Friday, June 12, 2009

THE FIRST ADAMSBERG: FRED VARGAS



In order to give my opinion and vote in the two Euro Crime polls here I am now reading The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas, the only non Nordic nomination for the International Dagger this year. 
After that I will move on to read Shadow by Karin Alvtegen.

I have gone from Bill James to Fred Vargas which is a short journey from the quirkily unique to the uniquely quirky. 

The Chalk Circle is the first Adamsberg novel and was published in French in 1996. It is good to know that Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg was a weird in the first book as he is in the more recent offerings. 
Both with her plots and her characters Fred Vargas gives the reader the different, the bizarre, the strange, the grotesque, the unconventional and the quirky. Perhaps one reason they seem so different from Nordic or Anglo-Saxon characters is they have a very French view of civilization.

The difference between this situation and Adamsberg's early days in the Pyrenees was that nowadays his reputation made things a bit easier. However that didn't alter the fact that he was an outsider. The day before, he had overheard the oldest Parisian in the team saying in a low voice:

"Ah well, he's from the Pyrenees-pretty much the edge of the known world." 

6 Comments:

OpenID maxine said...

Ah well, living in zone 6 as I do, I know what he means! I mean, you can't even use an Oystercard out there, and I hear they are considering bringing in Yurts on the Fairfield.

I like your phrase "quirkily unique to the uniquely quirky", Norman. Patent it! (Though I don't know how you worked out which way round to put your nouns and adjectives, not having read either book:-) )

8:20 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine, I was indeed rather proud of that phrase.:o)

On my last visit to South East London I was the only one on the bus not using an Oyster card and there was a fight on the bus which spilled on to the pavement between two very elderly women aged about 80!
Zone 6 is definitely more up-market. ;o)

8:51 AM  
OpenID maxine said...

Ah, I know those fights well! As I am due my 80th birthday next week, I am looking forward to my debut.

(I remember my girlhood confusion at that Len Deighton novel that starts out "It was my 100th birthday...." I was confused all the way through about how Harry (was that his name) could do all those things at 100.)

Zone 6 is up or down market depending on whether one is NW, NE, SW or SE. I don't fully get these nuances of London life but I gather they are deeply significant along with whether one has a 207 or 208 area code. Of course, all of us in zone 6 whether up or downmarket have 208 area codes which makes us beyond the pale with the urban sophisticates.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

I too like that phrase, Norman. This continuing to be my annus horribilis, I was not entirely with it when I requested the Vargas from the library and thought it was her latest, not the first. The realization that it was the first rather added to my enjoyment -- Vargas is one of my desert island crime writers -- for I thought it had something of the nature of a prototype, so that I could see in it the seeds that would grow and blossom in the books to come. When I re-read the first Reginald Hill, another desert islander, I have that same pleasure. And there are others, of course. But contra, I am always rather in awe of writers such as Carol 0'Connell, whose first novel, the first in her 'first water' Mallory series, comes like an adult from a womb, wonderful characters full-bown from the start, and all the other necessary parts -- plot, sense of place and so on -- firmly in place too. O'Connell (very toothsome, Norman, I might just add) was a struggling artist turning 40 when she decided to give it a try. Astonishing to me. And she got it published first by Hutchinson in the UK -- which promtly auctioned off the US rights -- without an agent, and these days that may be even more astonishing. If she's new to you, Norman, Mallory's Oracle is that first. Well worth a look.

10:10 PM  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

Thanks to Karen at Eurocrime I have a copy of O'Connell's latest, a standalone coming up.
Agree with you on the Mallories, Philip. The only one I didn't like too much was the one with the magician.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Philip and CFR I shall look out for Carol O'Connell and her books. The two fellow bloggers who have inspected the size of my "study" will understand if I say I can hardly turn round for books.

12:58 PM  

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