Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I am still wondering if the decision by Mystery Ink to abandon the award for European Crime Fiction was caused by a subconcious fear that American crime fiction is no longer in such a pre-eminent position.

Thanks to web sites such as Euro Crime, Detectives Beyond Borders , Crime Always Pays, Petrona, It's a Crime [or a mystery...] and the exposure recently given to Scandinavian crime fiction by the Mystery Readers Journal American readers are realising the sheer volume and excellent quality of crime fiction produced by writers from outside North America.

The recent Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominees in the crime fiction category were Norwegian, German, Swedish, Irish and Irish born in Vermont which has probably sent a chill down the spine of American authors.
Benjamin Black, CHRISTINE FALLS (Henry Holt)
Ake Edwardson, FROZEN TRACKS (Viking)
Karin Fossum (Translated by Charlotte Barslund) THE INDIAN BRIDE (Harcourt)
Tana French, IN THE WOODS (Viking)
Jan Costin Wagner (Translated by John Brownjohn) ICE MOON (Harcourt)

WOW! What a list! Four Scandanavian crime writers and an Irish literary, mainstream fiction writer disguised as a mystery writer.

Where are the excellent American writers? Is this the equivalent of what happened in the U.K. with the CWA Awards a couple of years ago?

I put the inaccurate author designation down to American parochialism and isolationist tendencies. A few years ago somewhere in Eastern Tennessee I asked for airmail stamps to send postcards to the UK, and afterwards realised that the guy behind the counter assumed I was sending postcards to the University of Kentucky.

Tana French may be published by Viking but her intriguing first novel is set in Ireland and she was born in Vermont. Jan Costin Wagner is German but his wife is from Finland and his novels are set in Finland so I suppose he can be classified as Scandinavian.

When the CWA seperated translated fiction from that written in English we ended up with a South African born Australian Peter Temple deservedly winning the big prize with The Broken Shore.

So the Americans have not only got to worry about Europeans but some superb Australian crime fiction as well. We obviously need more niche awards and the ability to keep our eye on the ball and find out who has won each year's Ned Kelly, Martin Beck, Nordic Glass Key, Glauser and other European prizes.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I posted a very (probably too) long comment to this post, but it has been eaten by Blogger -- very sorry. I am afraid I lack the heart and the memory to reconstruct it properly now. But I enjoyed the post and basically I was saying that my favourite US writers tend to be more thriller and my favourite European more "thinking" solutions, without even an exciting climax (eg Karin Fossum in your list)-- not necessary, as they are absorbing enough in their own right.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I have never been quite sure of the difference between a mystery and a thriller. But I think David Montgomery defines a mystery as a story solving a crime and a thriller as a story preventing a future crime, or something like that.
I can see defects with those definitions, and can't see why there is a Gumshoe award for best thriller if he does not like niche awards?
Part of the fun of blogging is to find fault with those who powerful and influential.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting question, Norm. I suppose I see a thriller as more of an adventure, and a crime/mystery as more of a puzzle/whodunnit. But who am I to say?

1:48 PM  

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