Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Yasmina Khadra and Bill James interviewed

This evening's Web surfing turned up recently published interviews with two of my favorite crime writers. The interviews are more interesting than most and should make good reading even if you don't know Bill James and Yasmina Khadra (and I think you should know both).

Epic India carries this discussion with Khadra, whose work includes crime novels featuring Algiers Police Inspector Brahim Llob. Khadra speaks bluntly about terrorism, Western media, and Arab leaders as well as with passion about his own background and his love for certain Arab writers who may be unknown in the West.

Here's what he says about the Llob novels, which are funny but also chilling in their evocation of violence and corruption:

“I dreamed of writing station books, books funny and without claim that you could read while waiting for the train or the bus, or while gilding yourself with the sun at the seaside. I dreamed to reconcile the Algerian reader with his literature. I had never thought that Superintendent Llob was going to exceed the borders of the country and appeal to readers in Europe, and America.” (The interviewer speaks English, and Khadra speaks Arabic and French, which may account for the very occasional odd-looking word. But trust me: Khadra always makes himself clear. )

Could this sensitive and talented author be guilty of underestimating his own work or perhaps even of condescension toward crime fiction, to which he has made memorable contributions?


Crimespree has just republished this 2oo4 interview with Bill James, author of the Harpur and Iles series. James' topics include his manic co-protagonist Desmond Iles ("He's basically a good cop. But very basically."), the laughable pretensions of his drug dealers, and some interesting thoughts on female characters I have not discussed here.

He also talks about the music he likes (Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong, among other musicians), and his non-crime writing (He's written and published a study of Anthony Powell, author of A Dance to the Music of Time.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much for these links, Peter.
Yasmina Khadra sounds very fascinating I will certainly try one of his books in the near future. He has an Arabic apparent "contempt" for western culture, or is it just disappointment that Arab-Bedouin-Berber culture has been submerged in the western mind by terrorists. I have always connected the Arab and the Japanese personality, able to appreciate great artistic beauty but also capable of indescribable brutality. The Algerian revolutionary leaders rivalled the French and Mexican revolutionaries in destroying any idealism with violence. I will read him with interest.
I have never read Bill James but if he likes Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Puccini, Fargo, LA Confidential, and he had an appointment with his dentist there has to be some message there for me. Another author I will have to try, so many books and so little time.

February 20, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I figured Bill James' comments about Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong might attract your attention. I'd neglected to consider that his dentist appointment might clinch your interest.

Here's a list of James' books: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/j/bill-james/ . The Harpur and Iles series tails off a bit in the more recent books, so you might want to start with one of the first seventeen or so. Each book can stand alone, but the novels start turning into a real sequence with Astride a Grave, the seventh.

Yasmina Khadra is an interesting fellow, all right. He's not knee-jerk, down-the-line, pro-Arab, anti-Western, though. I read an excerpt from his memoirs in which he explains why he writes in French rather than Arabic: A French teacher encouraged him; an Arabic teacher did not. As for destroyed idealism, that’s what the Brahim Llob books are all about.

February 20, 2007  
Blogger Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

We're really glad you enjoyed the James interview.

Funny story:

We were spending some time with a UK author and he asked my wife why she hadn't done any interviews. She said that until she could interview Bill James there was no point.

Our friend returned home, and shortly after we got an email from John Harvey who hooked her up with contact details for Bill James.

The first phone call menat my Ruth gettign up at 4:00 am, she was bouncing and giddy, and afterwards she was floating. He truly is one of her heroes and being able to do that in our magazine so early on was really great.

Of course this is not the reason John Harvey is a guest of honor at the Bouchercon she is hosting in 2008, it's because he's also a great author.

February 20, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't just enjoy the interview, I was (mildly) giddy to find it.

You know how some people remember what they were doing when JFK was shot? I remember sitting at my usual little wooden table in my friendly neighborhood secondhand bookshop/cafe when one of the owners handed me a copy of Roses, Roses and said I might like it.

I've only read one story of Harvey's, in the Best British Mysteries 2005 collection. It was quite an affecting story, a story that that happens to be about crime, rather than a crime story.

So, when and where is the 2008 Bouchercon? I've never been to a convention. Would it be worth my while to line up a schmoozing itinerary well in advance?

February 21, 2007  
Blogger Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

Bouchercon 2008 is going to be in Baltimore.


Guests of Honor include Laurence Block, Laura Lippman, John Harvey and Mark Billingham. Bouchercon is a great convention and 2008 is looking like its going to be a big one.

February 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. That's good news. I can get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, hop a train, and still make it to Baltimore for late-morning and afternoon sessions. I'm a Block fan, and I've just bought my first Billingham novel (based on a reader's reply to my "Mystery music" post), so the lineup looks good.

February 21, 2007  

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