Friday, 1 June 2012

Crime Fest Part One

Sorry about the lack of format activity in the previous blog but we are doing something strange with the website thing and I am supposed to do something else to keep the paragraphing in. Unfortunately I view myself as a creative genius and such things are beyond me until it is explained to me in simple terms. As yet it has not. And therefore this might be OBC. (One big chunk). Just back from Crimefest in Bristol where I was moderating the international panel and doing a wee talk on forensics for crime writers i.e. how not to get caught, which is what most crime writers are interested in. I read that only two types of people are interested in that- psychopaths and crime writers. Some might argue that we are not that far apart. The forensic talk went down well – standing room only. Then I was moderating a panel for the first time. Scary stuff. I had read two novels of each of the panellists – well read six and listened to the other two – as I was running out of time. It was a treat to do as I am so busy I don’t really have time to read a book that I am not researching or reviewing. To sit and eat chocolate while reading fantastic crime fiction by folk I didn’t know was a treat indeed. And I could classify it as work and put the cost of the chocolate against tax. Really enjoyed David Jackson’s books, Pariah and The Helper, set in New York and very traditionally structured – baddie taunting the conscientious cop in a ‘catch me if you can’ type of way. At every turn the killer leaves clues for our hero. Of course, David allows the reader to think that they are one step ahead of our hero. But the writer is always three steps ahead, tantalisingly so. I think I am pretty good at spotting the way books like this are set up and I had this figured out 99.9% of the time. But it’s that last 0.1% that makes a good novel great and both these books are. Clever bloke. Clever books. The panel introduced me to the Kubu mysteries set in Botswana, slow paced and full of sunshine. Inspector Kubu is a great character who I hope gets the chance to run and run with a long series of books. I’ve not met a lot of folk who have read them but I am spreading the word and everybody falls in love with Kubu, just a little bit. I read that these books (four in the series so far I think) are considered Alexander McColl Smith for grown-ups and I think that hits the nail on the head. The fiction is comfortable, lulling the reader into a false sense of cosy and then a body appears being stripped of all its flesh by a hyena and various other bodies are floated into the river as a freshwater buffet for the crocs. It’s that strange juxta position of homely family life and sunshine with body decomposition and the darker side of the human soul. Great plotting and an interesting view on a country I confess I knew bugger all about. I was totally ignorant of the politics there, the importance of the diamond industry. I was reading it while it was snowing in Glasgow. Kubu was spending all his time trying to find shade. It had me transported in a way only a good book can do. David Hewson is, of course all over the media with his novel of the Danish TV series The Killing. I had presumed as many had that The Killing was a Danish novel that had been made into a TV series but it was always only ever a TV script. The novel was a mammoth task for David, nearly 600 pages and it was interesting to hear how he went about it. A daunting task for any writer, maybe easier for one that has a background in journalism? I can’t imagine it at all, being given a story and readymade characters and being told ‘well there you go – no changing the ending now! I have not read it yet, but it is going all holiday with me. All 600 pages – we are not flying EasyJet so are allowed a heavy book in our baggage allowance. For the panel I read one of David Nik Costa series (set in Rome) and a Lupo book (Venice). He writes very high end literary crime friction, not a lot of shooting and violence but very beautiful prose that you want to sink into. Defiantly the Bourneville Chocolate type of crime writing, rich and well textured. I know my mother-in-law type person would love these and indeed, she has already snaffled them. David writes a little like Colin Dexter without the tumble turns, no fancy footwork, just beautiful writing. I don’t think I would recommend The Seconds to the mother in law type, it would all be too much for her and she would need her medication adjusted. Quickly. The Swedish writing team of Roslund and Helstom have two books available here are the moment – or it is five - or is it three? Such are the issues of being translated out of sequence. . It is hard hitting (not ultra violent) fiction that stays with you long after you have read the book. These books will be on your mind at three in the morning and will have you wrestling with your social conscience. Not many book s can make me cry unless they hurt a puppy or squash a wombat or something (but I am perfectly happy to throw a well characterised baddie to a hungry hyena with an attitude problem). But both Cell 8 (the flavour of this book reminded me very much of the film – the life of David Gale) and Three Seconds had me weeping a little, thinking about them while out with the horror hound. Three Seconds is a book that has you reading the last paragraph again, then again.... and suddenly you get what the whole book was about. A really remarkable book. Two books that maybe can only be written by writers from a country with a well developed moral compass. These authors still work as voluntary probation officers, they still give 10% of their profits to the issues raised in the books. Rosland is a journalist, Helstrom is an ex criminal, when they speak you tend to pay attention. One of their books is going into production in Hollywood in January and I confess that the book had such a big impact on me, I might avoid the film. I’m sure those who love the book The Children of Man by P D James will know what I mean. And that leads me to my next blog where I will be talking about the Saturday of the Crimefest, the P D James events, The Killing and what Swedish crime writers do when their country wins the Eurovision Song Competition. This has indeed formatted all wrong so I have corrected it, hope it reads ok! C