Sunday, May 31, 2015

Crimefest wrap-up, Part I: The real inspiration for the first Martin Beck novel

Over at the Rap Sheet, Ali Karim weighs in with a comprehensive report on Crimefest 2015 in Bristol. I note with complete agreement his praise for the convention's programming and panel moderators.  I spent more time attending panels than I generally do at conventions and less time resting between panels, and virtually all the moderators were concise, interested, and well-prepared. (None, that is, was like the moderator who inspired this post from Bouchercon a few years ago.) So, good job, Crimefest.

Ruth Dudley Edwards.
(All  photos by your
humble blogkeeper.)
Here are my previous posts about Crimefest 2015 (click on the link then scroll down.) And here's a bit more about this eighth edition of the excellent crime fiction festival:
Barry Forshaw, noir
Friday's Audible: Crime Pays In Audio panel was packed with authors, voice actors, readers, and producers who gave the audience a real sense of what goes on in the studio, and of the logistical, legal, and ethical considerations that come into play when a book jumps media to audio.

A welcome addition to the Bristol scene.
The session was so informative that I regarded with indulgence moderator Steve Carsey's use of space where other people would say field, genre, environment, or nothing at all. ("The crime space," "the romance space,"  "the audio space," "the drama space," "the audio-book space.") Jargon usually drives me over the edge, the more voguish and more enthusiastically embraced, the further over. But Carsey was so knowledgeable, genial, and fluent a moderator that I did not mind in the least. (A hat tip to the non-crime friend who was the first to alert me to this use of space. She lives in the United States, but I can assure her that the United Kingdom has enthusiastically joined the space race, possibly even pulling ahead of America.)
The notebook where I tried to figure out answers
to the anagrams portion of the Crimefest pub quiz.

I don't remember the context, but I quite liked Nev Fountain's remark during the Sex in Crime Fiction panel that "There are literally people who will have sex with anyone connected with a television series."
Lee Child, Maj Sjöwall
Lee Child's interview with the festival's guess of honor, Maj Sjöwall (available as a series of clips at the Shots e-zone Web site), was full of entertaining and enlightening moments that disproved, if it still needs disproving, the notion that the Nordic countries lack a sense of humor. I had also not known that Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö intended to stop their Martin Beck series after ten novels even before Wahlöö died the year the tenth book, The Terrorists, appeared.

And I quite enjoyed Sjöwall's account of the genesis of the first Beck novel, Roseanna, which begins with the murder of an American tourist in Sweden (to appreciate the full flavor of the anecdote, it helps to know that Sjöwall and Wahlöö were husband and wife, albeit common-law). The two were on a ferry one day, and:
"There was this woman there, very beautiful, standing there watching the Swedish shoreline, and, of course, Per was standing there watching her. I said to Per, `Kill her.'"
The bar staff at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel just before last call,
except they call it "Last orders!" This seems to me better suited
to the solemnity of the occasion.
 Sjöwall and Child also discussed the Beck novels' employment of a group cast of central characters and to give those characters lives outside their police work (Ed McBain had done so first, though Sjöwall says she and Wahlöö did not know McBain's work early on, and only later read--and translated--McBain.)  Sjöwall's remarks on the roots of this plan may surprise those of us in America for whom leftist politics, empathy, and popular entertainment are inimical:
"We knew some officers in the Stockholm police and we tried to think the were human beings.  At that time we were criticized because it was not allowed for a police officer to have a private life."
"Everybody does it, and you started it," Child said.

"We didn't mean to do it," Sjöwall replied.

I also liked the attractive modesty of Sjöwall statement that "I don't think books change the world very much, but they can change thinking."
More to come when I flip through my copy of the Crimefest program, where I took most of my notes.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Paul Hardisty, plus the covers of Crimefest

Paul Hardisty at Crimefest
2015, photo by your
humble blogkeeper
Paul Hardisty's books include The Economics of Groundwater Remediation and Protection, Environmental and Economic Sustainability (Environmental and Ecological Risk Assessment), e-Study Guide for Environmental and Economic Sustainability, and The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

 I don't know about the first three, but ...Abrupt Physics..., Hardisty's first novel, reminds me a bit of Patricia Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery or Pater Rabe's The Box.  The book is that good at evoking the sense of being lost in a hot country one is alternately sure one knows well, and despairs of ever knowing.  A bit of Graham Greene in there, too?

The land is Yemen, the protagonist an engineer in country to check water quality for an oil company, and you know what happens next: restive tribesmen, a violent and oppressive central government,  a venal corporation,  a military veteran questioning his own past, a— but I don't want to make the book sound more melodramatic than it is, because Hardisty portrays the milieu (its rugged topography and, in judicious glimpses, its history) so well. Now, let's see how he handles the book's recently introduced potential romantic interest.
Clash of titles.
I met Hardisty at the recent Crimefest 2015 in Bristol, as I did the authors of the books pictured at left.

Another novel I bought at Crimefest, by another author I had not previously known, is The Human Flies, by Hans Olav Lahlum. Since Lahlum sets the book in Oslo, I feel an urge to call it East Side of Norway Story. I don't know why.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015 

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Paul D. Brazill's 13 Shots ..., or Noir: I know it when I see it

I don't think much about what noir is or isn't, but every once in a while, as Potter Stewart did with obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, I know it when I see it.

My latest epiphany has come with the opening stories of Paul D. Brazill's 13 Shots of Noir. The stories are all dark, of course, in the sense that their characters do terrible things,  but they are filled with humor, and one even has a happy ending of a kind.

So, what makes Brazill's stories noir? Just this: Better than most authors whose work gets tagged noir, Brazill makes every villain, as the saying goes, a hero in his own story. In addition to the attendant irony and humor, that is apt to fascinate and horrify a reader at the same time. And that, it says here, is one of noir's defining characteristics.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Detectives Beyond Borders for The Defence

Steve Cavanagh (left) was an enthusiastic participant in the high-jinks at Crimefest 2015, so it's no surprise that his debut novel, The Defence, is a lot of fun.

A lawyer named Eddie Flynn with a shady past—about which he is disarmingly frank—gets roped into defending a client he hates, with his daughter's life hanging in the balance. But despite the terrible stakes (did I mention that Flynn must do his legal work with a bomb strapped to his body?), Flynn can't help relishing the opportunity to hustle everybody. And just about everyone with whom Flynn comes into contact is, alternately, a potential ally or potential enemy.

OK, murder and kidnapping are no laughing matters, and Cavanagh is savvy enough to insert judicious reminders of what's at stake without, however, lapsing into sentimentality or fear-mongering.  (You may have read a crime novel or twenty-six recently in which peril to a child's life drives the plot. The Defence incorporates this without, however, degenerating into exploitation or fear porn.)

Cavanagh also builds the plot as carefully as one presumes he builds a case in his day job as a lawyer. His version of the something-wasn't-right-but-I-couldn't-put-my-finger-on-it trope is far more fleshed out than most. That, in turn, makes a compelling plot device of what is often a cheap, tiresome suspense-builder in less careful hands.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Crimefest report, Part I

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square,
London. Nelson was once a 
but he decided he wanted to stop
working without, however,
giving up a paycheck. (All
photos by your humble blogkeeper.

Explanation for the newspaper
humor in the caption and the 
lede first paragraph available
 on request.)
Random thoughts and facts without having to worry about coherence. Not that it really matters, but here are some aperçus upon my return from Crimefest 2015, Bath, and London.
Gunnar Staalesen
John Lawton spent just a day at Crimefest, but he offered the welcome news that another Frederick Troy novel is on the way, probably in 2017, and that his next novel, a sequel to the non-Troy Then We Take Berlin, will include a cameo appearance by Troy. The Troy books are the models of how to write fiction about recent history, and how to do so with humor, wit, and bite.
K.T. Medina
Kati Hiekkapelto
For some reason, I met more authors and other people new to me at this Crimefest than ever before, including folks with whom I had worked or corresponded for years without, however, meeting them in person. Grouped by the language families of which their native tongue is a member, beginning with Finno-Ugric, these included Kati Hiekkapelto, Alan Carter, Alex Shaw, Craig Sisterson, Karen Sullivan, Steve Cavanagh, Louise Phillips, Sheila Bugler, Craig Robertson, Alexandra Sokoloff, Ewa Sherman, Jackeeta MT Collins, Paul Gitsham,  Kate Lyall Grant, Anthony QuinnHans Olav Lahlum,  and at least one person, I believe from the north of England, whose name slips my mind at the moment, for which I apologize.  These meetings are what makes festivals so much fun.
Peter Guttridge, Ali Karim
James Runcie's speech at the festival's gala dinner was funny, barbed, and tailored precisely to his audience. Runcie made a game of it, reading a series of sentences from either crime novels or books that had won the Man Booker Prize, then asking the audience to guess into which category each example fit. All I can say is that some of those Booker winners should never, ever show their faces in public again, at least not if using the names under which they write.
Ragnar Jonasson,
who was not one
of the two 
warring authors

The heated exchange at the bar between two authors who set their books in two countries in a state of conflict in the real world. Each hotly defended the country where he sets his novels, citing history recent and more remote.  War on a smaller scale was averted only when one of the authors tactfully retreated behind the line of conflict, leaving me to quiz the other on history going back a thousand years. Neither author is from the country where he sets his books, and I would guess their passion reflects the depth of their devotion to their subjects.
Ruth Dudley
Robert Olen Butler
Separate political discussions with Ruth Dudley Edwards and Yrsa Sigurdardottir at the same hotel bar including bracing statements by each that I might not have expected from individuals of their political persuasions.

Barry Forshaw, Antonia Hodgson,
Simon Toyne,
 Peter Guttridge
Maj Sjöwall, Lee Child
Such surprises go a small way toward restoring my faith in humanity. It was also nice to see Yrsa win the festival's Petrona Award for best Scandinavian crime novel, for The Silence of the Sea. Yrsa has been pleasant company at many conventions, and Maxine Clarke, for whom the award is named, left the first comment ever at Detectives Beyond Borders.

Selfie outside the hotel where I expect
to return next year for my sixth Crimefest.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Crimefest, Bath, and London: What I did, and what I'll do when I get back

I'm on my way back to America after Crimefest in Bristol, three days in and around Bath, and two days in London. Some highlights for now, with normal blogging and discussion to resume shortly.

Maj Sjöwall. All hotos by
your humble blogkeeper
I met more new authors and other book-loving folks than usual at Crimefest, had more initial face-to-face meetings than usual with longtime online friends than usual, and attended more panels than usual. The only thing usual was the superb job by the organizers: Adrian Muller, Myles Allfrey, and Donna Moore. Well done, and discussion of authors and issues to follow once I get home, get some sleep, and do some laundry.

Next up was Bath, where I resumed my acquaintance with that harmonious Georgian city and, on a day trip to the Neolithic stone circle of Avebury and the West Kennet Avenue, stepped into a muddy furrow and sank up to my knees. The solicitude of my hotel manager, who had the trousers washed, dried, folded, and back in my hands by the next day, was another highlight.  If you plan to fall in the mud at a UNESCO World Heritage site, make sure you're staying at the Kennard in Bath.

Chinatown/Soho, London
Finally, London, where Mike Stotter, Ali Karim, Ayo Onatade, and the galleries of Early Renaissance painting at the National Gallery provided much high-jinks and cultural exaltation. See you all in Raleigh, Bristol, or London.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My second book cover as a photographer!

I received the excellent news yesterday from the excellent J.T. Lindroos that one of my photos will be used for the cover of Famous Blue Raincoat, by Ed Gorman, a story collection that has one hell of a title. (I found out after posting the news on social media that the title is taken from a song by my landsman Leonard Cohen. Oy, am I proud!)

I shot the cover during some bad weather back home, unlike my cover for Charlie Stella's Eddie's World, which I shot during some good weather back home for Black Gat Books, a new imprint from the good and discerning people at Stark House Press. And yep, I'm excited.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crime writers and reviewers, as they looked at Crimefest 2015

Martin Edwards
Kati Hiekkapelto
Ali Karim
Jake Kerridge
Anthony Quinn
Gunnar Staalesen
Steve Cavanagh
Ruth Dudley Edwards
Hans Olav Lahlum

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Crimefest 2015 subsides into pleasant memories, and my computer dies

Lee Child interviews Maj Sjöwall at Crimefest. Photo by your
humble blogkeeper/

Good fun at Crimefest 2015, marred only by computer's apparent death just after everyone left town.

Among the many highlights were the usual voluble high-jinks with Ali Karim, and my first in-person meetings with authors and fellow fans with whom I'd communicated for years online: Craig Sisterson and Anthony Quinn among them.

It was good to renew acquaintances with Barry Forshaw and Ayo Onotade, and a raucous climb up Park Street for dinner with Ali, Craig, Stuart Neville,  Alan Carter, Alex Shaw, and Steve Cavangh will live long in our memories and probably those of the restaurant's staff as well.

I spent pleasant hours at the hotel bar with Louise Phillips and Sheila Bugler (an Irish writer new to me), and I happy to report that everyone's comportment was unbexceptionable.  I made the acquiance of  some folks from Newcastle way, and I hope to attend their crime fiction festival one of these years. And finally, the post-convention unwinding wih a group that included Alexandra Sokoloff and Craig Robertson pointed up what makes these conventions so much fun: The company was good, and the to-red list got longer.

More to come once last rites have been administered to my laptop.
© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Maj Sjöwall at Crimefest 2015

Five years ago I was stunned by the number of crime-fiction trails Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö blazed in Roseanna (1965), the first of their ten Martin Beck novels. This afternoon I heard Maj Sjöwall talk about those books at Crimefest Bristol, and I have to tell you it was a thrill to hear surprising answers to crime-fiction questions, surprisingly matter-of-fact, in some cases, from someone who had done so much to create and popularize crime fiction conventions readers take for granted today.

I shall go into some detail about these later. In the meantime, here's what the event looked like (all photos by your humble blogkeeper).

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Crimefest and tonic

I can't quite remember the sequence of events, and I'm not sure I have all the names straight, but suffice it to say that the first day of Crimefest Bristol has restored my faith in the rationality of the human species. And that's pretty good for a crime convention's first day.

at Friday's debut authors panel.
More to follow after the pitifully meager amount of sleep that remains to me before tomorrow's panels.

Among the day's discoveries--possibly foremost among them--is that 160 ml. of tonic mixed with the gin is the perfect amount for an exquisite Hendrick's and tonic, a conclusion verified repeatedly beyond all possibility of statistical error.

Ali Karim
I have enjoyed being carried along in Ali Karim's wake, and have also had the pleasure of meeting Craig Sisterson in person, years after serving as a judge for him in New Zealand's Ngaio Marsh crime fiction awards.

I also met up with Western Australia's Alan Carter, and thanks to David Whish-Wilson for letting me know about him. Alan: I missed your panel this morning, but I bought Getting Warmer. Stop me if you see me, and I'll ask you to sign it.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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