Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Just a reminder that the The Paper Moon by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli is due out in March 2008.

And as another treat Via delle Oche, the final book in the De Luca trilogy by Carlo Lucarelli, translated by Michael Reynolds, is expected in May 2008.
I started to count the books I have read so far this year and realised that there were about 34 novels, 7 non fiction but crime related books, and 6 non fiction history books. This averages out at about a book a week, of which 15 of the novels were set in Italy! I did not realise it was that many considering the amount of time this year I have spent driving all over Dartmoor, watching the Rugby World Cup, and suffering from toothache.


The study from the UN on the world's most desirable countries to live in is out.

The top five do also seem to have the benefit of some fantastic crime writers to chronicle their rare crimes.

1) Iceland
2) Norway
3) Australia
4) Canada
5) Ireland

Sunday, November 25, 2007


You can read my review of Gilbert Adair's A Mysterious Affair of Style at:

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Hard Boiled Mystery Writers arrived yesterday, and I can see myself dipping into frequently it for fun and inspiration. Perhaps it will be unfair to compare and contrast any modern author with these greats, but who cares.

Chandler said of his detective Philip Marlowe:

"He is neither tarnished nor afraid. He must be a complete man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor....I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin."

This seems rather a dated statement, but strangely reminiscent to me of the mixture of chivalry and corruption in stories of Alexandre Dumas. Our modern world would be a lot nicer place to live in with a few Marlowes and D'Artagnans around to clean up the mess.

Perhaps that is why we read crime fiction?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


England's football management team, and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs confer on a week of problems.
England 2 Croatia 3
UK Government 0 Fraudsters Paedophiles Utd 25,000,000


I asked about crime fiction characters that have become closely intertwined with their cities in the public imagination. Thanks to linkmeister for Matt Scudder and New York, and Maxine of Petrona and the Philly Inq for Morse and Oxford, Charlie Resnick and Nottingham, and Reg Wexford and fictional Kingsmarkham.

I had mentioned John Rebus Ian Rankin's detective and Edinburgh, wondering whether Rankin was overrated. It seemed a cruel thing to do in possibly denigrating an Icon of Scotland after Scotland 1 Italy 2!

But although the three Rebus books I had read previously, Strip Jack, Resurrection Men and Fleshmarket Close had not impressed me that much I have found The Naming of The Dead much more to my liking.

Ian Rankin has of course won an Edgar [2004 Resurrection Men], 2005 Crime Thriller of the Year [Fleshmarket Close], a Diamond Dagger 2005, Deutsche Krimi Prize, Grand Prix de Literature Policiere and an Icons of Scotland award.

He has an OBE for services to literature and four honorary doctorates, therefore one treads with great care in reviewing or commenting on his work.

Is he original? He certainly did not invent the down at heel insubordinate policeman.

Is he fun to read? Well I am 200 pages into The Naming of The Dead and not only do I like the message, but the slight school boyish Rankin humour is hooking me in.

"my own fair hands, so the spelling might not be up to to your own high journalistic standard.".
"What is it?" She was unfolding the single sheet of paper.....................

......"It's all kosher, Marie. If you don't have a use for it....."

He held out his hand to take it back.

"What's a "serial kilter"? Is that someone who can't stop making kilts?"

"Give me it back."

Ian Rankin has been marketed and branded successfully, his fame seemingly increasing as Scotland moves politically further away from England.

Perhaps because of his fame, the prizes and awards I am expecting something more than a good crime fiction book with a political message. Am I expecting The Maltese Falcon written by Sir Walter Scott?

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book, to see how the plot develops. But now there is a football game to watch..........

Footnote to the day: it seems my son was at school, and in some classes with the "Grim Reaper".

Monday, November 19, 2007


I did manage to see part of another program during the Sherlock Holmes weekend. This was entitled the Shackles of Sherlock, which told of the attempts by Arthur Conan Doyle to be regarded as a serious writer of historical novels, and escape from his Great Detective.

I do remember that my father loved Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard stories set during the Napoleonic Wars.
His efforts were not rewarded as his readers were obsessed with Holmes and objected when he killed him off at the Reichenbach Falls in 1893.
The publication of the Final Problem cost the Strand Magazine twenty thousand subscribers, and lead to an outbreak of black armbands.
If those that are obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, and believe that he was a real, get short shrift from Richard A. Posner then I wonder what he would make of the Wolfe Pack.
Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, was a longtime member of the Baker Street Irregulars. His enormously fat practically immovable detective who solved crimes with his brain, was yet another tribute to the Holmes intellect.
Just as Dr Watson is the narrator in the Conan Doyle stories, Archie Goodwin narrates for Rex Stout.
There are some conflicting theories about whether Sherlock Holmes had an affair with Irene Adler [A Scandal in Bohemia], and the product of that union was Nero Wolfe.
Was Wolfe born in Montenegro, or Trenton, New Jersey?
Well it does not matter because it is believed he fought in the Montenegrin Army in the Great War, and in the novel The Black Mountain Wolfe and Archie attempt to avenge the death of Wolfe's old friend Marko Vukvic, and his adopted daughter Carla Britton, in a story set in Montenegro.
The Wolfe Pack meet on the 1 December to award an Archie Lifetime Achievement Award, and the speakers will include the Montenegrin Ambassador!
The present holders of an Archie are an exclusive group:
Rex Stout, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie
The contenders to join them are:
Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh, Edgar Allen Poe and Dorothy L. Sayers

I was trying to think of a modern crime fiction author whose creation had assumed a sort of existence beyond the pages of his books. An author whose work is linked with his city so firmly in the mind that one can't think about that city without thinking of the detective.
It has to be Edinburgh, and Ian Rankin's detective John Rebus.
But is Ian Rankin overrated? Is John Rebus such an eccentric figure and such a unique creation as to warrant Rankin's inclusion into the most exhalted company of crime fiction writers?
Or is Rankin just a nice guy who writes about yet another world weary detective?
to be continued............


The November quirky quiz has been solved by Laura R, 10 points to her and null point to me.

The photograph was of Galway Cathedral, in the beautiful west of Ireland in one of the rare moments when it was not raining. I certainly know why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle.

Galway, home of Ken Bruen, his detective Jack Taylor, and the Claddagh ring. Well done Laura R, I shall have to think up something more difficult for the December quiz.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


It was a Sherlock Holmes Weekend on ITV3 and although I was too busy to watch I did catch the Elementary, My Dear Viewer piece in which actor, and Holmes aficionado, Richard E Grant studied the appeal of the Great Detective.
There was some interesting input from three giants of the genre Val McDermid, P.D. James and Jeffrey Deaver looking even more cadaverous than usual. Apparently Lincoln Rhyme was created as a paraplegic because Deaver wished to create a detective who would defeat the criminals solely by the use of his superior intellect, as a tribute to Holmes.
None of the participants would have enjoyed the hatchet job by Richard A. Posner in the New Republic back in 2004 [thanks for the link to Detectives Beyond Borders], when he reviewed The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, edited by Leslie S. Klinger and made statements such as:
"Holmes is for the immature..... this absurd obsession.....the reading of detective stories is simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between smoking and crossword puzzles."

The article is long but well worth a read if only to realise how misguided a judge and graduate of Harvard law School can be.

to be continued.......


We went to see Beowulf on Friday afternoon. The film was quite an experience with superb computer graphics and digital effects that were way beyond my understanding. Robert Zemeckis the director had done a fine job of adapting the long olde English poem for the screen. My wife was impressed, and she knows about poems, although she did not remember Angelina Jolie in the original.

The only drawback was that the film was showing at Exeter's Vue Multiplex Cinema. From the outside this building resembles a bunker in downtown Baghdad, and its architectural style can be summed up as "super carbuncular".

It is only when one finds the door, a difficult task in itself, and enters that the full horror of the place really hits you.

Downstairs it resembles some kind of burger bar, that makes the average KFC or Burger King seem like the Ivy in comparison. The garish colours of the entrance make way for an interior that was designed by Grendel, himself, aided by a coterie of retired Stasi agents.

Extraordinary rendition would be a fate too good for these designers.

This is an establishment that sells soft drinks and sticky popcorn in superlarge and extra superlarge sizes, yet has more cinema screens than urinals. It will take a very good film to get me back into this hellish place again.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Well Martin Beck defeated you so I have picked a very well known crime fiction author, and posted a couple of photographs taken in his home town.
Whose the author?

The answer will be posted on Friday 30 November if no one gets the correct answer before that.


One of the best book covers I have seen for a while is Harold Schechter's The Devil's Gentlemen, which I found perusing CLEWS the historic true crime blog.

It does have the superb Flatiron Building in common with Jed Rubenfeld's runaway best seller The Interpretation of Murder, but I prefer the Schechter cover.

There is a review of The Devil's Gentlemen at:

Monday, November 12, 2007


When Kollberg was ready, he looked at Martin Beck and said,

"The trouble with you, Martin, is just that you've got the wrong job. At the wrong time. In the wrong part of the world. In the wrong system."
"Is that all?"

"Roughly," said Kollberg, "My turn to start? Then I say X-X as in Marx."

Of course I could not have put in the last sentence as knowing the politics of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo you would have got it too easily.

The answer then , Martin Beck and the end of The Terrorists [1975] the last in the ten book masterwork, The Story of a Crime.
The November Quirky Quiz will be posted in a few days.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


If you are looking for stocking fillers for your special crime afficionados at Christmas, or Hannukah, go over to Crimeficreader on Friday 16 November as she has persuaded some excellent British and Irish crime writers to let us have their book selections for the festive season.

The stolen stocking logo is returned with apologies.


.....by means of careful preparation as regards details, it appears that a second of the enemy's front line defence can be captured with comparatively little loss.
From a G.H.Q. memo to officers of the field rank and above, 18 April 1915
Petty Officer P. Kempster DSM, Royal Australian Navy died 14/01/1918, aged 34, my wife's grandfather.
Private M.Wein, 1st Bn.Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regt. died 27/09/1918, aged 19, my uncle.
And all the others who died and were wounded in the Great War, and all the terrible conflicts since.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I have realised that I have not said very much about the plot of Fer-De-Lance.

If I carry on with behaviour like that I might be put on the review panel for Anne Enright's next novel. The Booker Prize was discussed over at Crime Always Pays, here and here, by Declan Burke, the Irish Elmore Leonard or should that be the Irish Carl Hiaasen, and the erudite and passionate Crimficreader.

As someone who last last read a fiction non crime novel in 1959 I don't feel qualified to comment.
Rex Stout is certainly no prose stylist, and there is nothing lyrical about Fer-De -Lance but the story does whiz along.

Fred Durkin, one of Wolfe's irregulars, introduces Maria Maffei to Nero Wolfe and she asks the overwieght sleuth to help in finding her brother Carlo, a metal worker.
On the afternoon of Sunday, June 4, 1933, Peter Oliver Barstow, president of Holland University was playing golf on the links of Green meadow Club, 30 miles north of New York City. Barstow was playing a foursome with his son ,Lawrence, his neighbour E.D.Kimball and Kimball's son Manuel.
At the first tee Barstow was apparently stung by a wasp on his stomach, and 30 minutes later he collapsed and died.

When Carlo Maffei is discovered stabbed to death, only Wolfe the sedentary genius can connect these two events and eventually solve the crime , surviving along the way an attack by a dreaded snake, the Fer-De-Lance.
"Your name is Goodwin. Are you a genius too?"
"Yes , sir." I grinned. "I caught it from Nero Wolfe......."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have just finished reading Fer-De-Lance, the first in the Nero Wolfe series, published in 1934. The author Rex Stout was an interesting character who had spent two years as a warrant officer on President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht.

He later devised a school banking system which was installed in four hundred cities around the country. Retiring from finance a wealthy man he went to Paris and wrote three novels before turning to detective fiction with Fer-De-Lance. He went on writing up to his death in 1975 at the age of 89 leaving behind seventy three Nero Wolfe mysteries for our enjoyment.

Fer-De-Lance was great fun to read as Rex Stout tried to synthesise the English country house mystery with the American hard boiled urban detective story.

Nero Wolfe, the eccentric genius, has as his leg man the tough no nonsense young Archie Goodwin. Archie is a "wise cracking" man about town, who can mix with all classes of society, while Wolfe remains sedentary in the brownstone at West 35th street and does the thinking.

The corpulent Wolfe, or should that be very corpulent at "one seventh of a ton", has a collection of ten thousand orchids, a huge appetite for exotic meals, and drinks twelve bottles of beer a day. He also has a strict routine and this is never altered even for a murderer's confession. The household at West 35th street never changes throughout the series with Theodore Horstmann looking after the orchids, and Fritz Brenner dishing up fantastic meals; while Wolfe's irregular associates Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather do any dirty work required. Wolfe thrives on stability and routine.

"Mr Nero Wolfe? My name is Sarah Barstow ."

"Be seated, " Wolfe said. "You must pardon me; for engineering reasons I arise only for emergencies"

"This is an emergency," she said.

Archie Goodwin is a bit eccentric too as he drinks milk! I can't see Sam Spade drinking milk, or putting up with Wolfe's behaviour.

Wolfe and Archie are certainly not Holmes and Watson, though Archie like Watson is the narrator of the mysteries, and Wolfe is eccentric and brilliant enough to be the American Holmes.

Rex Stout realised that even if some of your plots were weak the presence of overwhelmingly strong and interesting characters brought your readers back time and again.

Fer-De-Lance is definitely slightly dated with Archie calling Wolfe from call boxes, being able to find parking spots on the street in New York, and the vast social and economic gulf between the rich and the poor at the height of the depression. Some things don't change much.

But it is fun and in 1934 it was just the kind of escapism that people wanted to read, with wealthy eccentrics, rich financiers being murdered, golf clubs, aeroplanes, beautiful rich girls, stupid cops and the villain being brought to justice by a genius.
I can see myself returning to this series from time to time for a little light relief.


I sometimes get an obsession and have to pursue this by studying the history and exploring all facets of the subject. That is why I have a garage full of books on naval history, and the American Civil War.

Now I am in my crime fiction period.

So in keeping with this in the next few months I hope to be reading new Eurocrime novels, and some crime fiction prize winners from 2007.
But I will also be delving from time to time into older crime fiction and reading about the exploits of some of the great fictional detectives of the past.
First up in the Great Detectives series will be Nero Wolfe.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Wordharvest Writers Workshops and Thomas Dunne Books announced today that Christine Barber's novel THE REPLACEMENT CHILD has won the first Tony Hillerman Prize, awarded annually to the best unpublished mystery set in the Southwest written by a first-time author.

The announcement was made at the fifth annual Tony Hillerman Writers Conference: Focus on Mystery held in Albuquerque, New Mexico this past weekend, and THE REPLACEMENT CHILD will be published by Thomas Dunne/SMP in the fall of 2008.

Thanks once again to Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind for this information. Tony Hillerman is the only crime writer that my wife will read. She was so keen to see the Navajo Territory that despite her great dislike of flying I was able to get her on an 11 hour flight to Phoenix.

Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are one of the great detective combinations in crime fiction, and the mixing in of Navajo customs with the stark beauty of the South West makes every book a real treat.

I shall be most interested to read the prize winner next year.

We Navajo understand Coyote is always waiting out there, just out of sight. And Coyote is always hungry...Alex Etcity born to the Water is Close People

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Philadelphia and Baltimore are locked in a dispute over which city has the better claim on Edgar Allan Poe.
The writer, novelist, editor and critic is famously buried in Baltimore, where he died 158 years ago this month. But some scholars say the master of the macabre was living in Philadelphia when he produced much of his best work — including some of the first detective mysteries ever written.
The debate started a few weeks ago when lit-blogger Edward Pettit proposed a "literary grave robbing" in a cover story for the Philadelphia City Paper.
The Baltimore Sun shot back with an editorial titled, "We Have the Body, and We're Keeping Him."
The Philadelphia Inquirer offered its own contribution to the debate in verse.
With the writer's 200th birthday coming in 2009, Poe scholars in both towns hope the publicity will stir interest.

from Joel Rose, All Things Considered at NPR via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind

I would rather like the symmetry of Edgar Allan Poe creating the first great detective C. Auguste Dupin in Baltimore, and the latest really great television crime series The Wire being set in Baltimore.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction is always interesting and he is favourably impressed by both Andrea Camilleri's writing and the Montalbano TV series that has not reached England yet.

His name's Cicco De Cicco his name is, Chief."

"Is he still at Montelusa Central?"

"Yessir, Chief. Still posted at his post."