Saturday, November 29, 2008

WALLANDER ON TV: IT'S SWEDISH!



When I have found an author and read them quite happily for many years I don't like it when they become mainstream. 
Is this intellectual snobbery [probably] or is it that the movies or TV on occasions make a complete mess of  adaptations?
John Hannah as Rebus, and Lou Diamond Phillips [born in the Phillipines] as Navajo policeman Officer Jim Chee spring to mind as casting errors. But I really get irritated at the exposure of my favourites to the attention of media people who know nothing about the subject but have become instant experts.

Now Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander, and Sweden have become victims of instant  punditry and reviewers who seem to have never read a crime fiction book, or possibly any book.

How long did it take to think up the Radio Times headline 'Inspector Norse'

The Daily Mail weekend review goes one better with 'Inspector Morose', who is ' Swedish, scruffy and makes Morse look like the laughing policeman'. 
I suspect the writer has not read the Sjowall and Wahloo novel of that name, because they go on to say 'Swedish and witty: now that's something you don't often see.'

Why do the media employ a critic who on their own admission states:

I must be honest, I hadn't been optimistic about the prospect of a Swedish detective. My only knowledge of the country came from watching Bjorn Borg playing tennis at Wimbledon, and reading about Ulrika Jonsson's latest baby/divorce/lover.

If I had my grumpy old way no one would be allowed to review the Wallander series unless they could identify the two people in the portraits above. I am going to record the 'Wallanders' and save them to watch when the media hoopla has died down. The first episode is on BBC at 9.00 p.m. tomorrow.

I have decided to lighten my mood before I read Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdadottir and therefore I have started reading The Burglar who liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block.    

Friday, November 28, 2008

DOUBLE TROUBLE: ENDANGERED AUTHORS


Swedish police have put on additional security measures for a seminar in Stockholm entitled 'Freedom of Speech and Lawless Violence'. 
SAPO, the security police are also involved because participating in the discussion are writers Roberto Saviano and Salman Rushdie.
Read the full article here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

DARKNESS RISING: FRANK TALLIS




I have just finished reading Darkness Rising , the fourth in the Dr Max Liebermann series, and my review will appear in due course on Euro Crime

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SADLY THE HONEYTONES DID NOT WIN

But they won't give up playing and perhaps there is someone out there who will provide a mini-bus and storage facilities for these inspirational guys.
Very many thanks to all those people who voted for them. 

A DIFFERENT APPROACH






These are the covers of  English and Polish editions of Death in Breslau. The cover of the English version of the next book in the series End of the World in Breslau is even more risque see here

Why the different  covers?

CRIME FICTION SET IN WEIMAR GERMANY



Crime fiction set in Weimar Germany is in vogue at the moment with two more books coming out this year. It must be the looming economic problems?
The encyclopedic Karen of Euro Crime drew my attention to the next book in the series to Marek Krajewski's intriguing  Death in Breslau titled End of the World in Breslau here.
I enjoy reading about quirky detectives, such as Adamsberg and Harry Hole, and Marek's Eberhard Mock is certainly a bit offbeat although well suited to his time and place.

You can read my interview with the Polish crime writer here and here

End of the World in Breslau will be published in March 2009.

And Rebecca Cantrell, a resident of Hawaii, has A Trace of Smoke, which is set in Berlin 1931 out in May 2009. Watch the excellent trailer here.

These two books both look to me like contenders for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

THE HONEYTONES IN ACTION: TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKER VOLUME

video

The very professional ITV West Country team recorded the Honeytones for broadcast at 6.00 p.m. tonight. I don't know how long the actual broadcast will last but they took about an hour and a half of film. At this stage the audience of about 100 mostly children had left while the cameras took close up shots of the band members.
Maxine of Petrona has kindly posted  here and linked to all of my Honeytones posts.

Please Vote Honeytones before midnight 0871 626 8166.
Thank You

VOTING DAY:PLEASE VOTE HONEYTONES

                                             0871 626 8166
                                          
      
The phone number to Vote Honeytones is 0871 626 8166 and you can vote TEN times. The cost is 10p from a local landline and more from mobiles. 
Voting is 9.00 a.m. to midnight so please support this very good cause.

The George Hotel is supporting local band 'The Honeytones' in the Peoples Millions vote on November 25th. Please take a few minutes to read about their incredible achievements.

Voting Day November 25th 2008.
You can only vote on the day that the Honeytones are broadcast which is why the number which will not be published until November 25th in the Daily Mirror, the Big Lottery website : www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/peoplesmillions and of course it will be broadcast by ITV Westcountry on the day.
 
Anyone can vote and you do not have to live in the Westcountry area to vote.  Calls will cost 10p from a BT landline and up to 10 calls can be registered from one line.

'The Honeytones'

The Honeytones are a rock’n’ roll band which was formed in 2001 by Bob Courtney along with two residents of a North Devon care home for learning disabled adults. Their huge enthusiasm attracted new members from the same community and they are now a nine-piece outfit centred on keyboards and guitar with a large and wide-ranging repertoire.

In 2006 they were awarded £9,000.00 by the “Awards For All” lottery scheme to purchase much-needed equipment and began to take their music to a wider audience. Following a remarkable gig at a black tie dinner for Braunton Rotary, the band experienced a huge increase in popularity. At the end of that 40 minute performance, the whole room erupted in applause and received a standing ovation which was unprecedented for such an event. The band was from that point totally committed to taking their performances to as wide a public as possible. They have performed for local organisations, charities and at many public events and want to continue doing so.

Unfortunately the future of the band is bleak. They have lost their equipment storage facility and can no longer practice at the free facility they previously enjoyed. The residential home where they live is scheduled to close, leaving them with no transport. At present, the equipment (three Transit loads!) is stuffed into Bob’s terraced house. The band are clubbing together to hire South Molton Church Hall for weekly rehearsal sessions.

But here’s the good news. They’ve got through to the finals of the “Peoples Millions 2008” on ITV Westcountry which will be televised on November 25th 2008. If the band wins the public vote then they stand to gain nearly £50,000.00 to enable them to take their performances out to a wider public, especially the young and disadvantaged in society.

Four of Her Majesty’s prisons have expressed interest in The Honeytones. If they are successful with the Peoples Millions award, The Honeytones will purchase their own minibus, a trailer for their equipment along with generator and marquee which will make them virtually independent. They will not have the safe rehearsal and storage base which they previously enjoyed but their music and infectious enthusiasm will continue to entertain audiences in North Devon and beyond.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

GRAND PRIX DE LITTERATURE POLICIERE WON BY CAMILLA LACKBERG



I missed this news until I spotted it on the author's Swedish site so perhaps others might have missed it as well.
The International Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere was won this year by Camilla Lackberg for The Ice Princess reviewed here, this award has a very distinguished list of past winners.
Arnaldur Indridason won it in 2007 for the multiple prize winning Voices reviewed here.

Other past winners have included Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George, Frances Fyfield, P.D. James, Tony Hillerman and Elmore Leonard; exalted company. 

THE ITALIAN FRONT 1915-1919


In between my crime fiction reading I have managed to finish The White War; Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 by Mark Thompson.
 I use the expression 'manage to finish' not because it is a difficult book to read but because it is such a sad story of wasted lives.
The book covers the whole story of Italy's involvement with La Grande Guerra from the grand strategy and politics to the poetry and individual accounts of the soldiers. 
The story is even more tragic looking back from our perspective today knowing that Italy turned to Mussolini and Fascism, and reading passages such as that below. 

For Wilson, Yugoslavia's birth proved that anti-imperialist ideals could prevail; it was self determination in action. He was adamant that the infant must be protected.

The book is full of interesting comments from a very different world such as:

... he wore a fez, showing he belonged to a Bosnian regiment. The fez had the same effect on Italians that the Scottish kilt had on the Germans: it meant primeval savagery. 

The conflict has largely been ignored by English speaking historians although at the time Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells and Rudyard Kipling toured the front and wrote 'articles and instant books'. The future novelist John Dos Passos spent time in Italy as a volunteer with the American Red Cross and of course Ernest Hemingway served in Italy and his experiences were told in the semi-autobiographical novel A Farewell to Arms.

The White War is very good history, a sobering book and a necessary reminder that the Western Front was not the only killing field of the Great War. 

'A dirty trick which had been played on me and my generation' Siegfried Sassoon

'The most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery.' Ernest Hemingway 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

WINTER FESTIVALS QUIRKY QUIZ: QUESTIONS CONUNDRUMS AND CONNECTIONS


I know some people have been waiting to test themselves on another quiz. Here is something for you to puzzle about on those cold winter nights and as encouragement there will be two prizes. 
One multiple book prize for the highest score, and one drawn from all entrants who score 40% or more. 

The quiz will close on 5 January and answers should be sent to thbear08@googlemail.com by midnight that day GMT. 

Some of the questions are straightforward and some a bit more convoluted to test those little grey cells. I think the questions are a bit easier than some I have set in the past so please do have a try.
Here we go....

1) Who is the man in the photo and what is the connection with an English hangman? 

2) Arthur Ward, and a medieval order of knights. How are they linked by an 1882 Act of Congress? 

3) Which crime writers were:

a) a tank commander
b) a dentist
c) an English, games and history school teacher  
d) a Gordon Highlander
e) given a 20 year sentence for armed robbery
f) A theatre director in East Africa
e) struck down by Blackwater fever in West Africa
f) born in Racalmuto, Sicily

4) What is the connection between a cardboard box, an engineer's thumb and a Greek interpreter?

5) What links a Swiss opium addict, a British navy commander and a fictional Swedish detective?

6) An Irish port, a trailing woody stemmed plant and a heavy load are linked in crime fiction, how?

7) Which crime writers were/are a:

a) railway engineer (b) civil engineer (c) an engineer born in a prison

8) Which fictional detective:

a) was born in Santa Rosa California
b) changed his name from Charalambides
c) was educated at Eton, Balliol and Harvard and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor
d) was the son of a Polish stage hypnotist
e) was born in Santa Teresa California

9) Which crime writers are involved with:

a) a large semi aquatic reptile (b) a barefoot contessa (c) Montelusa

10) From what book does the following sentence come:

He smiled with compressed lips and asked: 'You know of Barbarossa, Redbeard, Khair-ed-Din?' 

11) There is a convoluted crime fiction link between a Sicilian statue made from a type of fired clay, the Reverend Theodosius Longmoor and the Comte de Guy? Explain.

12) Who has written crime fiction novels set in:

a) Laos (b) Mongolia (c) Tibet (d) Oland (e) Shanghai (f) Fjallbacka (g) Bologna 

13) The more common names for a small female sibling, a massive loss of consciousness and a protracted farewell, and how are they educationally  linked to a Kiwi author's detective?

I hope these will be a test and you will enjoy working out the answers. Good luck. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BURIED STRANGERS

I reviewed Leighton Gage's exciting first novel Blood of the Wicked here
I also participated in an interesting and informative interview with Leighton and posted about that in three parts, here, here and here.

Now I have finished reading Buried Strangers the second in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation series. 

Dozens of bodies, including children, are found buried in family groups in the Serra da Cantareira, the world's largest urban forest, in Sao Paulo. Mario Silva of the Federal Police and his team begin an investigation despite the disinterest of the director Nelson Sampaio, who is more intent on his own political advancement than dealing with Brazil's massive crime problem.

Local cop Delegado Yoshiro Tanaka is instructed to look for missing families in his area but conducts his own enquiry into a family from the favelas, who are supposed to have moved to a new job, but whose furniture has mysteriously appeared for sale in a local store. Tanaka's unofficial investigation proves to a dangerous enterprise and puts more lives at risk. Meanwhile pathologist Gilda Caropreso has her own theory as to the motive for the killings based on the forensic evidence, a theory she shares with Hector. When Mario Silva is asked by his wife to help their cleaner, whose son has been missing for two months after visiting a travel agency that offers to get illegal immigrants into the USA, he sends in Arnaldo to do some tricky undercover work.

This was another entertaining police procedural thriller in which we follow the participant's actions, both police and villains, as the different strands of the investigation proceed to a climax. What makes the novel so good, and I enjoyed it even more than Blood of the Wicked, was the matter of fact easy to read writing style and the larger than life Brazilian setting; crime, corruption, murder, traffic jams, and desperate poverty are all just that bit nastier in Sao Paulo. 

Leighton Gage is also very good at creating some memorable supporting characters to his main cast.  
The grotesquely 'loud' American FBI legal attache Grant Unger, the 'danger to women' Heraldo 'Babyface' Goncalves and the incredibly boring criminal profiler Dr Godofredo Boceta are examples of the sharply drawn characterizations that make this book a bit special. Sometimes you think that the larger than life venal characters and plot are are a bit over the top but then you think, wait a minute this is Brazil after all.

This is very definitely a police procedural thriller, and not a mystery, as the reader usually knows more than the police as the plot moves along. Buried Strangers is a page turner because you want to find out what happens next and whether Mario Silva, Hector, and Arnaldo deal with the villains. There is of course the extra bonus that the reader gets a lot of information about Brazil and the country's dysfunctional multicultural society.
Buried Strangers also fulfills another one of my criteria for good crime fiction [ educating, entertaining, good characterization, and plot] in that I am interested in what happens to the characters in the future, and whether the   relationship between Hector and attractive pathologist Gilda Caropreso will become even closer.

Buried Strangers will be published in January 2009, and many thanks to Leighton Gage and Soho Crime for providing the review book.
I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series Dying Gasp which should be available in January 2010. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

THE STIEG LARSSON DEBATE



In view of the complimentary remarks about my post by Ali Karim on the Yahoo Forum 4 Mystery Addicts I thought I would share an edited version of the discussion with you here. Ali Karim has been one the the main enthusiastic advocates for the Stieg Larsson books with his articles on The Rap Sheet.

Ali Karim in reply to my post:

Great post, and you raise some very interesting points, and despite differing opinions the construction of argument is excellent, and I do agree with your points. And your kind words are appreciated, as is your perception. I will have to warn you, after reading Vol II, I saw all the shortcomings in Vol I, and trust me, Vol II is truly remarkable, when I read it, I was in a trance-like state, unable to eat, sleep, function until I had finished this dark tale.

My original post:

A good part of the fun in reading crime fiction, blogging about it, and reading the comments on this group [and elsewhere] is that we can hold such widely differing opinions. I enjoy everything Ali Karim writes and his enthusiasm is infectious. I certainly agree with his opinions about Arnaldur Indridason and new star Johan Theorin [his Echoes From The Dead is a must read which won the Swedish best first crime novel for 2007] but I just feel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did not warrant the big build up it received.

Someone on this forum suggested that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was more hyped than Dragon Tattoo. I would reply that no one suggested Brown should receive the Nobel Prize or that he rates up there with Christie, Chandler, Hammett and Fleming.

The bar has been set so high that Vol II is bound to be a disappointment. 
I sincerely hope it is not but having been told that it takes Swedish crime fiction beyond Sjowall and Wahloo and Henning Mankell to a new level I wonder what to expect.

I have the greatest respect for Stieg Larsson's anti-fascist campaigning but his first book The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was in my opinion  a rambling, poorly constructed novel with one redeeming feature the character of Lisbeth Salander. 

I don't have any academic qualifications for making this statement, but if the New Yorker magazine can have someone discuss the book who has never been to Scandinavia or read any Scandinavian crime fiction then I can put in my twopenn'orth. 
*******

I will be pushing all my other reading to one side when I get my copy of The Girl Who Played With Fire and expect to get my socks blown off.

Links can be followed to my previous posts  and discussions on this subject  here.

Photo of Nori Rapace-Noren and Michael Nyqvist the actors playing Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in the movie.

EUROCRIME REVIEW:THE MAZE OF CADIZ


My unenthusiastic review of The Maze of Cadiz has been posted on Euro Crime here.
I looked at the cover and read the first few pages and thought Libro gordo thick book which it wasn't but it seemed like it.
The cover and back of the book state 'one man can change the course of war.' 
Note 'of war' not 'the war.' 
In fact the strategic situation of Spain by September 1944 was an irrelevance to the 'course of the war.'
I usually lap up books set in this period but I am sorry I just did not enjoy The Maze of Cadiz. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

VIA DELLE OCHE: CARLO LUCARELLI


I have just finished reading the 156 page novel Via Delle Oche by Carlo Lucarelli.
It is the third in the De Luca trilogy which is set in turbulent Italy during the end of the Second World War and the post war period. 

I reviewed Carte Blanche the first in the trilogy here
The second The Damned Season I reviewed here.

It is 1948. Italy's fate is soon to be decided in bitterly contested national elections. A man has been found dead in villa delle Oche, at the centre of Bologna's notorious red light district it is regarded at first as a suicide. 

The man, Ricciotti  Ermes, hanging from the rafters does have a noose around his neck but when the overturned stool is righted his feet don't reach the seat. Luckily Commissario De Luca is there to spot the anomaly.

Pugliase's thin lips curled into an incredulous smile. He ran to the door, stopping for a second at the door way to turn toward De Luca.
'Christ, Commissario,' he said. 'I sure am glad you're back!' 

De Luca proceeds to investigate the case and he has to tiptoe through a difficult situation as his superiors of both political persuasions are intent on leaving the case as a suicide. 

This is a fine historical crime novel with snappy dialogue and a real feel for the period. Carlo Lucarelli introduces each chapter with newspaper headlines of the day, a technique that adds to the atmosphere and the tension as the day of the election approaches.

FASCIST SQUADS ARMED BY CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS ATTACK JEWS IN THE ROMAN GHETTO

16 MILLION SLAVES IN SOVIET LABOR CAMPS

AMERICAN AID FOR ITALY:$11 MILLION IN FOOD AND GASOLINE

There is a lot packed into a few pages in this novel with so many different threads including the criminal investigation, the political infighting between Christian Democrats and Communists, De Luca's relations with his superiors, and also with the attractive brothel owner La Tripolina. But the dominating theme is the internal turmoil of De Luca torn between his duty and political and personal pressures. He is almost a metaphor for Italy itself tearing apart in that tumultuous election. 

'I don't give a damn if they use me! I'm a policeman, Pugliese, it's my job and I'll take sides with anyone who lets me do my job.'............

'Is that why,' hissed Pugliese, coolly, 'you sided with the fascists?....' 

Friday, November 14, 2008

HEIGHTENED ANTICIPATION: THE STIEG LARSSON PHENOMENON



I have decided to postpone the Quirky Quiz for a few days as I want to post about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon and the varying opinions about the books. 
I have posted at some length here, here, here, and here about this previously but wanted to update readers to the feedback I have received and the discussions about the casting of the movie.

For a media advertising campaign that has successfully blitzed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to number one on Amazon UK's literature in translation list, admittedly at the greatly discounted price of £3.86, the choice of book covers and the actors to play Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist seem strange. 

On Stieg Larsson's web site the comments about the movie casting are similar to my own views. Noomi Noren is certainly not the Lisbeth of the book and as one person states she looks more like Erika than Lisbeth. Noomi is not a  23 year old who could be mistaken for 14, too tall, too old, too attractive! 
Michael Nikvist has an easier task because the character of Blomkvist is so bland but some have said he also is too old. The trailer on this website hardly adds to one's knowledge about the movie.

'Out of respect for Stieg Larsson the casting people might have read the books more carefully.' Francoise 12 November

But my basic worry is that this book will be read by people who have not read any other Scandinavian crime fiction and will dismiss it as turgid, slow and like wading through deep snow drift. They will then not read the other Nordic authors who deserve attention.

The brilliantly funny Irish author Declan Burke found the first book pedestrian stuff and suggested the publishers 'yank out the first 160 pages, or pulp the first book and just gives us the best stuff.'
Declan stopped reading after 112 pages, after all life is indeed too short to read a 500 page introduction.  

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is indeed a 'marmite' of a book you either love it or hate it as witnessed by this review and comment from the Charleston City Paper.

'This is easily one of the worst books I have ever read.'

Reg Keeland is the distinguished translator of the Larsson trilogy, as well as books by Henning Mankell, Karin Alvetegen, Helene Tursten and Camilla Lackberg.
He commented that 

'be assured book one only lays the groundwork for great stuff to come in books two and three.'

And added 

'Larsson took the genre beyond Sjowall and Wahloo, beyond Mankell, into a whole new area of thriller literature.'

I  await The Girl Who Played With Fire with  heightened anticipation and I do hope I will not be disappointed.

'The hype is something else' 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

RIPTIDE


Riptide is the second [chronologically after Second Violin] in the 'Troy' series of John Lawton's historical thrillers. 

Wolfgang Stahl [who we met in Second Violin as an observer of the Kristallnacht atrocities] had worked his way into the confidence of Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich but now exposed as an American agent he flees to Britain pursued by German agents. The man who ran Stahl from Zurich, the shy Captain Cal M. Cormack is sent to London to liaise with British Special Branch and bring Stahl safely in.
But there are bigger fish to fry as Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess lands in Scotland asking to speak to the Duke of Hamilton, and Cormack's mission is sidelined.

Cormack is teamed up with Special Branch's Walter 'Stinker' Stilton and they begin the search for Stahl amongst the bombed wreckage and refugee population of London. When Walter takes Cal home to meet his family the beautiful Kitty Stilton helps cement Anglo-American relations, while also resuming contact with ex boyfriend Sergeant Troy of the Murder squad.
When the search for Stahl go disastrously wrong Cormack is disowned by his embassy and is encouraged by Kitty to turn to Troy for assistance. 

I think my enjoyment of these books is greatly increased by having lived in London during the 1950's when the lifestyles, accents, attitudes and bomb damaged streets had not changed a great deal from wartime. [Bristol and Manchester also still had bomb sites in 1963]

This is a book with a complex plot and a myriad of minor characters making memorable cameo appearances, but that does not prevent it being an easy read. Look out for Lazarus and Moses Lippschitz Bespoke Tailors providing Cal with a 'ten bob' suit .

'Er......what colour's in this year?
'In?' said Mo. He wants to know vot is in. Khaki is in this year, that's vot's in!'
'Khaki I got ,'said Cal.

The stark juxtaposition of humour and the underlying threat of violence is a disconcerting but winning formula, and each of the main characters is drawn so clearly that the reader feels for them and is drawn in to their weird world. 

Walter Stilton, Kitty and Cormack  are the main characters in this novel with Troy pushed slightly into the background. John Lawton's message appears to be that the war after all was won by the working class, the Americans and the Russians, while the English aristocracy dined on smoked salmon and champagne. The book makes quite a good case that the wartime spirit of 'we are all in this together' was not what it seemed. The reader is immersed in all the intricacies of the debates on American isolationism, the British class system, Stalin's stupidity, Churchill and Roosevelt's duplicity and the cockney vocabulary. 
Although Riptide does not have quite the emotional impact of Second Violin this is still a brilliantly amusing thought provoking novel and I can't wait to carry on with the remaining four books in the series.

Riptide caught in a riptide
torn between two loves the old and the new
                                    Al Bowlly and the Lew Stone Orchestra 1934 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

REMEMBRANCE DAY: BITTER-SWEET CELEBRATION

A celebratory Peace Tea in the East End of London at the end of the Great War, and in the front are my dear mother and her sisters wearing black bows in their hair for their 19 year old brother. 

There is a very informative post over at Kerrie's Mysteries in Paradise about Remembrance Day here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ALMOST LOST IN TRANSLATION


The list of nominees for the 2008 Martin Beck Prize for non Swedish language crime fiction books is very strong, with Robert Harris, John Le Carre, Anna Maria Schenkel, Peter Temple and Deon Meyer. Last year 2007 this award was won by Thomas H. Cook with Red Leaves.

The Basta svenska kriminalroman nominees include previous winner Asa Larsson, previous nominee Arne Dahl and the winner of the Basta svenska debut for 2007, Johan Theorin. 

Johan Theorin won the best first mystery novel prize with Echoes From The Dead [published as Skumtimmen in Swedish] reviews here and here and here.
He has now  been nominated for Nattfak, his second crime fiction novel, which hopefully will be available in English next year.

Last year the Basta svenska kriminalroman was won by Hakan Nesser, for the third time; previous winners include two time winners Ake Edwardson, Henning Mankell, Leif G.W.Persson and Inger Frimansson as well as Stieg Larsson, and Kjell Eriksson. 

SWEDISH PRIZE 2008 NOMINATIONS



Svenska Deckarakademins nomineringar 2008. 

Bästa svenska kriminalroman: 

Elva av Arne Dahl. Albert Bonniers förlag.
Varför dog Monica P? av Elisabeth Gilek. Wahlström & Widstrand.
Till dess din vrede upphör av Åsa Larsson. Albert Bonniers förlag.
Nattfåk av Johan Theorin. Wahlström & Widstrand.
Blot av Håkan Östlundh. Ordfront. 

Bästa till svenska översatta kriminalroman – 
The Martin Beck Award

Spökskrivaren av Robert Harris. Forum. Övers: Anders Bellis.
En eftersökt man av John le Carré. Albert Bonniers förlag. Övers: Ola Klingberg.
Död i gryningen av Deon Meyer. Weyler. Övers: Jesper Högström.
Mordbyn av Andrea Maria Schenkel. Ersatz. Övers: Christine Bredenkamp.
Mörk kust av Peter Temple. Kabusa böcker. Övers: Boel Unnerstad 

Vinnarna utses vid akademins höstmöte i Eskilstuna 29-30 november 2008.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

HISTORY LESSONS WITH CRIME FICTION



The 9th of November is not only Remembrance Sunday in the UK but it is also the 70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht. This pogrom, as it happened in Vienna, was brilliantly described in John Lawton's crime thriller Second Violin which I reviewed here. 

I am reading Riptide, another in the Troy series, at the moment and for anyone interested in the history of the period this is another excellent book. The expert on John Lawton's books is crimeficreader and there is a stimulating article on the Troy series here.


VOTE HONEYTONES:NOVEMBER 25TH PEOPLE'S MILLIONS ITV WEST COUNTRY


Voting Day November 25th 2008.
You can only vote on the day that the Honeytones are broadcast which is why the number which will not be published until November 25th in the Daily Mirror, the Big Lottery website : www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/peoplesmillions and of course it will be broadcast by ITV Westcountry on the day.
 
Anyone can vote and you do not have to live in the Westcountry area to vote.  Calls will cost 10p from a BT landline and up to 10 calls can be registered from one line.

'The Honeytones'

The Honeytones are a rock’n’ roll band which was formed in 2001 by Bob Courtney along with two residents of a North Devon care home for learning disabled adults. Their huge enthusiasm attracted new members from the same community and they are now a nine-piece outfit centred on keyboards and guitar with a large and wide-ranging repertoire.

In 2006 they were awarded £9,000.00 by the “Awards For All” lottery scheme to purchase much-needed equipment and began to take their music to a wider audience. Following a remarkable gig at a black tie dinner for Braunton Rotary, the band experienced a huge increase in popularity. At the end of that 40 minute performance, the whole room erupted in applause and received a standing ovation which was unprecedented for such an event. The band was from that point totally committed to taking their performances to as wide a public as possible. They have performed for local organisations, charities and at many public events and want to continue doing so.

Unfortunately the future of the band is bleak. They have lost their equipment storage facility and can no longer practice at the free facility they previously enjoyed. The residential home where they live is scheduled to close, leaving them with no transport. At present, the equipment (three Transit loads!) is stuffed into Bob’s terraced house. The band are clubbing together to hire South Molton Church Hall for weekly rehearsal sessions.

But here’s the good news. They’ve got through to the finals of the “Peoples Millions 2008” on ITV Westcountry which will be televised on November 25th 2008. If the band wins the public vote then they stand to gain nearly £50,000.00 to enable them to take their performances out to a wider public, especially the young and disadvantaged in society.

Four of Her Majesty’s prisons have expressed interest in The Honeytones. If they are successful with the Peoples Millions award, The Honeytones will purchase their own minibus, a trailer for their equipment along with generator and marquee which will make them virtually independent. They will not have the safe rehearsal and storage base which they previously enjoyed but their music and infectious enthusiasm will continue to entertain audiences in North Devon and beyond.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

VICTORY TO DISASTER: ITALY 1915-1919



I have been reading The White War:Life and Death on the Italian front 1915-1919 by Mark Thompson. 
It is a long book and I am about two thirds of the way through this fascinating history of an almost forgotten conflict between Italy and her former allies in the Triple Alliance, Austria Hungary and Germany. The Western Front and the horrendous losses there dominated the Great War, therefore we are inclined to forget what happened in Italy and the terrible consequences of that conflict. 
Italy's enormous losses in men, the social upheaval and disruption following the war combined with dissatisfaction with the peace settlement among nationalists lead to the collapse of democratic government and the rise of fascism. [A very simplistic explanation]
That part of the world has an interesting history and among the  victor's spoils Italy wanted the port of Fiume on the Adriatic. 

Fiume was given separate statehood under the League of Nations and Gabriele D'Annunzio, an ultra nationalist poet, and a band of war veterans seized it and set up the 'Italian Regency of the Quarnero'. He was chased away and eventually Fiume was annexed by Mussolini's regime, the world's first fascist dictatorship, in 1924. 
Today Fiume, now named Rijeka, formerly part of Yugoslavia after the second World War, is in the successor state of Croatia, with another new country Slovenia intervening between it and Italy.

Those who took part in the war on the Italian front as soldiers or medical staff or visited this front to write about it included the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudyard Kipling, H.G.Wells, Enzo Ferrari, John Dos Passos, and Ernest Hemingway, author of A Farewell to Arms.

I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain........I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory.

Two participants in this conflict who took a much more prominent part in the Second World War,  were Erwin Rommel and Benito Mussolini.  While a stretcher bearer and chaplain in the Italian Army named Angelo Roncalli become quite well known many years later. 

'The White War seems to capture the soul of a nation: explaining the nationalist dreams that drove Italy to war; and narrating the terrible consequences and costs of that decision. It's a book which is central to any understanding of Italy's twentieth century.' 
Tobias Jones, author of The Dark Heart of Italy 

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

THE AMERICAN DETECTIVE NOVEL: ROSS MACDONALD


Ross MacDonald's real name was Kenneth Millar. He was born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Ontario, Millar returned to the US as a young man and published his first novel in 1944. He won the Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger in 1965 for The Far Side of The Dollar, and was awarded a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1974. 
His detective Lew Archer [changed to Lew Harper] was played by the late Paul Newman in the films The Moving Target and The Drowning Pool.

In The Way Some People Die published in 1951 Lew Archer is asked by Mrs Samuel Lawrence to find her missing daughter, Galatea. She was last seen with a small time hoodlum, Joe Tarantine. Galley has the dangerous good looks that men die for and Archer finds himself driving from Palm Springs to San Francisco as he tries to find Tarantine and a large quantity of heroin. There are some difficult times along the way as Archer finds bodies piling up and runs into big time gangsters, alcoholic actors,hustlers,  heroin pushers and teenage prostitutes before he solves the case. 

'Dowser's a solid citizen. He's got a swimming pool and a private bar to prove it. He entertains politicians in his charming ranch-type home on an exclusive hilltop. He even supports a butler and a blonde.'

It had been a very long time since I read any Ross MacDonald and found the first person narrative and the very detailed descriptions of rooms and locations  a bit difficult to get used to at first. But the wise cracking dialogue and prose soon had me hooked.

'He would go on turning a dollar in one way or another until he ended up in Folsom or a mortuary or a house with a swimming pool on top of a hill.'

'I want to go back to Toledo, where people are nice. I always wanted to live in California, but now that I've seen it , it's a hellish place.'

This is a very good example of the tough guy private eye novel and while it is dated in its attitude to African- Americans and women still well worth the read as it gives an interesting portrait of 1950s California. 

ELECTION DAY USA



1968 was the year when Reverend Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It was also the year of the My Lai Massacre and the black power salute by Tommy Smith and John Carlos given at the Mexico Olympics. 
Richard Nixon won the election that year and a British politician called Enoch Powell made a speech about Rivers of Blood. 
It was a terrible turbulent  time with the Vietnam War, the crushing of the Prague Spring, and Governor George Wallace of Alabama winning nearly 10 million votes on a pro-segregation platform.

Now 40 years on Senator Barack Obama will be elected President of the USA later today, which shows how much things have changed for the better. 
Whether he will be able to deal with the huge problems he will face after inauguration in January is another matter. I listened last night on the BBC to Harvey Gantt, former Mayor of Charlotte, and first African American to be admitted to Clemson University mention his inexperience with less than three years in the Senate before he began his campaign for the nomination.

Has the electorate been seduced out of thought by charisma? 

President- Elect Obama certainly starts with a fund of  enormous good will from the rest of the world, especially here in the UK. We can only wish him good luck because we need a strong America to get us out of the mess we are in. 

The 1912 election was also one that changed the country and I suspect the four contenders carried both literally and possibly intellectually a bit more weight than the present contenders. But only Teddy Roosevelt was a great moose hunter.

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.  George H.W. Bush [the senior] Inaugural Address 1989

War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed. 
William McKinley: Inaugural Address 1897

The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.
Harry Trueman: Address to Congress 1945 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

EURO CRIME REVIEW: DEAD LINE BY STELLA RIMINGTON: AND CUTTING EDGE COMEDY


My review of Stella Rimington's Dead Line is up on Euro Crime here. Dead Line is the fourth in the series featuring MI5 agent Liz Carlyle and as Stella Rimington was Director- General of the Security Service that alone makes it a worth while read.

There are also excellent and enticing reviews from Maxine of Petrona here and Terry Halligan here of Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis, which sits on my mountainous to be read pile. It sounds like a must read.

On a less pleasant subject I watched 15 minutes of the British 'comedy' Little Britain USA the other night. Frankly I thought it was absolutely disgusting  and did not see what was funny about a supposedly disabled person climbing into a lion's den, having their arm bitten off, blood spurting out of the stump and asking for a plaster. But then I don't appreciate cutting edge, or lavatorial humour, and find it very sad that British television that produced such great comedy as The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles,  Dad's Army, Only Fools and Horses, The Vicar of Dibley, Open All Hours, Porridge, and Rising Damp has been reduced to Little Britain. 

Saturday, November 01, 2008

LIZA MARKLUND COVERS



The use of stock photographs for paperback book covers is one way for publishers to save money, but the cover of Paradise by Liza Marklund does appear to be a photograph of Walker Street in New York City. 
If  no one could find a photograph of snow in Stockholm, or even somewhere in Scandinavia, then perhaps an image of the author would be appropriate?