Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Dorte at DJS Krimiblog has organized a 2011 Global Reading Challenge following the great success of her 2010 challenge.
I managed the Medium challenge this year, and you can read my 2010 roundup post here, including links to the reviews.

In 2011 I will attempt to reduce my TBR pile by using some of those books in the Medium challenge [two books each from the six continents, twelve different countries, and also two from that seventh continent in my case, History].
My preliminary reading plans, subject to change, for this challenge are:

Devil's Peak: Deon Meyer [South Africa]

Villain: Shuichi Yoshida [Japan]
Disco for the Departed: Colin Cotterill [Laos]

Gunshot Road: Adrian Hyland [Australia]

Prime Time: Liza Marklund [Sweden]
River of Shadows: Valerio Varesi [Italy]

North America:
Havana Fever: Leonardo Padura [Cuba]*
The Song Is You: Megan Abbott [USA]

South America:
The Feast of the Goat: Mario Vargas Llosa [Dominican Republic]*
The next book by Ernesto Mallo [Argentina] ??????

Phantoms of Breslau: Marek Krajewski [Germany 1919]
A Little White Death: John Lawton [England 1963]

* I am allowing myself a certain latitude in placing books from Central America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
[Images show the new logo for 2011, and my 2010 challenge books.]

Monday, November 29, 2010


Whatever is happening in other parts of the UK here the brisk cold is relieved by beautiful clear skies and bright sunshine. Long may it continue.

I have finished reading Lumen by Ben Pastor, and shortly will be writing a review for Euro Crime.

The kind Mrs Crime Scraps bought me a Kindle. The fact I can enlarge the font on this device will make it a vital reading aid as there are several books that I have been unable to read recently because of the small fonts. I might even delve into those classics that I never read at school because I was on the science side! Font enlargement and the fact you can carry a whole library around with you are the big advantages. The ease with which you can buy books could be a financial disadvantage.

But there are so many books on my TBR shelf it will have to be print for a while longer, and I am now reading Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto and Marco Videta. The title is of course almost certainly a tribute to Red Harvest by Dashiell

My reviews of Massimo Carlotto's novels; The Colombian Mule, The Master of Knots, Death's Dark Abyss, The Fugitive.
Also a short post about Massimo Carlotto.

Later this week I will be posting a Winter Quiz with prizes!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Update: This blog is now dormant and has been moved to Crime Scraps Review, where you can read all the old posts and more new material.

One of the perks of retirement is the ability to go to the cinema on a winter's afternoon, when most people are working, while paying the concessionary ticket price.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest was being screened at our newly refurbished local cinema, and the weather outside was very cold and bleak, so off I went.
The virtually empty cinema had blissfully luxurious seats, superb sound [they show live performances by satellite from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York] and a wonderfully wide screen.

Did I enjoy the film? Yes, but then I am addicted to Swedish crime fiction.
This was a film adaptation of a complex book that was going to prove very difficult to translate to the screen.
In September Maxine at Petrona succinctly defined the three Stieg Larsson books very different themes; the first Tattoo, a locked room mystery, the second Fire, a fugitive drama, and Hornets' Nest, a political spy thriller in the Le Carre mould.
At the time I wondered if Hornets' Nest would have been better arranged as a six part TV serial similar to Le Carre's spy thrillers featuring his famous spy master, George Smiley.
The book Hornets' Nest has four interwoven plot lines, and the film was an example of the limitations of a two hour movie in comparison with the depth possible in a novel. That said the film was entertaining, and with the court room scenes fully replicating the tension created in the book. Perhaps I would have left more of the book's Monica Figuerola in the film, but something has to be cut from a 500 page book, and we lost Milton Security's Susanne Linder and Police Inspector Bubanski entirely.

There were some outstanding performances, once again Noomi Rapace is the perfect Lisbeth Salander [why on earth is Hollywood trying to remake the Millenium trilogy without her], and Anders Ahlbom was the epitome of evil as the psychiatrist, Peter Teleborian.

My verdict, a worthy effort at bringing a complex book to the screen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


On a lighter note Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise suggests giving books for Christmas and I entirely agree. There is nothing quite like the excitement of unwrapping a parcel of books.
I have read some outstanding crime fiction this year, but I would suggest Truth by Peter Temple as a book likely to take the minds of Australians off the events of the next couple of months.
Peter Temple is a South African who moved to Australia on 1980, and interestingly a very high proportion of the England cricket team, who will retain the Ashes this winter, are also South Africans. ;o)


At the moment I am reading Lumen by Ben Pastor, and the review will appear on Karen's wonderful Euro Crime website around the publication date of 20 January 2011.
I am about half way through the book, and unless the plot falls off a cliff my review will be very positive.
The book is set in Cracow in 1939.

The map shows the division of Poland following the " second Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" of 28 September 1939, and is signed by Ribbentrop and Stalin.

In the next few weeks I will be reading another book set in Nazi Occupied Poland, The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler, and the third book in the eccentric Eberhard Mock series by Polish author Marek Krajewski; this one Phantoms of Breslau.
I will definitely have to read some lighter books in between these gloomy novels, but at least reading books set in Cracow 1939, Warsaw Ghetto 1940 and the former German city of Breslau in 1919, make one realise that present day conditions could be a lot worse.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Continuing my Swedish theme a hat tip to Bokmania for the news that the prize for Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2010 was won by:

Den doende detektiven [The Dying Detective] by Leif G.W. Persson

This was the veteran Prof. Persson's ninth crime novel, and he has won this prize twice before, in 1982 with Samhallsbararna, and more recently in 2003 with En annan tid, ett ahat liv [Another time, another life].

I reviewed Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End [which I believe is the prequel to Another time, anther life] here and here.
I am hoping that when, and if, The Dying Detective reaches us in English it is a less repetitive and verbose tome than Between Summer's Longing.

The Martin Beck prize for the Best Crime Novel translated into Swedish went to Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer. I haven't read this book , but really enjoyed two of his other novels, Thirteen Hours and Blood Safari.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Viktor Palmgren, a powerful businessman is dining at the Elite Hotel Savoy in Malmo with the managers of his varied companies. At the end of the meal as he begins to make a speech a man walks up to him, and shoots him in the head, sticks the weapon in his pocket, swings himself through an open window and steps down onto the pavement and then disappears.
The main suspect is not arrested at Stockholm's Arlanda airport because the task of arresting him was given to that comedically lazy and incompetent pair of Keystone Kops, Karl Kristiansson and Kurt Kvant.
Martin Beck is therefore sent from Stockholm to Malmo, to join Per Mansson in conducting an investigation. The dinner guests are all interviewed, and as their lives are exposed we learn something about Swedish society.
Palmgren's business practices and his involvement with dubious overseas organizations could mean a variety of people wanted him dead. The ludicrously incompetent Swedish secret service send an agent to Malmo, and he does not have a clue how to proceed.

This police procedural has a fairly simple plot, and is fairly short, but is a classic example of Sjowall/Wahloo's superb technique.

Their message is crystal clear. Capitalism is evil because it benefits the rich and powerful while leaving ordinary people with nothing.

'Gentlemen, the world of business is tough today. With the credit market in its present state there is no room for philanthropy or sentimentalism.'

Was this really written forty years ago?
But I think the main strength of the books is the author's ability to create in a few lines characters that are so memorable. The reader is given almost the character's entire back story in one brief paragraph. Here are two examples, firstly Gunvald Larsson;

'This is my eldest brother,' said the blonde. 'Unfortunately. Gunvald's his name. He's a .........policeman. Before that he was just a thug. The last time I saw him was more than ten years ago, and even before that the times were few and far between.'

Then the young Benny Skacke:

He imagined himself coming up with the solution, tracking down and catching the murderer single -handed. He would be promoted, and after that the only direction would be up. He was close to becoming Chief of Police when a new ring on the phone interrupted his vision of the future.

Murder at the Savoy has been superbly translated by Joan Tate, and remains forty years after it was written a wonderful example of the police procedural.
The combination of social commentary and great characters is typical of this great ten book series, and makes reading each one such a supreme pleasure.

You can read two more reviews from Maxine at Eurocrime and Jose Ignacio at The Game's Afoot.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I was going to post my thoughts on completing reading Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, but earlier today Jose Ignacio already posted an excellent review of this book at The Game's Afoot.
I will therefore delay my effort a few days, and see if I can possibly come up with anything fresh to say about the wonderful Martin Beck series.

I don't know whether it is my age but I have recently found myself when browsing in bookshops, or the book sales areas of supermarkets, opening conversations with complete strangers. These people who have tentatively picked up a crime fiction book are informed as to the merits of that particular book. The trouble is I don't stop talking, and someone who was only glancing at the blurbs on the back cover of a Stieg Larsson or a Liza Marklund, will get a condensed history of Swedish crime fiction, and a long list of Scandinavian authors to read.
Luckily I am fairly harmless, and eventually Mrs Crime Scraps will come and lead me away still mumbling about Arnaldur Indridason, Jo Nesbo, and Liza Marklund. Mrs Crime Scraps and my victim will both sigh and nod kindly at my idiosyncratic behaviour; an explanation follows "He can't help it he is a blogger".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


On 10 July I posted a map of the countries that had visited Crime Scraps in the previous thirty days.
On 25 August I updated the map but the time has come for a further update as there have been even more visitors from new countries ranging from Algeria to Zambia, Greenland to Guadeloupe, and Cameroon to Costa Rica.
The maps show the situation on 10 July 2010, and on 16 November 2010.

Update: On 18 November, I had a visitor from Laos. The map will need updating sometime. :o)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TO BE READ NEXT..........

The mass media have already decided that a Royal Wedding will take our minds off the desperate state of the nation. Earlier today the media were full of the story that Mr Cameron, our Coalition Prime Minister, had given away the Sudetenland, but that has all been swept off the news by the forthcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I wish this couple all the best for their future, but their lives will be a lot easier than most other young couples getting married next year*, who will struggle financially because of the mess we are in as a nation.

It is lucky I have got a long "TBR next shelf " of books to shield me from the media blitz that will accompany everything about the Royal Wedding. After all there is a much more important wedding* happening late next year.

I hope to work my way through this selection of books over the next few months, along with any new releases from my favourites.
Four out of the sixteen books are WWII related, four out of sixteen set in Italy, four out of sixteen set in the Nordic countries, and two set in Asia; so I think it is a fair balance. But I don't promise to stick to this schedule if something good turns up and shouts "read me!"

Friday, November 12, 2010


What do you read when you are really stressed out? When you want something to bring you back to a state of equilibrium, and not slip into dark depression.
I look at the books on my "read next" TBR shelf, and see I have a personal "Nazi Occupied Poland" reading challenge coming up very soon. That should help me realise that things could be a great deal worse!

But I decided that I would read another book from the Martin Beck series. I always feel a sense of nostalgia for those heady days, twenty years ago, when I searched through Devon's many second hand bookshops for the missing books in my Sjowall/Wahloo collection.
Now we have the marvelous Harper Perennial editions with introductions and informative articles at the end of the books; and above all with font sizes that are readable by the elderly.

I like to save these books up, just as you store a vintage wine that is too good to drink, but now it was time to read another. My out of order reading of Sjowall and Wahloo's ten book series, has now reached number nine for me, actually number six in the series, Murder at the Savoy [1970]. In the introduction Michael Carlson explains the Swedish title; Polis, polis, potatismos; but he also states Sjowall and Wahloo cited Ed McBain's 87th Precinct police procedurals as an influence.
Is this correct? I am not sure they had read any Ed McBain, and in this interview Maj Sjowall only mentions the influence of Georges Simenon and Dashiell Hammett.

Is it just pure nostalgia, or are the Martin Beck books as good as I remember? I ask the same question each time I read one.
Well I have reached page 116 of Murder at the Savoy, and my answer is yes, they are wonderful reads. Despite the differences in police procedure, no computers, no DNA, no mobile phones, and an almost all male police force they have a knack of seeming very relevant to the present day. Above all they obey basic rules for good crime fiction; you must have a good plot, a cast of interesting characters, and mention food.

There was matjes herring on a bed of dill, sour cream and chives. A dish of carp roe with a wreath of diced onion, dill and lemon slices. Thin slices of smoked salmon spread out on fragile lettuce leaves. Sliced hard-boiled eggs. Smoked herring. Smoked flounder. Hungarian salami, Polish sausage. Finnish sausage and liver sausage from Skane. A large bowl of lettuce with lots of fresh shrimps.

But as well as the light humour there is a much heavier social commentary confirming that Sjowall and Wahloo believed the model social democratic society was falling apart even in 1970.

Behind its spectacular topographical facade and under its polished, semi-fashionable surface, Stockholm had become an asphalt jungle, where drug addiction and sexual perversion ran more rampant than ever..........

An impoverished proletariat was also being created, especially among the elderly. Inflation had given rise to one of the highest costs of living in the world, and the latest surveys showed that many pensioners had to live on dog and cat food in order to make ends meet.

The Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Roseanna [1965] *
The Man who Went Up In Smoke [1966] *
The Man on the Balcony [1967] *
The Laughing Policeman [1968] *
Murder at the Savoy [1970] -reading now
The Abominable Man [1971]- to be read
Cop Killer [1974]*
The Terrorists [1975]*

* Read before I began blogging.
** Reviewed on Crime Scraps
This old blurb that appeared on the cover of Roseanna says it all:
'Sjowall/Wahloo are the best writers of police procedural in the world.' Birmingham Post

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The son of Venezuela's Foreign Minister is found in his apartment in Brasilia shot in the stomach, and then battered to death. With such a high profile victim the Federal cops lead by Chief Inspector Mario Silva are immediately brought in to investigate.
Silva, along with his team, his nephew Hector Costa, the veteran Arnaldo Nunes, and Haraldo 'Babyface' Goncalves, discover there have been several murders with exactly the same MO.
They are puzzled when they find out that the victims were passengers in business class on the same TAB flight 8101 from Miami to Sao Paulo.
The English country house party mystery brought up to date? But with a very Brazilian ending.

Leighton Gage uses Silva's investigation into the lives and motives of the passengers to give us a superb portrait of some facets of life in Brazil. It may not be flattering to this fascinating country, but it gives the reader an exciting tense thriller with lots of dead ends, and red herrings, as Silva's investigators close in on the perpetrator. To lighten the mood there is plenty of light hearted humour and backchat in the dialogue between the cops, but that does not delay the rapid pace of the plot.
A police procedural would not seem authentic without an objectionable boss, and in the sycophantic Sampaio this series has one of the most toadyish around.
With all the interesting detail, and the exotically dangerous location this is becoming one of my must read series.

Leighton Gage's books, despite all the information about Brazil and the switching between different perspectives of the investigators, are very easy reading with a smooth flowing style. Therefore I was able to read the 281 ages of Every Bitter Thing in two sessions, with the only downside that I am now waiting eagerly for book number five in the series.
Thanks to the author and publishers, Soho Crime, for my ARC.

Read my reviews of the rest of the Mario Silva series:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Red Wolf by Liza Marklund was published in Sweden as Den Roda Vargen in 2003, but we have had to wait till 2010 for this translation by Neil Smith, deputy editor of Swedish Book Review.
Crime journalist Annika Bengtzon, recovering from the traumas that she faced in The Bomber, is working on the story of a terrorist attack at the F21 base at Kallax, outside Lulea, which occurred in November 1969. A Draken fighter-plane exploded, and a young conscript died after being horrifically burned.
She travels north to find that Benny Ekland, the journalist she was due to meet, had been killed in a hit and run accident. She meets a young witness , Linus Gustafsson, who tells her that the accident was in fact cold blooded murder and decides to dig deeper. She learns about Ragnwald, [ragn-divine power, vald-ruler], a member of a left wing group, who disappeared decades earlier, and became a professional killer for ETA.
Her witness, Linus, is murdered, and then there are other victims whose families receive handwritten Maoist tracts in the post.
Has Ragnwald returned and why?
Annika painstakingly pieces together this story of misguided young left wing revolutionaries, while her obnoxious boss Anders Schyman schemes to block his business rivals, and her pathetic husband Thomas is unfaithful.

Red Wolf is an excitingly detailed, not to be missed, thriller in which Liza Marklund deals with among other things, many of the problems faced today by women.
Annika Bengtzon is a heroine trying to cope with a demanding job, even more demanding children, whom she adores, a philandering husband, and close friends with similar problems.
It is part of Annika's charm that she is not perfect, and she can be devious and even hysterical at times. This makes her seem like a real person, and not some kind of fantasy figure.
Liza Marklund's language when describing Sweden's social problems is terse and concise:

This really was another country, or at least another town. Not Lulea, and not really Sweden. Annika let the car drift through the shanty town, astonished by its atmosphere.
The Estonian countryside, she thought. Polish suburbs.

Annika seemingly has very little time for those spoilt children from the social democratic rich countries, who chose to follow a violent path, however temporarily.

The ruler with divine power-not a bad alias. Did it actually mean anything, other than delusions of grandeur?
But then what was terrorism, if not that?

More than anything I enjoyed as someone who was a student during the turbulent 1960s the political wisdom and insight contained in the pages of Red Wolf, a lot of which is applicable today to a slightly different situation.

'But surely they were communists as well?'
'Oh yes ,' Berit said, wiping her chin with the napkin. 'But nothing upset the rebels more than those who almost thought like them.'

I do hope we get the remaining Annika Bengtzon books translated soon, and hope that the translation of Red Wolf was not a side effect of the Stieg Larsson phenomena, or the association with JP, but on its own merits.

In September Maxine at Petrona cleverly analyzed the elements that defined Stieg Larsson's three novels, and that could be used to liken other novelists to him.

Liza Marklund had already written five novels between 1999 and 2003 [The Bomber, Studio69, Paradise, Prime Time and Red Wolf] before the first Stieg Larsson was published, and it is interesting that many of those elements could apply to her books as well.

1] They have exciting plots with the heroine frequently in danger.
2] There is a central female character. Although Annika Bengtzon is not as "unusual" as Lisbeth Salander she is a character women can identify with, and men want to be with.
3] Annika Bengtzon is a campaigning journalist, as is Blomqvist.
4] In Larsson's world the baddies are very bad and the goodies good. In Liza's books Annika is a real person and far from perfect, while some of the baddies have perhaps made the wrong choices in life.
5] Each of the three Larsson books is different, TGWTDT [Tattoo] is a variation on the locked room mystery, TGWPWF [Fire] is a fugitive drama, and TGWKTHN [Hornets Nest] is a political spy thriller.
Marklund's books are also variations on a theme with people in an isolated manor house in Prime Time [I have not read this one], and international criminal gangs and social service swindles in Paradise.
6] There are lots of detail in both Stieg Larsson's, and Liza Marklund's books.
We get details of how Annika gets her information in Sweden's very open society, and of the machinations involved in running a newspaper.
7] There is a curiosity factor concerning the author.
Larsson because of his campaigning journalism and early death, Marklund because she is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and an attractive woman.
8] The books of both authors are set at an easy reading level, although I found Marklund's books a lot easier to read.
9] The Larsson books are now successful films, and there will be Hollywood versions! Some of Marklund's books have been filmed, and there are more in the pipeline.
10] Both authors books have won awards in other countries before their publication in English.

There are also differences between the books, and the characters in them, for instance Annika Bengtzon is married and heterosexual, while Lisabeth Salander is single and bisexual. But another element that links these books is that the male characters are bland, and usually weak, in comparison with the strong female leads.
Maxine has given us a template for deciding in future whether the blurbs "The Next Stieg Larsson" or "Reminiscent of Stieg Larsson' are a valid comparison.

Monday, November 08, 2010



I did not know there was a crime fiction award named after Jack the Ripper, but there is!
The European Crime Fiction Award to recognize outstanding achievement in the filed of crime fiction is known as the Ripper Award. Any errors in this post are due to my non-existent German and Google translator 's interesting English. But this award is connected with the Murder on the Hellweg-Tatort Ruhr Festival in North Rhine Westphalia, and is given every two years.
A distinguished jury selects a shortlist and then there is online voting to select a winner.

In 2008 it was won by Henning Mankell and the other nominees were John Harvey, Val McDermid, Hakan Nesser and Maj Sjowall. On the jury were among others Liza Marklund and Peter James.

This year the 2010 nominees are:

Arne Dahl
Minette Walters
Hakan Nesser
Gianrico Carofiglio
Arnaldur Indridason

Among the distinguished jury were Louise Welsh and Domingo Villar.
Vote for your favourite here.
[Photograph of two time nominee Hakan Nesser [centre] with Cara Black and Leighton Gage.]

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Someone at Quercus must have noticed the blandness of Esther Verhoef 's UK book covers.

The cover of the new Quercus UK paperback edition of Rendevous [April 2011] is much more in line with the Dutch publications.


I mentioned earlier that I thought the Swedish cover of Den Roden Vargen was far superior to the UK cover with a JP blurb that was more likely to put off some readers. Liza Marklund has not been given the publicity in the UK the quality of her books deserve. Paradise was published in paperback here for some reason with a cover depicting a snowy New York street scene.
Could they not find a photo of Stockholm with snow?
I then had a look at the books of the Dutch crime writer Esther Verhoef, and found the UK covers were very different from those published in the Netherlands.
Do publishers believe that British women, who of course make up the vast majority of crime fiction readers, won't buy a book with a woman portrayed on the cover?

Friday, November 05, 2010


Last year when the CWA Ellis Peters shortlist was announced on 2 October I had already read two of the six books. I was comfortably able to read, review, and ruminate on the merits of the books, and even pick the eventual winner, Philip Kerr's If The Dead Rise Not.

This year I enquired in early September when the shortlist was going to be announced in order to get hold of the books. But the announcement was not made until the 14 October, which meant that as I had only read one of the six books I would have to obtain, read and review five books, some of them very thick, in just over two weeks.
Perhaps it was having my influenza jab a couple of days after the announcement, but I did not feel up to this challenge.
But I am planning to read the winner Revenger by Rory Clements, and possibly the runner up Heartstone by C.J.Sansom.

The other shortlisted books were:
To Kill a Tsar- Andrew Williams
Heresy- S.J.Parris
The Anatomy of Ghosts- Andrew Taylor

Interestingly the judges mentioned several other books that almost made the short list including two which I had reviewed and I felt were certainties.

They also mentioned Let The Dead Lie by Malla Nunn, a book I have not read yet, but has received fairly positive reviews by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, and Maxine at Petrona.

If the organizers want to raise the Ellis Peters award's profile they need to take a different approach in future.
The ideal time for an announcement of the shortlist would be 4-6 weeks before the award. This would allow time for those of us who enjoy our historical crime fiction to read, and discuss the books.
They might also consider providing ARCs of the shortlist to stimulate debate and probable future sales of the books.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


She needed to read more about ETA, but she knew they were among the least approachable terrorist groups in the world, killers for the sake of killing. As self appointed representatives for a homeland that never existed they demanded compensation for injustices that had never been committed.
Den Roda Vargen-Liza Marklund [2003] Red Wolf [2010]

I am really enjoying reading Red Wolf by Liza Marklund, and love the realistic way she brings in the personal life of her protagonist.
Journalist Annika Bengtzon has worked out that there is a probable serial killer on the prowl who sends their victim's families quotations from Mao.

Why did so many middle class and wealthy students from rich Northern European and North American countries follow the cult of a ruthless murderer like Mao Zedong?
Tragically his ideas inspired Cambodia's Khmer Rouge to commit their terrible crimes, and I suspect that many politicians in power today were followers of Mao in their youth. If you are going to commit mass murder, or become a terrorist group, you are probably advised to get yourself a good public relations agency, and manufacture a lot of T-shirts.

Crime fiction is a wonderful way of getting over facts, and strong opinions, that otherwise might be unpopular if stated in another form, and Liza Marklund does this with subtlety and skill.

'You're a good boy,' she whispered to him. 'You don't know how horrid people can sometimes be. But there are horrid people, and you can't cure them with love.'

I do like this Swedish cover of Red Wolf [Den Roda Vargen] much better than the British edition with the JP blurb, but I don't think we British are allowed to have women portrayed on book covers. More about this in a future post......

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I entitled this post, The Postman Always Rings Twice*, but he actually managed to squeeze these beauties through our letterbox at the end of last week, without ringing the bell.
I suspect these Italian crime books will prove that you don't have to be a 500 page blockbuster to contain oodles of plot, character, and atmosphere.

* The 1934 novel by James M Cain that has been filmed several times, but the definitive version was the 1946 movie with Lana Turner and John Garfield.

John Garfield died tragically young at 39, when a heart condition was exacerbated by 'blacklisting' during Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist witch-hunts of the 1940s and early 1950s.
The eight times married Lana Turner, also suffered personal trauma when her daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed her lover Johnny Stompanato to death in 1958. A corner's inquest found that it was justifiable homicide.

Sometimes actor's real lives are more intriguing than the fictional characters they play in movies.
This can apply to authors as well, because Massimo Carlotto was accused of murder and was on the run from the police for several years, before being pardoned.

Monday, November 01, 2010


I did enjoy reading, Water-Blue Eyes, the first in Domingo Villar's Inspector Leo Caldas series. This short novel had such a sense of place, that it reminded me of a lovely holiday we had in Northern Spain. My search for the photos of that holiday was finally rewarded, when I discovered that I had saved them on to a disk.
In Galicia we had got into the habit of having a glass, or two, of wine with our lunch and sharing a bottle with fellow tourists at dinner. The cost was about 30 cents a glass, and without thinking I ordered a glass of wine with my meal when we returned on a late flight, and stayed at an airport hotel. £4.50!

According to an old Galician proverb, 'If it has a chapel, a dovecot and a cypress, it really is an ancestral home.' Caldas didn't know whether or not Zuriaga's place housed either of the first two, but it had plenty of nobility.