Thursday 29 July 2010

Strontium, Sugar and Spanners

In my perusal of all things Berlin for our upcoming trip I have discovered the following:

a) Berlin has a Ramones Museum (yippee!)
b) Berlin has a sugar museum
c) Restaurants serving German food have only meat options. Even the desserts are meat. With extra meat on the side. Which reminds me of one of my favourite websites - The Gallery of Regrettable Food - check out Lunches and Brunches and Meat! Meat! Meat!
d) There used to be a Museum der Unerhorten Dinge (with an umlaut over the o) which I think means 'Museum of Unheard of Things. It is now sadly closed. However, there does appear to be a Museum der Dinge. As in "Let's go to the Museum of Stuff. I believe they have things there."

Unfortunately, we are not going to be in Germany for this, but if you are, go along and see Helen Fitzgerald along with another of my favourite authors, Steve Mosby, in Germany on October 2nd.

And, continuing the German theme, here's German journalist and presenter Jorg Thadeusz (another umlaut on that o) on youtube talking about Val McDermid. I believe I heard him saying she's 'spannend' so I'm hoping he was calling her exciting. However, he's talking so fast and my German is not really up to it. So, apologies Val, if he's calling you a spanner...

Irvine Welsh appears at Belfast's Feile an Phobeil Festival.

The Telegraph quizzes Tony Black on why he loves his Edinburgh. But he apparently doesn't love it that much - Craig Robertson will be replacing him at the Edinburgh Book Festival event with Gillian Galbraith on Tuesday 17th August.

Allan Guthrie and Alexander McCall Smith will be appearing at the inaugural Three Lochs Book Festival in Strontian between September 16th and 18th. I thought Strontian was a chemical element with the atomic number 38 but apparently it's a little town in Argyll.

Talking of Alexander McCall Smith, here's an article in the Washington Post.

This made me laugh - stand up if you love Kate Atkinson. And a new six part series - Case Histories - will be appearing on the BBC.

Here's an Edinburgh Book Festival primer, courtesy of the lovely people at The Skinny.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Collapsing New People

An about-the-houses title for today's post. Anyone who can work out the convoluted machinations of my brain send me an e-mail to the usual address and I will pick one at random and send you either a copy of OLD DOGS or something from my book collection based on what I think you will like (and please don't think I will be offended if you say "For heaven's sake Donna, please please please don't send me OLD DOGS").

So, first of all, a request. We're off to Berlin for 6 days in September (woohoo!). Does anyone have any suggestions for things to see and do, and places to eat and drink? Any hot spots for music (Ewan and I both like indie/alternative/punk)? Anything quirky and off the beaten track we should see? We're staying 4 nights on the 21st floor of a 1960s concrete carbuncle that was the residence of GDR dignitaries (and still is, apparently), and 2 nights in a more conventional hotel. I can't wait.

Listen to some audio highlights from Harrogate Crime Festival here. And Janet O'Kane rounds up her own highlights from the Festival. Helen Carter over at the Guardian talks about braving the Dragons' Pen. Meanwhile, Ali over at the Rap Sheet is still catching up on Crimefest.

The Inverness Courier on the dark crime fiction coming out of Scotland, focusing on Tony Black and Craig Russell mostly. On the lighter side the Mystery Maven reviews M C Beaton's DEATH OF A VALENTINE. And the Mirror has an opinion on Craig Russell's THE LONG GLASGOW KISS, calls Stuart MacBride "tartan noir's greatest exponent" and enjoys Caro Ramsay's DARK WATER.

Catch Lin Anderson at Bonnybridge Library on August 12th, and Quintin Jardine in North Berwick.

Vikram with an interesting alternative perspective on Ian Rankin's LET IT BLEED.

And, finally, a fascinating snippet about Arthur Conan Doyle's father. Whilst Lone Locust Productions enjoyed the first episode of the new TV series.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Penicillin and Pile Cream

Amongst this weekend's film viewing was the wonderful Scottish film Ratcatcher from 1999, directed by Lynne Ramsay. It's about events on a tough Glasgow housing estate during a strike by the binmen, and mostly told through one boy's eyes. It's unsettling, uncomfortable, touching, funny and sad.

I also watched the first of the new Sherlock BBC TV series. I really enjoyed it (nice modern take - loved the bit with the phone boxes and security cameras and the quote about the three-nicotine patch solution). Did anyone else see it?

Scottish arts organisations face funding cuts.

A video interview with Louise Welsh.

Murder Most Scottish from the Caledonian Mercury with some Scottish serial killers and ne'er-do-wells through the ages.

The lovely Caro Ramsay guest blogs on Murder is Everywhere.

Biblio Baggins made me smile with this letter to Kate Atkinson.

The Scotsman debates whether it's a hard time for hardbacks.

Catch Stuart MacBride along with Mark Billingham in Liverpool and Manchester on 18th and 19th August.

Conspiracies, death-threats, pharmaceutical shenanigans - all over who's going to provide pile cream in Millport.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Pouting of Glasgow

This is the 'I'm sulking because I'm not going to Harrogate Crime Festival post.

The fight over the planned redevelopment of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Surrey home. And a trailer for the BBC's Sherlock, which airs this weekend.

Philip Kerr talks about his books, while Musings and Wanderings reviews MARCH VIOLETS.
A review of Helen Fitzgerald's THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE which calls it disturbing, disgusting and riotous. As, indeed, is Helen herself...

Val McDermid at the Chiswick Book Festival from 17th to 19th September. Before that she's in New Zealand - summed up nicely by Craig at Crimewatch.

And Ten's July Book Club discusses Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES.

Near Toronto? Like books? Like naked girls? How about naked girls reading? You can thank me later. You can also thank me for the fact that this blog does not have naked girls reading as its theme. I'd run out of html code for the photo.

Monday 19 July 2010

"I've stopped speaking to him for obvious reasons"

Val McDermid will be in New Zealand from 22-24 August, and also at the Melbourne Writers' Festival in Australia. As will Louise Welsh. Closer to home, Quintin Jardine will be at the Fringe By The Sea festival in North Berwick from August 10th to 15th.

Ian Rankin on video talking about THE COMPLAINTS. And, if you speak German, here's a video about Craig Russell's LENNOX. Sadly, it's not possible to babelfish a video.

A review of Peter May's Second Life novel - VIRTUALLY DEAD. And one of Val McDermid's THE DISTANT ECHO.

Alexander McCall Smith recommends his summer reads. And Classic Mysteries on McCall Smith's ' gentle detective.'

A review of Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES. And Shelf Love reviews the audio version of WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS.

More on the new Sherlock Holmes TV programme. And another one.

Books From Scotland round up the highlights of the Word Power Book Fringe.

And, finally, this seems a bit of a drastic way to avoid going to work. Ouch.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Glad He Ate Her

A truncated Sunday post today - it's been a busy weekend. We went to stay with the lovely Zoe Sharp and her husband Andy and it was excellent fun. On the downside, I said to Zoe - who's a professional photographer - that I hated photos of me, so she took that as a challenge and forced me to do a photoshoot. I believe she regretted it after about 5 minutes and I now have two photos that I can use should it ever be necessary to have a proper photo. However, please let that never happen.

So, in the absence of a Sunday summary delayed until Monday, here's something ridiculous.

I've always wanted to write a historical mystery but I have absolutely no useful knowledge of any time period - still, I've never let that stop me up until now...

Glad He Ate Her - A Roman Mystery

It was 124 BC, and I was on my fourth dead body of the week. The first three were routine Christians thrown to the lions, but this one was different - the death of a young man wearing the purple robes of a senator would need to be investigated carefully and the obvious solution of poisoning by this year's mad Emperor covered up as usual. I sighed as my sergeant rushed up excitedly, his toga looking as though it hadn't seen the Tiber's washerwomen for a month or two, and his sandals incorrectly laced in his hurry to get to the crime scene. I'd obviously roused him from the dual pleasures of a jug of Falernian wine and the scented arms of the Greek snake charmer Athenia. "Hail Clavdivs!" he saluted breathlessly.

I sighed. "Soggidubnus," I reprimanded him, "How many times do I have to tell you - it's Claudius. We Ancient Romans only spell it Clavdivs because we don't yet have writing implements that do curved letters easily. Now, get down to Headquarters and get the forensics team up here PDQ". I bent down and picked up the calfskin wallet lying by the body. I needn't worry about fingerprints - after all, they hadn't been invented yet.

I pulled out the Chariot Driving Licence and studied the charcoal drawing that looked remarkably like the dead man. Charltonius Hestonius.

At that moment, the Medical Examiner arrived. "Dr Hannibalis Lectorus," I shook his hand. "This is a nasty one. We'll have to get the full might of the CSIus Laboratorius on this one. How do you think he was killed?"

Dr Lectorus licked his lips and surveyed the dead Senator. "Do you see the wheel marks and hoof prints?" he said. "It looks to me as though someone drove over him and then, just to make sure, reversed the horse and drove over him backwards. We've seen a few of these recently."

"You're thinking a Chariot Rage incident?" I said. "What with these and the ram raids, this is getting tedious."

"Ram raids?" asked Lectorus. "That's a new one on me."

"You must have seen the reports in the Papyrii." I said. "Some young rams have been raiding shops in the High Street. Walmarticus have been hit twice. The new spring season togas were abominably munched by the marauding rams."

Lectorus shook his head. "I don't know what's happening to Rome these days. It's going to the lions." We both turned as a chariot came hurtling around the corner at top speed, its horn blaring and the blue flame on top being held carefully by a eunuch. "Excellent, Claudius. CSIus are here."

Three people dressed in the white togas of the CSIus Laboratorius technicians jumped out. I nodded to them "Gilus, Warwickus, Catherinus. I'm glad you're here. Can you get the luminolus on these blood splatters here. And there's a sandal mark in blood by the side of the body. I want the evidence bagged in linen, tagged with papyrus and the results on my desk before the ides of March. Is that clear? And Gilus...stop checking the body for insects. By Jove man, he's only been dead a couple of hours."

Friday 16 July 2010

Those Scots Get Everywhere

A nice review of Ian Rankin's BLOOD HUNT. And here's the man himself on video talking about DOORS OPEN.

Everyone seems to be reading Kate Atkinson recently. The rather wonderfully named Biblio's Bloggins loves Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES. And the equally marvellously named Tallulah Mankiller reviews WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS and there's another review here. And a final one here.

A nice wee write up for the marvellous LONG TIME DEAD by Tony Black. Novel Readings enjoyed Denise Mina's FIELD OF BLOOD and a review of Nicola Upson's AN EXPERT IN MURDER which features crime writer Josephine Tey as the sleuth.

Talking of Denise Mina, here's an excellent video of her talking at Uddingston Library.

Charles Cumming talks about spies.

Val McDermid is appearing at the Melbourne Writers' Festival at the end of August, along with some other British crime fiction writers.

Campbell Armstrong takes Glasgow detective Lou Perlman to San Francisco.

More on the Unbound strand at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Finally, Scotland's double-decker dead.

And finally finally...that Ramones anthology - Alistair made the brilliant suggestion of having all stories kept under 600 words to reflect the fact that Ramones songs are very short - brilliant idea.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

"Slugs and snails are after me..."

The contemporary Sherlock Holmes drama 'Sherlock' , written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, will have its first airing on July 25th with the first episode A Study In Pink.

A video interview with Ian Rankin from Sky Arts.

Nicholas Royle at the Independent really enjoyed Alice Thompson's THE EXISTENTIAL DETECTIVE. And a nice review for Caro Ramsay's DARK WATER.

Karen Campbell recently attended a Library Garden Party. What a lovely idea - I would love to have been there.

No crime fiction at the Inverness Book Festival? Booooooo. So head on over to the Galway Arts Festival.

And, finally, a rather excellent post from Alistair Braidwood at Scots Whay Hae! about punk rock and short stories. And that reminds me that I still haven't given up on my hope that someone will come out with an anthology of short stories inspired by Ramones songs. Anyone? So many possibilities. What about 53rd and 3rd with its tale of a male prostitute:

"Then I took out my razor blade
Then I did what God forbade"

Or Blitzkrieg Bop's "Shoot'em in the back now"

And the rich implications of Teenage Lobotomy's:
"Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em
That I got no cerebellum" (which just have to be some of the finest lyrics ever!)

And then of course there's I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement, You're Gonna Kill That Girl, You Should Have Never Opened That Door, Born to Die in Berlin, Cabbies on Crack, Heidi is a Headcase, Too Tough To Die...lots of delicious inspiration there.

Monday 12 July 2010

Monday Miscellany of Scotland and Shorts

Thanks to all for your kind comments and e-mails following my recent painful experience.

I thought it was time for more photos of Scotland, so the pictures accompanying this blog post are of a gorgeous place called New Lanark.

Get your Allan Guthrie news here in a profile by Jedidiah Ayres of the marvellous Hardboiled Wonderland. And if you'want to get into Al's shorts, here's a handy post for you.

Talking about short stories, there are a couple of new ones up at the Edinburgh Book Festival site - one from Denise Mina and one from Doug Johnstone.

As well as appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival, Doug Johnstone will also be appearing at Words Per Minute - at Creation Studios, in the Trongate in Glasgow on 1st August at 4pm. Described by Doug as a "fantastic literary crossover club thingy" it's a mix of poetry, prose, film, music and theatre, with performances of 5-10 minutes. There's also a DJ set from Miaoux Miaoux. Sounds good - I think I'll give that a visit. He's also going to be appearing on a crime writing panel being chaired by Ian Rankin at the Portobello Book Festival on 10th October at 2pm. More details of that when I have them.

And I've mentioned this before, but the lovely people at Glasgow based Cargo Publishing have a rather excellent sounding short story project - The Year of Open Doors - out on 27th July - with stories from Doug Johnstone and Alan Bissett amongst others. I'm not sure how many will have a crime element (if any), but I always love trying out short stories.

A couple of reviews of Philip Kerr's IF THE DEAD RISE NOT - one from Tampa Bay Online and one from the Toronto Star. And a lovely reviewlet of Chris Ewan's most excellent GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO LAS VEGAS.

Fancy a signed first edition of Conan Doyle's A STUDY IN SCARLET? Have a spare £400,000? Sorry, I've unfortunately misplaced my wallet - guess I'll have to give that one a miss.

Craig Sisterson over at New Zealand's Crime Watch blog has an interview with Liam McIlvanney and one with Craig Russell.

And, finally, in my Google Alert for Scottish author Alice Thompson, Polishing Peanuts, popped up. I have no idea if it's the same Alice Thompson that the blogger mentions, as I can't find the piece he is referring to online, but I thought it was a lovely post so I'm linking to it anyway.

His experience in Uganda, mirrors my own in the villages in Alaska to some extent. The students there were so bright and funny and creative, I wish they had access to things that I take for granted - gigs, theatre, cinema, being able to go and hear authors talk about their books, go to a comedy show or visit a museum. They put on a wonderful arts festival while I was there and they entertained me no end. If I ever win the lottery I'd love to repay the favour and send over a couple of bands, some authors and a theatre company. That would be fun.

Friday 9 July 2010

Sugar and Spice is Just a Bluff

You people are sick. And when I say 'you people' I actually mean Dorte and Bookwitch who specifically requested Too Much Information. Blame them if, after reading this post you want to poke your eyes out with a hot fork. For those who are of a nervous disposition, look away now. OK, I warned you, it's going to get horrible, so here's another chance to look away. Still here? What's wrong with you?

The title of this post comes from the lyrics of the Cramps song What's Inside A Girl. And, following my colonoscopy, I can now tell you. Warning - this post has no crime fiction related elements at all.

I should have known that things weren't going to go well when I spent the first 23 minutes at the hospital trying to find the endoscopy unit. It was like a Kafka-esque nightmare, trying to find my way through the labyrinth of hospital corridors. I did the sensible thing - once I got to 'Outpatients - Day Surgery' I asked someone where to go.

She led me to a corridor lined with doors. "Go to the end of this corridor and turn right" she said. So I did. And yes, indeed, I then saw signs that said "Endoscopy Unit, this way". So I followed them. And then they stopped. In the middle of the Ear Nose and Throat Unit. I stopped again and asked at the X-Ray Unit.

"Oh, you'll have to go back down that corridor, the way you came."

"But I didnt come that way."

"Well, that's the way you need to go, back that way, back the way you came." And with that, she closed the sliding glass screen.

So I did. And ended up out the back of the hospital by the rubbish bins. A smoking nurse was standing outside. And, when I say a 'smoking nurse' I don't mean 'a nurse was standing outside smoking a cigarette. She wasn't smoking a cigarette, smoke was coming from her back. Really*.

She helpfully accompanied me down another corridor and then pointed down yet another "I can't come with you all the way," she said - rather ominously, I thought, "but just go to the end and turn right and you can't miss it."

As I walked down the corridor things began to look a little familiar. 'Outpatients - Day Surgery' said a sign pointing straight on. Yes, I was back where I had started. Remember the person right at the start who told me to turn right? Well, she obviously had her shoes on the wrong feet - if she'd only told me to turn left, I could have saved myself 22 minutes.

So, I eventually arrived at my destination. 'Welcome to Hell' said a sign in big red letters**.

I gave my name. "Nurse will be with you soon," said, presumably, Receptionist. I sat down, taking out my book. Tony Black's latest. OK, so maybe a book called LONG TIME DEAD is not really the best thing to read in a hospital waiting room, but it's brilliant and kept me amused until 'Nurse' arrived and the time came for me to go off and throw my dignity, and my clothes aside.

"Doctor will be with you soon. Take your clothes off and put this gown on, hen," said Nurse. "Opening to the back.". I did as instructed and she looked at me dubiously and handed me another gown, twin of the one I was wearing. "Better put this one on over the top. Backwards. This is a mixed ward, we don't want you getting anyone excited, do we?" She seemed to think this was hilarious. I, on the other hand, did not. But when your dignity is stuffed in a locker along with your clothes, and you're covered by two faded hospital gowns and an all-over blush, there's not much you can say, is there?

And then it was time for me to go and see 'Doctor'. "This will just take about 10 minutes," said Doctor. One of my gowns was removed (I think you can guess which one) and I had to lie on a bed.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that the next time a man says to me "Can you just shuffle your bottom towards me a little bit more," I am going to run, screaming, from the room, hopefully having shoved an anal probe up his nostril first, while uttering the words "This might be a wee bit sore."

The next twenty five minutes (yes, 5 or 10 minutes my violated ar*e) were a wee bit sore. Nurse tried to distract me "Have you been on your holidays yet?" I was going to ask her if she was also going to give my hair a wee trim and blowdry while I was lying there but I was stopped by the vomiting. That was me, by the way, not Nurse.

"That was a nasty wee spasm," said Doctor. "Would you like us to stop?"

"Oh yes, please," I wailed, "in the name of everything holy, please please stop, I beg of you. If you have any feelings, stop."

"We'll get you back in another time. I think that would be best."

"Another time? You want me to come back and go through this again another time? How many miles of intestines have I got, exactly?

"Well, I'm nearly on the final stretch," said Doctor, quite cheerfully, as though my bowel was the course of the Monaco Grand Prix and he was overtaking a Ferrari in the confines of my lower intestine.

"Just bloody get on with it. I'm never coming back."

"Here, you can watch it onscreen." He turned the screen towards me, as though he was treating me to a night out at the cinema. "Look at that, that looks really good, doesn't it?"

Really good? Was the man mad? It looked like one of those underwater documentaries where they go deep to the bottom of the sea where no-one has ever been before and find some weird prehistoric sea creature that is both frightening and ugly. "Well, actually Doctor, it looks like something from 'The Creature From the Black Lagoon'. Doctor looked very hurt. He struck me as a man far too fond of his job.

We all shut up after that, for which I was extremely grateful. Engaging in small talk with random strangers when one of them is rummaging around in your nether regions is never a good thing if you ask me. After what seemed like another three hours the ordeal was over. "We'll get you a nice cup of tea now," said Nurse, patting my hand. Since I'd had nothing more than water for the previous 24 hours, this was surprisingly welcome, although not as welcome as "We'll get you a nice juicy steak and a plateful of chips" would have been.

With my tea came a certificate. A certificate that proclaimed 'You have had your bowel examined today.' Yay for me. I'm going to frame it and hang it by my school swimming certificate. The one that says 'Donna swam one width - in shallow water' - those last three words are shorthand for 'we know you cheated and put your feet on the bottom of the pool but we just can't prove it.'

I got a taxi home. I was not in the mood for talking. My taxi-driver, however, was. "I was in the out-patients myself last week, having my ears syringed. What were you in for, hen?" I think he spent the rest of the journey quietly wishing he'd not bothered having his ears cleaned out. Still, at least my response*** shut him up.

*It actually turned out to be steam but when you're in a Kafka-esque labyrinthine nightmare, smoke is so much more exciting.

** Obviously, not really, but it bloody should have done.

**** I'd tell you, but my Dad reads this blog.

Tata for now. Back to crime fiction on Monday.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

I Wanna Be Sedated

This might be the last post for this week - I have a colonoscopy on Thursday and apparently I'm not allowed to drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign important documents afterwards. The ramblings of a semi-sedated person with a sore bottom would probably not make for entertaining reading...or maybe they would. Either way, I'd better stay away from the computer. I can't say it's something I'm looking forward to - it's not the camera that bothers me, it's the camera crew...

Anyway, I'm sure that comes under the heading of Too Much Information, so back to your regularly scheduled Scottish crime fiction.

First of all, here's Aly Monroe with a lovely post on the inspiration for Peter Cotton.

Karin Slaughter says there isn't a better crime writer writing today than Denise Mina. And a review of STILL MIDNIGHT from Mostly Fiction.

Crime Watch reviews ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN by Liam McIlvanney, the Mystery Maven enjoyed Russel McLean's sweary THE GOOD SON, and the Scottish Sunday Herald with an excellent review of Craig Russell's THE LONG GLASGOW KISS.

The Skinny has a supplement for the new Unbound strand of the Edinburgh Book Festival (pdf document). It looks great.

The Straits Times calls Stuart MacBride's DARK BLOOD "a bleedin' great thriller."

Ian Rankin will be appearing at the Galway Arts Festival which starts on July 12th.

Margot Kinberg with an interesting and thoughtful post on sleuths and their backstories.

And, finally, Edinburgh's Saughton Prison gets an award for its library. Excellent stuff.

Monday 5 July 2010

We Are Family - My Dad and I Review Val McDermid

First of all, a reminder of what my Dad and I like and dislike...

LIKES: thrillers, spy novels, war stories and books with elves in (the elves can swear their heads off as far as he's concerned). Oh, and maps. He bloody loves maps. If you ever meet him, for goodness' sake don't ask him for directions. Not even to the bathroom.

: romance, books that have too much swearing in (I guess that's my Dad not going to read my next book either, then - I thought it was just my Mum I had to keep away from it). Also doesn't like horror, and books with vampires, pterodactyls and the living dead in them. Also, something called an ungoliant. No, I have no idea either - I think my Dad has been at the sherry too.

: Philip Marlowe to Miss Marple, Inspector Morse to Homicide.

LIKES: noir, hard-boiled, capers, PI novels, police procedurals, warped, quirky and funny books.

: cosies - especially those where the protagonist has a heavily featured hobby (I once got a gluten allergy from reading a book where the heroine made bread every three pages), or books where an animal solves the crime. Unless it's a dinosaur (as in Eric Garcia's wonderful series about basil addicted Vincent Rubio).

I'm not a big fan of serial killer books (and I'm not talking books that just happen to have a serial killer in (I love books by Steve Mosby, Mark Billingham etc)), I mean books where it's all about the quirks. The more patterns or quirks the killer has, the more blood is spilled and body parts mutilated, the more good writing, character development and a decent plot seem to go out of the window. The ones I don't like are where the author seems to think that making their killer a murderer of blue eyed women with one arm (the women, not the murderer), who drowns his victims in an increasingly violent way in a vat of hot chocolate, while narrating The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner, drawing a picture of a squirrel on the wall and scattering rose petals around the bathroom is all the character development and justification the avid reader needs. A-ha - the serial killer was burned by a scalding mug of hot chocolate as a baby, force-fed him by his mother Rose, a blue-eyed ex-Womens' Royal Navy sailor who lost an arm in a bizarre accident involving a rabid squirrel.

I'm also not big on spy thrillers and medical thrillers. If I see a jacket blurb which mentions the White House, and the words 'explosive' and 'conspiracy' and which has a shadowy picture of someone rappelling down a big building, carrying a large knife dripping blood, or an enormous syringe, then I'm more likely to put it down in a hurry than slap in into my shopping basket with glee. I have the same reaction to 'Knights Templar' and 'Illuminati'. I will pass all of those to my Dad.

I don't like gratuitous anything - but then, one person's gratuitous is another person's prerequisite. My Mum would definitely find most of the books I read have gratuitous sex, violence and swearing. I find the books she likes have gratuitous cats. And butlers. And people being poisoned with rare poison from the Three Kneed Scarlet Guatemalan Tree Frog. And gentility. As for the sex, well, if it fits (oo-er missus) then it's fine. I read a mystery a few years ago where the woman was asleep and the man slid one hand between her thighs and the other into her mouth. And this was supposed to be erotic. I'm sorry, but if anyone slides anything in my mouth while I'm sleeping, then I'm probably going to dream it's a chocolate eclair and chomp down hard. On the other hand, there are plenty of books that do it well, but I'm not going to mention any of them just in case you tell my Mum.

Raymond Chandler to Miss Marple, Homicide to Inspector Morse.

Anyway, enough of that. On to the reviews:

Published: 2009
Publisher: Sphere
Setting: Bradfield and Worcester
Protagonist: DCI Carol Jordan and Dr Tony Hill
Series?: 6th
First lines: "It all comes down to blood in the end. Some wrongs you can get past. File under lessons learned, dangers to avoid in the future. But certain kinds of betrayal need to be answered. And sometimes only blood will do."

What Donna Says:
FEVER OF THE BONE is the sixth book in the Carol Jordan and Tony Hill series. Carol Jordan is under pressure - her new boss is threatening to break up her team, and has also insisted that she can no longer use Tony as profiler any more. So her team needs to bring in results. As well as a nasty little cold case involving a mother and child who disappeared over ten years ago, they're also faced with a serial killer targeting teenagers who use a social networking site. Tony, on the other hand, has been seconded to another division, and is coming to terms with the inheritance left to him by the father he never knew. And the inheritance is not just financial.

Val McDermid does a brilliant job of bringing every single character to life - from the members of her team down to the most minor of bit parts. She shows us the lives of the teenagers, the suffering of the grieving parents, even the shock of the unfortunate people who find the bodies, and makes us care about the characters. She also shows us how the horrific cases affect the team, giving the reader a real insight into how the work takes its toll on every one of them. At times it made me feel very sad.

It's a thrilling, chilling, thoroughly gripping read - a story about families, relationships, legacies and the impact of the past on the present. Great stuff. Intriguingly, Val McDermid and/or the publishers created a social networking site called RigMarole. I've not been onto it, so can't say what it's all about (or, indeed, whether it's still going) but apparently you can also interact with some of the book's characters. In general, the Jordan/Hill series have not been amongst my favourites of Val's books - not because I don't enjoy them, but simply because I prefer the standalones which, for me, have been increasingly excellent. However, I have to say that FEVER OF THE BONE is way up there amongst the best.

What Donna's Dad says:
Once again the main characters are Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan. This time Carol has a new Chief Constable, who thinks that the profiling can be done more easily and more cheaply by what is a new fledgling force of coppers trained by the professional profilers. The plot centres around the murders of a group of teenagers, the first in Worcester, the others closer to home in Bradfield. Tony is recruited by the police in Worcester to profile the killer there. As Carol has been instructed not to use him, she uses one of the police profilers to try to find the killer of the local youth. It is not until Tony recognises that all of the killings can be connected that progress is made, and the story comes to a surprising end. The reasons for the murders comes as a surprise, and it looks as if Tony and Carol will finally manage to get together. All of the main characters, the police, are likeable. There is one character who is just a pathetic loser.

I felt it was extremely well written and thought out, it was a very enjoyable read. I have not watched the televised series as I think it would spoil the mental image that I have of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. This has happened before with televised series, I had a mental image of Smallweed in Bleak House which was turned upside down by Phil Davis's interpretation. (Donna: thanks for that little aside, Dad). My mental image of Tony Hill is that he is about 6 foot 2 inches, mid brown hair going slightly grey, medium build thickening at the waist.Ordinary looking, age about 32 years. Carol Jordan is about 5 foot 8 inches, blonde hair, not a beauty but with a reasonable figure, does not work out to maintain her size but takes life as it is. Slightly older than Tony, age indeterminate (or will not tell).

Sunday 4 July 2010

Sunday Gallimaufry

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the lovelyTony Black's book launch last week, but, apparently, both Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney made it. Damn - I always miss the best parties. But if like me you couldn't make it here's a video featuring the new book LONG TIME DEAD. And Tony tells the Press and Journal how he recently shared dinner and funny handshakes with the Freemasons. And a review of the book by Paul Brazill who calls it an urban classic - nice.

The charming Michael Malone interviews Bill Kirton.

Christopher Brookmyre with some schoolboy memories on video for BBC Radio Scotland.

In a recent blog post from Craig Robertson, he says he has just finished writing SNAPSHOT, the follow-up to his debut novel RANDOM.

Iain Banks' new book comes with an iPhone app.

Creative Scotland is officially launched.

The shortlist for the Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year has been announced. Congratulations to all nominees.

The latet reviewingtheevidence round up has a couple of reviews of Scottish books - first of all Catriona McPherson's DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS and also Stuart MacBride's DARK BLOOD.

There's a hunt on for the lost manuscripts of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thursday 1 July 2010

What I Read in June

Being ill gave me lots of time for reading this month, and a fine selection it was too.

REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED - edited by Gerard Brennan and Mike Stone

with stories by Stuart Neville, Tony Black, Garry Kilworth, Arlene Hunt, Sam Millar, Ken Bruen, Maxim Jakubowski, T A Moore, John McAllister, Una McCormack, Tony Bailie, Neville Thompson, Adrian McKinty, Dave Hutchinson, Garbhan Downey, Brian McGilloway and John Grant.
Published: 2010
Publisher: Morrigan Books
Setting: Ireland
Protagonist: n/a - short stories
Series?: Short story anthology
First Line: ' Cam the Hun set off from his flat on Victoria Street with fear in his heart and heat in his loins.' From Stuart Neville's short story QUEEN OF THE HILL
A short story collection inspired by Irish mythology - a really intriguing premise. Some of the stories take the same myth (such as that of Queen Macha who appears to have been the Goddess of both sex and war and thus makes for a great femme fatale) and put their own slant on them. A couple are set in the past, one is set in the future, most are set in the present day and these contemporary twists on the myths and legends work particularly well. There are two things I particularly love about short stories. Firstly, it gives favourite authors the opportunity to do something different; secondly, it gives me the possibility of discovering new authors. In the case of this book, it also taught me some fascinating things about Irish mythology. Some of my favourite stories were Stuart Neville's QUEEN OF THE HILL - inspired by the aforementioned Queen Macha - which tells the story of a strong, sexy but very scary woman; T A Moore's RED MILK - a truly deliciously nasty tale of drug deals, rival gangs and revenge; Adrian McKinty's chilling and atmospheric DIARMAID AND GRAINNE which left me feeling really sad; and Garbhan Downey's FIRST TO SCORE which is a wickedly sly and funny story about football - brilliant stuff, I'm grinning again as I think about it.

Published: July 2010
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Setting: Wales
Protagonist: Robin Llywelyn
Series?: 3rd
First Line: 'You wake up in a room you don't recognise, wearing old cotton pyjmas that are too small for you, lying in a single bed like a boy would sleep in.'
This is the third in the trilogy that began with THE LAST LLANELLI TRAIN and continued with SWANSEA TERMINAL. Throughout the trilogy, Lewis has piled the torment on his protagonist - private eye Robin Llywelyn who, at the start of this one, wakes up in a hospice with no memory and, apparently, with only a couple of months left to live (the first words that anyone says to him when he wakes up are "You're on the way out, son."). And it all goes downhill from there. To add insult to injury, he's hand-cuffed to the bed and the police are waiting to speak to him. Apparently he's done something bad - really bad. There are also some other people who want to get hold of him. Llywelyn needs to avoid them, find out whether he really is a bad guy, and try and remember what's going on, all before the inevitable time when the man with the big scythe comes a-calling. Does that sound dark? It is - it's dark, bleak and pretty grim, but it's also deliciously, savagely, wickedly funny.

ENTANGLEMENT - Zygmunt Miloszewski
(translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)
Published: 2010
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
Setting: Warsaw, Poland
Protagonist: Teodor Szacki
Series?:1st translated into English
First Line: ' Let me tell you a fairy tale.'
State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki is in charge of the investigation into the death of Henryk Telak following a rather unorthodox group therapy session. There are plenty of suspects and Szacki has numerous other things to worry about. Szacki is a great character - interesting, well-rounded, and often very humourous. I didn't get much of a feel for many of the others though and, in fact, sometimes got them mixed up. Despite that, there's a sense of menace about the book and the look at Poland is fascinating as past and present converge - not only the pasts of the various characters, but also the past of post-communism Poland itself. To set the scene, each chapter has at the start a summary of the news of the day - including weather reports and football scores, which is an interesting touch.

Published: 2009
Publisher: Byker Books
Setting: Fictional town of Tatley, UK
Protagonist: Bex and Ollie
Series?: 2nd
First Line: ' What is it about seeing a bloke reading in a pub that's like a magnet to other blokes?.'
Bex and Ollie are a couple of scallies - small time crooks, always with an eye out for the main chance - as long as it's not too much like hard work. It's a tough life though - trying to stay one step ahead of the police isn't always easy, they have to keep their wits about them to make sure the ne'er-do-wells they hang about with don't beat them to whatever easy pickings are on offer , and their girlfriends can sometimes cause more strife than they're worth. Light-fingered and light-hearted, Bex and Ollie may not be people you want wandering around your gaff at midnight fingering the family silver, but they're utterly charming and they have their own slightly skew-whiff moral code which makes it easy to root for them, even when you know you really should be tut-tutting in disapproval. This book is a series of novellas, each focusing on a different 'job' that they get mixed up in. Quirky, funny, and peopled with irresistible, delightful and cringe-inducing rapscallions.

THE THIRD RAIL - Michael Harvey
Published: 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Setting: Chicago
Protagonist: PI Michael Kelly
Series?: 3rd
First Line: ' Robles had been on the platform for less than twenty seconds.'
A spree killer is causing havoc on Chicago's public transport system. As he takes a shot at an unlucky random woman waiting on the train platform, ex-Chicago cop-turned PI Michael Kelly is waiting for the same train and he takes off after the sniper. And it seems as though the sniper is expecting - indeed, wanting - that. The police and FBI are understandably jumpy about the killings and are prepared to take any steps to catch the killer, and that includes keeping Kelly close to the investigation, even if he sometimes proves to be a bit of a loose cannon. The book shows the fevered machinations of those in charge as a city is gripped by fear and the media, the mayor and the public want results. And Kelly is stuck in the middle as the case begins to get personal. A fast paced thriller that really keeps up the tension and hurtles along (I won't say like a train), helped by the short chapters told both from Kelly's first person perspective and several third person viewpoints. Not my usual fare (I'm generally not a big fan of action thrillers) and I was confused and unconvinced about the motive/s for the killings, but it was an entertaining read with some excellent characters and a great setting.

Published: 2008
Publisher: Transworld Ireland
Setting: Galway
Protagonist: Jack Taylor
Series?: 7th
First Lines: 'Dear Mr Taylor, please forgive the formality.'
Jack Taylor is sober. That's worth mentioning because it doesn't happen very often, nor last very long. He was on his way to the airport, getting ready to leave Ireland, but his friend Ridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, so he stayed. He might live to regret that when he gets a letter from someone. It's a list: 'Two guards, one nun, one judge. And, alas, one child.' And it seems they're all going to die. Spare prose, dark humour. My addiction to Bruen is like Jack's addiction to the bottle. Only I'm never giving up.

July is mostly Scottish month, with a couple of asides due to book discussions. For Helen, my July reading list is:
BADFELLAS - Tonino Benacquista
SHADOWPLAY - Karen Campbell
FALLOUT - G J Moffat
or, at least, as many of them as I can get to.