Sunday, October 05, 2008


Thanks to crimeficreader who drew my attention to the very strong shortlist of contenders for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award 2008.

I have only read two of the six shortlisted  books but the others must be very good to have eliminated from contention A Vengeful Longing by Roger Morris which I reviewed here.
The shortlisted authors includes three past winners of the Ellis Peters:
Andrew Taylor, a previous winner on two occasions, nominated for Bleeding Heart Square.
C.J.Sansom, nominated for Revelation, and last year's winner, Ariana Franklin for The Death Maze [The Serpent's Tale in the USA] which I reviewed here

The other books are Stratton's War by Laura Wilson, Death on a Branch Line by Andrew Martin, and A Quiet Flame the fifth book in the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. You can read my review of that book here. That review did produce a very pleasing positive reaction from Maxine of Petrona, and the book was also very highly praised by Mike Ripley

What interested me particularly was that three of the shortlist, A Quiet Flame, Bleeding Heart Square and Stratton's War concern the period 1930-1950 and the rise and fall of fascism. 
My own recent review of Philip Kerr's March Violets was mentioned on author Michael Walter's blog because it 'not only tells you everything you need to know about the book but links it pertinently to the current Austrian elections.' Unfortunately the predictions concerning those elections were accurate and the extreme right BZO [Alliance for Austria's Future] and FPO [Austrian Freedom Party] made big gains. 
Michael Walters is the creator of the Inspector Nergui mysteries set in Mongolia.

In the last few days it has been brought to public attention that some bizarre initiation ceremonies have taken place during freshers week at the University of Gloucester. These involved new students with plastic bags over their heads being marched around and shouted at by a pathetic bully wearing a Nazi uniform and swastika armband. [see photo]

What a failure of our educational system that some fools think this is an amusing way to behave. 
That is why I am pleased that historical crime fiction is addressing real problems that affect us today as we enter a period of economic depression. 

Particularly for the German occupiers stationed in the conquered lands of eastern Europe-literally tens of thousands of men from all walks of life- the mass-murder policies of the regime were not aberrational or exceptional events that scarcely ruffled the surface of everyday life.

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland: 
Christopher R. Browning, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Those who cannot remember the  past are condemned to repeat it: George Santayana


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the matter of 1940/50 and the rise of fascism,there's a series that may appeal to crime fiction fans and yet escape their attention:The Small Change Trilogy by Jo Walton.
They are three alternate history novels,and therefore marketed as Sf
(but isn't any historical fiction,by virtue of being fiction,alternate history?)on an England who allied itself with Hitler.
The first one,Farthing,is in the manner of the classic English country house mystery; the second,Ha'penny,is a thriller in the Le Carré style; the third I haven't read yet but here's a review snippet from The Rap Sheet:
I used to think that Len Deighton’s SS-GB (1978) was the best thing ever written (or filmed) about a Nazi-occupied England. But now I’m not so sure, as Welsh novelist Jo Walton brings her amazing “Small Change” trilogy (Farthing, Ha’penny) to a smashing finish with Half a Crown. This latest book sends Peter Carmichael, the former Scotland Yard detective who hides an important, life-threatening personal fact about himself, and who now heads a secret police group known as the Watch, to a peace conference in London headed by Adolf Hitler--in 1960.

And I don't believe you on Dante Alighieri.


4:54 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Marco that does sound like an interesting series especially with the stylistic differences.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Ordinary Men is indeed a superb history book, and it's nice to see it quoted here.

The (only) saving grace of the Austrian election is that the two far right party leaders dislike each other so much that they refuse to go into government together, and thus will remain as a nasty opposition force for the moment. One wonders if the EU will consider sanctions again - they've done so over Haider in the past, though from memory that was when he actually made it into a ruling coalition.

Regarding Kerr et al, from a professional point of view, what irritates me a bit about the historical crime fiction boom is that a lot of these issues (particularly relating to the German past) have been covered in a lot of depth already - it's just that the debates haven't always made it into English.

I suppose it's good that new fiction can bring serious ideas to a wider audience in a digestible form (the Martin Beck novels discuss the welfare state rather better than a lot of policy papers!), but there's a limit to how much rehashing I can take. (Particularly rehashing set in Berlin. Vienna is vastly underutilised, Third Man aside, and pace the election results discussed already, the site of a great deal more historical myopica. Maybe that can be my post-PhD project...)

4:15 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Lauren, I can take a lot of rehashing when it is so important to get the message across. Most young people are not going to read Christopher Browning or Richard J Evans even in the approachable form of a paperback like Ordinary Men. They might read Kerr, or John Lawton or Marek Krajewski.

As far as the election results and the apparent hatred between Haider and Strache did not Hitler and Stalin hate each other before the 1939 pact.
Fascism is a subject that in various guises seems to be dominating crime fiction e.g Nesbo, KO Dahl, Stieg Larsson and the others I previously mentioned.
It will be interesting to see if this continues as we enter uncharted economic territory.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've fond a very nice review of the Small Change Trilogy
(Not that I'm trying to lure you into it)


9:33 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I am almost lured in Marco, perhaps when I have cleared the backlog. Thanks.

11:20 AM  

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