Friday, September 28, 2012

Dana King and I

Dana King has long been a friend of Detectives Beyond Borders, a loyal reader and occasional commenter I've known since he was still in short pants at his first Bouchercon in 2008. Back in 2009, he even interviewed me on his blog, One Bite at a Time.

These days he's a two-time novelist, and I'm happy to report that his Wild Bill is the most fun I've had with a mob story since I last read Charlie Stella.  The link is apt; Stella has nice things to say about King's work, and King thanks Stella in the acknowledgments to his other book, Worst Enemies.

If you like Stella's writing, as I do, you'll likely like King's. Each writes books that follow parallel groups of characters, mob and police/FBI. Each uses multiple viewpoints, creating sympathy for characters good and bad. King's fiction is slightly more violent than Stella's; Stella's offers slightly more humor. But really, each is great fun, and I can picture the two writers as older and younger brothers, each slapping the other in the head as he tries to negotiate a forkful of steaming pasta.

Here's a brief example from Wild Bill, beguiling in its straightforward simplicity:
"You can't call someone who might put an ice pick in your ear a friend."
Can't argue with that. Now, goodnight. I have some reading to do.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The wide world of hate

Michael Stanley's novel Death of the Mantis has as one narrative current suspicion of and condescension by a group of relative newcomers to southern Africa toward the aboriginal population. The newcomers are black, the indigenous people the Bushmen, who populated the area many thousands of years before the Bantu peoples arrived.

Some years before, I'd noted with interest the suspicion and occasional derision Swedish police officers directed toward an ethnic Finnish colleague in one of Helene Tursten's books. Finns, in turn, are less than generous and fair toward their own country's Sami indigenous population in another crime novel whose title escapes me at the moment.

Finally, I recently met a Canadian who had had extensive professional dealings in China and with its population. "Don't ask the Chinese what they think of black people," he said, shaking his head ruefully.

We in America, where "people of color" is a blanket term, tend to think of racism as, by definition, directed by white people of European descent toward peoples with complexions different from theirs, generally darker. I find it a bracing reminder of the complexity and diversity of humanity to be reminded that ethnic suspicion and resentment are more widespread than that. Knowledge is good.

What about you, generous and inquiring readers? What surprising examples of ethnic suspicion and prejudice have you found in your fiction reading?
Stanley Trollip, who is along with Michael Sears the writing team of Michael Stanley, will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Didier Daeninckx Day at Detectives Beyond Borders

Didier Daeninckx may have the only last name in crime fiction harder to spell than Duane Swierczynski's. I'd long wanted to read him, but little, if any of his cutting, politically charged crime writing was available in English, and I was not confident enough to try reading a novel in French.

This week, in the space of two days, I found his story "Les Négatifs de la Canebière," which I'm reading with the help of a dictionary, and the good folks at Melville House sent along Murder in Memoriam, a translation of Daeninckx's 1984 novel Meurtres pour memoire.

The book is a fictionalized examination of the Paris massacre of Oct. 17, 1961 that takes in the history of Drancy, the French town from where Jews were transported to Auschwitz. According to a publisher's blurb,  the novel "confronts two of the darkest chapters in French history — its(sic) colonial racism and its complicity in genocide."

And that, in turn, leads me to suspect affinities with the work of Dominque Manotti, Jean-Patrick Manchette. and perhaps Leonardo Sciascia as well.
"Les Négatifs de la Canebière" is available as part of a series called Les petits polars du Monde ("Little crime stories of the world"). Among the titles in the series is one by Sylvie Granotier, one of whose novels is now available in English as The Paris Lawyer from Le French Book, a new English-language imprint dedicated to making French writing available in English.

I wish they'd chosen a different name for their imprint, but it's hell of an idea. Like Hersilia Press, the imprint is a welcome source for English-language readers. Godspeed to these two exciting publishing ventures.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Cara Black dans le Métro

Cara Black's 12th novel, Murder at the Lanterne Rouge, brings her protagonist, Aimée Leduc, back to Paris' Marais district. This is a slight departure for Black, whose previous books were each set in and named for a different part of the city, from Murder in the Marais and Murder in Belleville through Murder in Passy.

The novel's early chapters include brief but evocative scenes in the tunnels of Paris' metro, which makes this as good a time as any to dig up an old blog post, not mine but Cara's. Her post of April 11, 2011 at the Murder is Everywhere blog begins thus:
"With metro tunnels, sewers, old quarries and catacombs crisscrossing under its streets, Paris is a city of layers,"
and it's just one of several she has put up about subterranean Paris. I suspect that some of the notes she took to write those posts found their way into Murder at the Lanterne Rouge, and I get a kick of reading the raw material of the research side by side with the finished product.
Cara Black will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.
©Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

What's the best weather for crime stories?

Iceland's Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has bemoaned the difficulty of setting crime fiction in a country that has almost no crime. The sometimes forbidding Nordic climes offer an offsetting advantage, however: Isolated Arctic outposts and sudden snowstorms make it easy to plausibly strand characters, kill them off, and gather suspects in one place.

Yrsa does this in The Day is Dark, her most recent novel in English translation, and Norway's Anne Holt does something similar in her novel 1222. What other Nordic crime novels take advantage of their settings in this way? How about crime stories from outside the Nordic lands? What crime novels take special advantage of their settings?

(I once spent a week in the Dominican Republic, my bliss marred only by the fear that a coconut would fall on my head as I relaxed under a palm tree. Stage that to look like an accident, and you've got the sort of crime story I have in mind.)

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Detectives Beyond Borders is six years old

"The seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of thy people may eat; and what they leave the beast of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard."
— Exodus, 23:11
Get the beast of the field ready; Detectives Beyond Borders begins its seventh year today. Here are the posts from Sept. 21, 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; and 2006.

Keep on reading!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012


Thursday, September 20, 2012

My second go-round with China Miéville

I tried and quickly abandoned China Miéville's The City and the City some time ago, but the only thing I don't like so far about the same author's Perdido Street Station is the back-cover blurb from a reviewer who says the novel "rocked my world."

"Rock my world" is just this generation's version of "blow my mind," no stupider than its predecessor. But slang in formal writing often seems forced, as if the writer is trying to prove him or herself (or the stodgy publication for which he or she writes) hip.  I gnash my teeth when middle-aged newspaper movie and music writers refer to "reboots" rather than remakes or cover versions. And  I wrote off the New Yorker years ago when a think piece about a movie star (Julia Roberts, I think), told me: "It pisses [Roberts] off that..."

So much for the blurb; back to the novel. While The City and the City seemed to be trying too hard to prove its point in its opening chapters, Perdido Street Station combines deliberately over-the-top post-apocalyptic imagery and language (Dig the cheesy similes!) with homely good humor in a mix I find highly attractive. Or maybe it's just the book's old-fashioned virtue of creating deeply sympathetic protagonists, even though some of them are not exactly people.
P.S. After reading a few more chapters, I realize that, as entertaining as Perdido Street Station is, Miéville also offers thought-provoking views of what makes up a city. Think of Miéville's city, New Crobuzon, as an organic being whose dead parts don't necessarily get sloughed off.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting closer to Schwartz's

(A Montreal landmark still worth visiting
though it's now owned, in part, by
Celine Dion's husband.)
When I was growing up, Schwartz's seemed miles away physically and sociologically, and its famous smoked meat was a bit spicy for my taste. Ours was more a Chalet Bar-B-Q family.

But as I've explored my native Montreal by bicycle on recent trips, I've been amazed at how close Boulevard St. Laurent (you'll know the street if you've read Mordecai Richler) is to downtown.  And I've grown to love smoked meat, medium.

Boulevard St. Laurent, home of Schwartz's, is often referred to locally as "The Main," and one sign of its importance to Montreal culture is that, even though public signs are by law supposed to be French-only here, banners and billboards tout "Le Main."  In addition to the smoked meat, it was a pleasure to talk about Philadelphia with the countermen and to say things like "Your brother is ... ? Well I know somebody who ... Why don't you give me a card?" I felt less like an interloper and more like I'd been sitting at the counter making deals for fifty years.

And it was nice to hear that amiable verbal swagger of Anglophone Montrealers speaking and conducting business in French, proud, I imagine, that they can function in multiple languages, when so many people I run into seem questionably able to function in one.

Today, back to Philly.
As much as I like trains, at unpredictable intervals this trip back from Montreal was a good advertisement for the relaxed comfort of modern air travel. America needs to catch up with twentieth-century Europe and give passenger rail sufficient track to avoid congestion and enough track that it owns, so it does not have to surrender right of way to freight and other trains. And why did the WiFi connection work in the café car but not from my seat?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What have you learned from crime novels ?

I've learned more from Jeffrey Siger's Prey on Patmos (also published as An Aegean Prophecy) than I have from any other crime novel that comes to mind.

The subject is the politics of succession to the Orthodox patriarchate of Constantinople, (or, if you prefer, Η Αυτού Θειοτάτη Παναγιότης, ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Νέας Ρώμης και Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης), and Siger makes of it a credible and novel thriller plot: The Greeks want the patriarchate, the Russians want it, a priest winds up dead, computer files go missing ...

I learned, for one thing, that Turkish law requires that the patriarch of Constantinople be a citizen of Turkey. For various reasons, according to Siger, including the availability of the necessary education in Turkey, this becomes problematic, and the race is one as to which of the various national Eastern Orthodox churches will be the next home to the patriarchate.

That's one hell of a narrative possibility, and not one I'd have imagined. What crime novels have taught you something about history, art, science ...

Jeffrey Siger will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Love et leadership à Montréal

(Mary Pickford: Canada's sweetheart)
Bilingual stop signs used to get painted over in Montreal, so I was pleasantly surprised today to read the following on an anti-bullying poster in the city's Alexis Nihon Plaza:
"Avec ses programmes d'arts médiatiques et de leadershipLOVE: Vivre sans violence donne à nos jeunes..." (Emphasis mine)
I wonder how such tacit recognition of the vitality of Quebec French would go over with zealous linguistic and cultural purists. And, assuming that the dominant English-language influence on Quebec French is likelier these days to be American than British, what does it say about American and Quebecois culture that love and leadership are two of the words that have crossed the linguistic boundary?
Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History offers a special exhibition on Toronto-born Mary Pickford and her role in creating the modern idea of celebrity. Pickford was a pioneer in her field, an Oscar winner, and an entrepreneur (she co-founded United Artists). She was like Madonna, but with talent. And just think: She came from la terre de mes aïeux!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why Charlie Stella is my favorite American crime writer, Part I

Charlie Stella is an author who he writes something, I read it. Why? In part because of sequences like this, from Shakedown:
"`Let's go,' DeNafria said. `Maybe I can get him to spill something on his expensive threads.' ...

"It took a few minutes before Quastifarre was holding onto a frankfurter loaded with onions and mustard. DeNafria called to him just before the gangster took a bite.

 "`Hey, Joe Quack!' he yelled. `Joe!'

 "Quastifarre turned too quickly and spilled a combination of mustard and onions onto his shirt. He slapped at it with his free hand and wound up smearing some onto the waist of his pants.

"`Motherfucker!' he said through clenched teeth."
A good part of the texture of a novel comes from the bits between the main action, and no one does those bits better than Charlie Stella; the man is a fine comic writer.

But Shakedown, perhaps more than the five novels of Stella's I'd read previously, is a serious look at character and characters in the low- and mid-level mob world. Think Stella mines violence for cheap, morally objectionable laughs? Follow the character arc of mob hangaround John Forzino through Shakedown.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012


Friday, September 14, 2012

Vile from New York, it's Saturday Night!

Roger Smith's new horror novel is called Vile Blood, but Evil Blood  and Live Blood would make good horror titles, too, and if Blood Veil has not been written yet, you can be sure that some Scandinavian crime author is working on it as we speak.

Sure, blood goes well with anything when it comes to horror or crime, but I'll ask you anyhow: 

Does any four-letter combination yield more suggestive words for crime and horror writers than i, v, e, and l? What are your favorite evocative anagrams?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

What did Yrsa know, and when did she know it?

When I met Yrsa Sigurðardóttir at Bouchercon 2008 in Baltimore, Iceland's economy had just crashed. When Yrsa and her husband weren't worrying that their credit cards had been rendered worthless, we speculated about what the crash would mean for Icelandic crime fiction. Too early to tell, we decided.

Turns out that Yrsa may already have had some ideas.

Her novel The Day Is Dark, published in English translation in 2011 but in its original Icelandic in 2008, is peppered in its early chapters with references to the currency crash and how it might affect daily lives:
"Fortunately they hadn't taken a loan in foreign currency for the purchase, as so many who now bore the consequences of the falling Icelandic króna had done, but the payments had increased nevertheless and they were eating into their income."
"...a two-story single-family home which was to be divided into two separate apartments to save the owner ... from the black hole of the currency basket loan that he had taken at the wrong time."
Next time I see Yrsa (and I'll see her soon), I will ask when in 2008 she wrote those passages. What did Yrsa know, and when did she know it?
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Michael Stanley and the crime-fiction trinity

I roll my eyes when I see a crime novel called "plot-driven" or "character-driven." Plot, character, and setting are co-equal, consubstantial, and probably co-eternal as well. You wouldn't ask which of a three-legged table's legs was most important, would you? Lose one, any one, and there goes the good china.

I thought these elevated thoughts after reading Death of the Mantis, third and most recent of Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu mysteries. David "Kubu" Bengu, a police detective whose name means hippopotamus in the Setswana language of Botswana, is the star of the book. Deprived of interesting physical and human settings that include the Kalahari desert, however, Kubu might be nothing but an annoyingly cute collection of endearing traits. Without a compelling mystery (and Death of the Mantis had the "So that's why!"s bursting in my head for a good while after I finished reading), the book would be a travelogue with worthwhile bits, incapable, however, of sustaining its length.

So, yes, I enjoyed the Death of the Mantis, and I'm looking forward to having one of its authors on the panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon next month.  Among the novel's attractions is a note that explains, among other things, why the authors chose to use the term Bushmen for the indigenous people of southern Africa who figure prominently in the novel. Another is an excellent Alexander McCall Smith joke toward book's end.

Stanley Trollip is, with Michael Sears, the writing team of Michael Stanley. Trollip will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m. Stop in and say hi on your way to the West Side Market.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Bouchercon, Cleveland, and what I'll do there

The Bouchercon 2012 schedule is up for public viewing. I’ll moderate a panel called “Murder Is Everywhere” Saturday, Oct. 6, with panelists Timothy Hallinan, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Cara Black, Jeffrey Siger, and Stanley Trollip. Trollip is one half of the team that writes as Michael Stanley, and the panel takes its title from the name of a blog to which all five authors contribute.

I know all five and have panelized with three of them at previous Bouchercons, included twice before with Yrsa. I interviewed Tim Hallinan in 2008 here at Detectives Beyond Borders, and I’ve met and chatted with Jeffrey Siger through the others.

In this case, familiarity will lead not to contempt but to good questions, as I’ll want to avoid queries that I (and others) have asked the authors before. Such challenges are among the joys of moderating a panel. The first time I had the job, at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis, for example, my panel included two translators from other languages into English, one who translated from English into French, and an author. The search for common elements among these three categories of panelists led to questions I’d likely not have come up with had I had to quiz them separately, in groups consisting solely of their exact peers.

I’ve already come up with a couple of good questions, but you won’t read about them here, because then the authors might read them. I always feel that a bit of mystery is best at a crime-fiction convention.

I’m also developing an itinerary of things to do in Cleveland, with the help a colleague who comes from there. The Cleveland Museum of Art tops the list, and Bouchercon’s opening ceremony happens at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other recommendations include kielbasa, kraut, pierogies, the West Side Market, East Sixth and Prospect Avenue, the Flats, and jazz clubs on West Sixth Street. Unfortunately I’ll have left town by the time the Harvey Pekar statue is dedicated, but such a statue leaves me with warm feelings about Cleveland.
"Murder is Everywhere" happens Saturday, Oct. 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m. View the Bouchercon Web site for more information.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Don't be scared of horror

I don't know what makes good horror fiction good, but understatement must play a big part.

Here how Roger Smith, writing as Max Wilde, opens the second chapter of his new Vile Blood: 
"When the beam of Chief Deputy Sheriff Gene Martindale’s flashlight traced the loop of large intestine dangling like strange fruit from the cottonwood, he understood that he was dealing with something altogether darker than the usual procession of drunken wife beaters, scofflaws and minor drug offenders that filled his days."
I'm pretty sure that any book with intestines dangling from trees is likely to be horror, but crime fans will be at home with that passage.

Another, later passage suggests a kinship with hard-boiled American crime writing of the 1950's and '60s:
 "Back in those days, the late nineties, Holly had been a big boned blonde with the ass of a cheerleader and the tits of a Playboy centerfold. She and Drum had pleasured one another regularly, Tincup too occupied with his harem to care."
So don't be scared of horror, crime fans. If Roger Smith and Jim Thompson* can write it, you can read it. But what about you, dear readers? Any thoughts on crime, horror, and the relationship between the two? Do you read horror as well as crime? How would you compare the appeal of the two genres?
Here's Roger Smith on why he wrote Vile Blood under a pseudonym.

* I challenge any crime fan to argue that the last section of The Getaway is not horror.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Timothy Hallinan and anger as a motivator in crime fiction

Timothy Hallinan's protagonist Poke Rafferty is a 1960s sitcom father in 2000s Bangkok. We virtually never see him working at his job (he's a travel writer), for example, and we get much about the joys and challenges of life with his unconventional family (He's Asian-Irish, his wife is a Thai ex-bar girl, and their daughter is a former street kid.)

Unlike Fred MacMurray, though, Poke gets angry, and when the darker emotions take over, he becomes an action hero. Here are two short examples from The Queen of Patpong (2010) of Poke working his way up to the metamorphosis:
"Rafferty has dried blood on his hand from when he pushed himself up from the carpet beside Mrs. Pongsiri. The sight of it makes him dizzy with anger."
“`You’re nervous,' Arthit says. `You don’t usually natter.' “`It’s not nerves, it’s plain old hatred.'”
Further, circumstantial evidence suggests that anger motivates not just the character, but his creator as well. In 2008, Hallinan told Detectives Beyond Borders that
"The dreadful child abuse – more pornography than prostitution – in A Nail Through the Heart was based on a real guy, a German monster who actually lived in Bangkok and shot there the pictures described in the book. I don't know whether he's dead (although I fervently hope he is), but the pictures seem to have stopped coming."
What other crime protagonists and crime writers are motivated by anger, fury, rage, or hatred? (I'll nominate Andrew Vachss and his several protagonists, including Burke.) How do you feel about anger as a motivator?

(Read both parts of Detectives Beyond Borders' 2008 interview with Tim Hallinan.)
Tim Hallinan will be part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland next month. The panel is called "Murder is Everywhere," and it happens Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m. See you there! Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Medieval Latin and Middle High German noir, or Let's not call the whole thing Orff

I've just picked up a Penguin paperback of the Carmina Burana that was lying around the house. Here are the titles of the first six selections included in this translation: "Bribery and Corruption," "Never Satisfied," "Mouldering Morals," "The World Upside Down," "A Voice in the Wilderness,"  and "Hard Luck."

And here's the beginning of the first of those:
"Hands with handsome gifts to wield
put the `pi' in piety.
Money sees the compact sealed
— buys a court's propriety"
On that basis, I am prepared to call the Carmina Burana the finest collection I have ever seen of 11th-, 12th-, and 13th-century medieval Latin and Middle High German noir.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Happy Birthday, Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri, whose work includes the Sicily-based novels about Inspector Salvo Montalbano, turns 87 years old today.

Camilleri and translator Stephen Sartarelli won the CWA International Dagger award this year for The Potter's Field, thirteenth book in the Montalbano series. Book 15, The Dance of the Seagull (La danza del gabbiano) arrives in February 2013, and several in the series have yet to be translated.

Camilleri's non-Montalbano novel The Hunting Season is also due for English-language publication early next year. Buon compleanno, Andrea Camilleri!
(Here a sympathetic interview with Camilleri along with a review of his career from the Guardian. Here how visitors can follow the Montalbano trail. And here's the Camilleri Fan Club site, which includes, among much interesting material in several languages, short articles in Italian by Camilleri's translators. including Sartarelli.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Awards down under

The weather is heating up in the antipodes, and so is the crime-fiction awards scene.

From Craig Sisterson comes word that Neil Cross (right) has won the Ngaio Marsh Award for best New Zealand crime novel for Luther: The Calling.

Across the Tasman Sea in Melbourne, Australia, Sisters in Crime presented the Davitt Awards for crime fiction written by women. The awards honor the memory of Ellen Davitt, who wrote Australia's first known mystery novel in 1865, and the 2012 winners include Sulari Gentill, adult fiction, for her novel A Decline in Prophets. Find a complete list of winners at the Sisters in Crime Web site.

Finally, Australia's Ned Kelly Awards honored Pig Boy by J.C. Burke (best fiction), The Cartographer by Peter Twohig (best first fiction), Sins of the Father by Eamonn Duff (best true crime), A.J. Clifford "Summer of the Seventeenth Poll (S.D. Harvey Short Story Award).

Well done, mate, to all the winners and presenters.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

If Hammett, Chandler, and the Cains were baseball players

My recent posts about classic American hard-boiled fiction (click the link, then scroll down) have reverberated all the way to Finland, where that genre-jumping pulp maven Juri Nummelin raises his eyebrows at my suggestion that James M. Cain has dated worse than Hammett, Chandler, or Paul Cain.

Here's what I meant: If all four were baseball players, Hammett and Chandler would be Babe Ruth or Honus Wagner, pioneers of staggering and lasting accomplishment whose achievements arguably dwarf those of their successors. Paul Cain is Shoeless Joe Jackson, an awesome talent kept out of the Hall of Fame by a career quirk (Jackson's involvement in the Black Sox scandal; Cain's tiny, though absolutely first-rate, output).

Bur James M. Cain is something like Candy Cummings, a nineteenth-century pitcher of modest career statistics who made the Hall of Fame because he was credited with inventing the curveball. That's probably hard on Cain, but you get the idea: As important an innovator as he was in sexual frankness and portrayal of doomed characters, his successors did it better.

Acknowledging that I've read less of his work than I have of Chandler's or Hammett's, the most I can grant James M. Cain is the status of a trailblazer surpassed by later, greater achievements by others. I find The Getaway's doomed lovers on the road to hell fresher and more chilling than those in The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example.

One could argue, on the other hand, that Hammett and Chandler remain unsurpassed at the things they did best.
Who would your favorite crime writers be if they were athletes (or politicans, tycoons, or leaders in some field of human endeavor other than crime writing?)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, September 03, 2012

What I did on my late-summer vacation

  1. Got word that I'll moderate a panel at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland next month. (I'll provide details when organizers post the program.) The convention's opening ceremony happens at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which could dovetail nicely with my Project Noir Songs event at Noircon 2012 the following month.
  2. Read a crime novel that comes up with a simple, creative, even daring strategy for coping with information dumps.
  3. Wrote and sent off the second of my two small contributions to what looks like an exciting project involving Scandinavian crime fiction.
  4. Heard a youthful member of my entourage declare: "I'm too young for juvie," then muse about his chances of getting into a good university.
  5. Surveyed the grim, unsmiling photographs of Boston Celtics basketball and Boston Bruins hockey players at Boston Garden TD Banknorth Garden and wondered what ever happened to the old-fashioned idea that sports were supposed to be fun.
  6. Also in Boston, saw the most flagrantly, blatantly disingenuous ad since that cigarette that declared "They're Not for Everybody. (But Then, They Don't Try to Be.)" That the ad featured a player who had since been traded in a salary dump by the underachieving Red Sox made its faux solemnity all the more delicious.
  7. Realized yet again the near-infinite number of ways in which trains are better than planes. Enjoyed the infiltration of New Age health babble in the train's café car, where the menu listed Tylenol, Dramamine, and Advil under the heading "Wellness."
  8. Started a book that misuses commas and misplaces quotation marks so frequently that I feel waves of gratitude for the rare puntuation mark used the right way.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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