Monday, 1 February 2010

Crime Fiction Has Made Me A Horrible Person

I fear that reading crime fiction has made me callous.

A couple of years ago, I was once brought to a crashing halt (quite literally, since the guy walking behind me crashed straight into me - well, he shouldn't have been walking that closely behind, should he - anyone would think he was one of those collar sniffers*) by an advert for one of the local papers in the window of a shop near me "Clydebank man shot in girlfriends' lovers' garden." Was my first thought "Oh the poor man"? Or "How shocking"? No, it was "How many girlfriends? How many lovers? How big was the garden?" A misplaced apostrophe or two can make me forget about the human element. And so, apparently, can a few drops of blood.

I went out onto the landing of the flats where I live to discover a trail of blood drops - drying, but still shiny - going up the stairs. Each landing had a little pool of the stuff, while every few stairs had a drop or two. Did I rush to find out if anyone needed urgent medical assistance? Did I pull out my phone to call the emergency services. No, I did not. I pretended I was in an episode of CSI "Was this person standing still, or were they moving?" I thought. "Are the splatters directional?" "Where is my lovely white lab-coat?"

As it turned out, those CSI jobs are safe, anyway. The only injury was a minor burn as my upstairs neighbour tripped as he walked up the stairs with a container of coffee. All I can say is that it's a jolly good job I never aspired to a career in medicine.

But on to the proper news. Ray Banks get a starred review in Library Journal - and quite rightly so - for the excellent NO MORE HEROES. And a review of the Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith, who will be launching his new book in The Edinburgh Bookshop on 3rd March.

The Times has an article on the social concerns of the thriller and how the distinction between crime fiction and literary fiction lies in their relative attitudes to language. Oh dear, that doesn't bode well, does it? The author of the piece has nice things to say about Aly Monroe, amongst others. However, this paragraph did annoy me a tad:

"Generally speaking, however, the distinction between crime and thrillers on the one hand and "literary" fiction on the other lies in their attitude to language. Many crime novelists seem indifferent or unaware that it might be a good idea to have a view of the matter at all, and the result is work that suggests that the writer believes he or she can operate in some medium which exists prior to, or instead of, language." I also have to admit that I've read the second of those two sentences about seventeen times and I'm still in the dark.

Louise Welsh and Dan Rhodes appear in Edinburgh on 10th March (not as if by magic, I hasten to add, but at Blackwell Bookshop on South Bridge).

More from India with Rankin on Rebus. And, talking of India, Irvine Welsh narrates a documentary about a charity whose aim is to build a home for Dalit children.

Another article on Ian Pattison's Rab C Nesbitt. And more on the Booktrust project to encourage the over-60s to read.

*The collar-sniffing incident: I was down in London on business and there I was, happily tootling up the escalator at Liverpool Street Station when I felt someone pressing really, really close behind me. "Hello", I thought, "Either you've pulled, Donna, or you're getting your pocket picked." I've had relationships with people who got less intimate on a first date.** Before I could do anything, I then felt a nose on my neck. Since it wasn't cold and wet, I didn't think it was a rather tall Golden Retriever, so I squealed like a big girl, turned round, and walloped the bloke behind me with my handbag. He looked at me as though it was ME in the wrong.

"What?" he said. "I was only sniffing your collar" (as if this was the most natural thing in the world).

"Oh, and is THAT supposed to make it sodding better?" I belted him in the shins with my suitcase (I was aiming for higher but the escalator suddenly flattened out) and stalked off feeling aggrieved. I'm not sure why these things always seem to happen to me, but they do. I was once flashed at in a Parisian cemetery...

** Dad - that's just a joke, by the way. I've never been on a first date with anyone who tried to get intimate. In fact, you can just assume that I've never been on a date, OK?


  1. You're anecdotes are incredibly entertaining Donna. I wonder if you're books are based on your own experiences (still haven't read any of them but I definitely will).
    Oh, and would you please finish the story about the Parisian cemetery. I'm hoping it was a ghost.

  2. Thank you very much Nicolai. And no, my books are not based on my own experiences (quite frankly, they would be rather dull if they were :o) )

    And no, it was a real person. My friend Jane and I were both too vain to wear our glasses that day and I'm not sure he got the reaction he expected, as we both squinted short-sightedly at him...

  3. And there I thought your life was so much more adventurous than mine. But having had three children around the house, *I* know the visual and olfactory differences between blood stains and coffee stains :D

  4. I think if I'd got down on my hands and knees to smell it, I would have been OK. Maybe :o)

  5. LOVE your anecdotes, Donna. Want to slash the tyres of the numpty wot wrote that paragraph in The Times. Pompous twat. Wonder if they have actually read a modern thriller.

  6. Your collar sniffing story answers the question I had about this little feller at a rock show I was at last Friday. I expect a little pushing and shoving down front -- enjoy it, in fact -- but this guy, I don't know. I couldn't tell if I was being pushed or molested in a way that is illegal in several states.

  7. Michael - thank you. And the weird thing about that article was that he was quite complimentay about some crime fiction (albeit in a bit of a begrudging way in some cases)

    Chris - LOL. I'm an 'edge-of-the-mosh-pit' person myself- I rather enjoy it but sometimes it gets a tad too much. And yes, when you're getting groped that constitutes too much :o)

  8. "... are not based on my own experiences (quite frankly, they would be rather dull if they were :o))"

    I seriously doubt that Donna.
    I'm still eagerly anticipating the release of your collection of tales from the buses of Glasgow! :)

  9. LOL - believe me Nicolai - it's true :o)