return to his very cautious and undisclosive responses to questions. I gave it but a little thought before I said to myself, Stefan, you are hiding the fact that you are Jewish. At some point, a form had to be completed, basic details mostly necessary to know about a care home resident. One was the person's religion, and I told my friend the owner not to ask if he was Jewish, for I was certain that the words "Are you Jewish?" would translate into German in his mind. She did ask him, of course, and he replied, "Yes, do you want me to leave now?" This at 89 and in Canada, although, I must say, in Abbotsford, capital of the Bible Belt, to which he had moved a few years earlier, and where I was once roped into attending a Xmas musical at a Mennonite church, a work so blatantly anti-Semitic I walked out, delivering a Philippic to a pastor as I did so.

During the war years, astonishingly, he and his mother survived because she got a job as a housekeeper and they lived with that family. After the War they got to Vienna, then to Canada. I think his life in Ontario was pleasant enough for some years, though his wife died relatively young, and his daughter, a nurse, was murdered in the street by an ex-boyfriend. Exactly 20 years later the murderer, now married with three children, and sentenced to life. It was that year Stefan tried to drink himself to death and wound up in hospital. It was that year a so-kind young woman in his apartment block offered to look after his affairs and stole the circa $200 000 he had from the sale of his house.

And so to the care home. I had put a large bookcase in its living room, filled with some of my own books I didn't need to hand at home. And this gave me an idea. I have a good collection of Jewish writings, and I brought some in and put them in the bookcase, then one day asked Stefan if he'd noticed there were books to read in the living room. I took him in there, browsed along the shelves, and then casually pointed to the Jewish works and said that he might like these ones. He looked utterly shocked. "Are you Jewish?", he said. I replied, "Only one-quarter, but 'Bruders in Blut'", and put my arm round his shoulders.

So Stefan had hidden the fact he was Jewish for almost his entire life, including in Canada. Which brings me to my last point. The title of an academic history of Canada's policy in re Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe is the very words written by the sole official PM Mackenzie King put in charge of Canada's "Jewish Question". In reply to a memo asking him how many Jewish refugees Canada should accept, he wrote a single sentence: "One is too many."

Stefan was obviously self-effacing. Are Canadians? Perhaps, but then they have more to efface than people of other nations may think. The nation does produce a lot of good actors, of course.

September 05, 2014  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Correction: I meant, of course, to write that the murderer was "found" and sentenced to life. For those who don't know, in Canada that means a maximum of 25 years, perhaps less if the judge stipulates that the convicted has to serve a minimum or, say, 15 or 20 years before being eligible for parole.

September 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger now appears to be deleting my comments after I post them, so I'll try again.

I mentioned that I had just read a crime novel called Ratlines. That novel is set in Ireland, though novel with that title could with reason be set in any number of countries.

September 05, 2014  

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