Monday 30 August 2010

Canapes and Crime

Happy Monday, dear reader. I hope you had as grand a weekend as I did. Micky Flanagan at the Pleasance was hilarious. Since my dad reads this blog I can't possibly tell you what my favourite part of his show was, so you'll just have to take my word for how good he was. The birthday party was great fun and I danced my socks off. The football match was slightly tedious so I ended up counting the cameramen. There are an awful lot of cameramen at a football match. Then it was off to the Edinburgh Book Festival where I met up with the lovely Bookwitch and her daughter. I shall let her tell you all about it.

I then went to a party hosted by the Jenny Brown Literary Agency where I had good fun chatting to Super-Agent Al, Aly Monroe, Russel McLean and Helen Fitzgerald. I also met Doug Johnstone and Rosy Barnes (whose book SADOMASOCHISM FOR ACCOUNTANTS sounds right up my street). Helen is currently working on a young adult crime fiction novel called OOPS I KILLED MY SISTER'S BOYFRIEND. Can't wait.

By the time I got to the party I was absolutely starving. I was just about to tuck into Russel's left arm when a saviour appeared in the form of a small boy holding a tray with little biscuit things with cheese on. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he negotiated various groups of people, gradually getting closer and closer. Then, just as he was about to reach our group, he veered away. I shot out an arm and stopped him in his tracks. "Oi, what are you doing, going in the other direction? Look at this face. This is a hungry face. If you're bringing food, make sure you come to us first, is that clear?"

The small boy looked shocked but nodded. I think he had understood. "Good," I said, scooping up 24 tiny biscuits smeared with cheese. "Now, run along and fetch another tray."

Bless his heart, he kept us stocked up on nibbles for the rest of the evening. We were always his first port of call when he came out to where we were standing. Then, towards the end of the evening he tapped me on the arm.

"No tray, young man?"

He shook his head. "I have good news and bad news."

"Tell me the bad news."

"There's only one tray of food left, and I'm not allowed to bring it outside. I have to serve it to all the people inside."

"And the good news?"

"I'm getting paid."

"How much?"

He beamed. "Ten pounds."

"It's not enough. Tell them you deserve at least fifteen."

A little later I felt a small presence at my elbow. "I have something important to say," he said.

"I'm all ears, young man."

"I have to tell you that I accept tips."

Needless to say, he got one. Brilliant.

And now, on to the crime fiction news.

The Guardian rounds up literary book tours - including both Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh in Edinburgh. I can see the appeal of the Oxford Bar and Fleshmarket Close but... Irvine Welsh's drug dens?

And, talking of Ian Rankin, he will be appearing on a panel as part of the Tesco Bank Summer Reads programme on September 2nd in Edinburgh.

And if you like champagne, chips and crime (and, let's face it, who doesn't?) here's a great event in Milngavie on 12th September featuring G J Moffat, Shirley McKay, Caro Ramsay and Len Murray. I would go, but I'm in Berlin.

BBC Radio Scotland will feature Val McDermid in a forthcoming My Life in 5 Books.

Louise Welsh reveals that she is afraid of Tories.

A couple of reviews - firstly Christopher Brookmyre's QUITE UGLY ONE MORNING, Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, and Irvine Welsh's REHEATED CABBAGE.

And, finally, in the Lothians book crime is, apparently, a big thing. In Clackmannanshire, however, they prefer manhole covers.

Friday 27 August 2010

Weekend on Mars

Post title courtesy of The Cramps.

It's a busy weekend this weekend - going to see Micky Flanagan at the Fringe Festival, party Saturday night, going to a football match on Sunday, then through to the Book Festival to meet the lovely Bookwitch, followed by a party with Super Special Agent Allan Guthrie and some of his other clients. That's a roundabout way of saying that I might not be back in time for the usual Sunday post so will have to catch up on Monday.

Ian Rankin on hangovers, Rennies and the male menopause. And, talking of Ian Rankin, here's a very thoughtful and interesting post from Harriet Smart talking about Ian Rankin on Late Review and his book THE NAMING OF THE DEAD.

Several reports from the Edinburgh Book Festival. There are so many great reports so I'm trying to give a flavour of as many as I can.

Val McDermid in New Zealand.

The Stirling Observer talks to Louise Welsh.

A review of Stuart MacBride's BLIND EYE.

Kate Atkinson backs RNIB campaign to make literature more accessible to people with sight loss. And STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG enters the charts.

And Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh back a campaign to improve libraries in jails and donate books (which would otherwise be pulped) to Scottish prisons. What a bloody brilliant idea.

Have a lovely weekend all.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

A Scottish Crime Writers' Festival? Yes, please

Peter Guttridge with a report from the Edinburgh Book Festival, including the exciting snippet that Alex Gray and Lin Anderson are planning a crime writers' festival in Scotland. Marvellous. And so, dear reader, who would you like to see on a panel and what would the topic be?

Ian Rankin reviews the Edinburgh Festival. And Lisa Dempster on the British Council's Bookcase Conference.

An excellent piece on Ann Cleeves' Scottish based Shetland quartet.

The Herald reviews Caro Ramsay's DARK WATER (and a headline that needs editing) and Reading Journal enjoyed Nicola Upson's ANGEL WITH TWO FACES, featuring Josephine Tey as detective.

More on the Vic Godard and Irvine Welsh collaboration.

100 Degrees at Midnight reviews IF THE DEAD RISE NOT by Philip Kerr, and an excellent post from Alastair Rickard on Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels. I'll say it again - whatever my Mum says about the internet (or 'the microwave' as she calls it) it's brilliant that people who feel passionate about books take the time to share that passion.

And, a propos of absolutely nothing, I found this story fascinating (hat tip to @ZiggyKinsella). It reminds me of the wonderfully funny LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE by Christopher Moore. I wonder if any serious crime fiction has been written on the same topic - anyone got any thoughts?

Sunday 22 August 2010

Don't Ask Me, I'm a Hermaphrodite From Venus

First of all, this weekend's film viewing consisted of Toy Story 3 which was funny and clever and made me cry followed by the brilliant and dark Argentinian crime thriller El Secreto de Sus Ojos, which is about a policeman who is so haunted by an old case - the rape and murder of a beautiful young woman in the 1970s - that he decides to write a book about it many years later. Excellent stuff. It beat the marvellous French film Un Prophete (sorry, don't know how to do the accent on blogger!) to the best Foreign Language Film Oscar. I think I possibly slightly preferred Un Prophete, but it's a close call.

You can get news from the Scottish Publishing industry - including a nice round-up of book festivals - here from Publishing Scotland.

The lovely Declan Burke recently asked various writers for their favourite last line in a novel.

A Mysterious Writers interview with Bill Kirton. And a couple of interviews with Val McDermid who's appearing in Australia and New Zealand (I was going to say 'downunder' but that just didn't sound right).

Irvine Welsh on forcing addicts into rehab. And in a 'when worlds collide' moment, books and music meet again - I didn't know that Irvine Welsh and Vic Godard had collaborated on a musical. I remember going to see Vic Godard and the Subway Sect in Bristol in the early 1980s. They were great fun.

Iain Banks at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Dogeared Snippets with a delightfully quirky look at Denise Mina's SLIP OF THE KNIFE and M C Beaton's DEATH OF A WITCH.

And, finally, is it unnatural for a woman to write an intellectual novel? Don't ask me, I'm a hermaphrodite from Venus.

Friday 20 August 2010

We Are Family - My Dad and I Read...G J Moffat's DAISYCHAIN

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.

DISLIKES: 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.

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

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

DISLIKES: 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.

PREFERS: Raymond Chandler to Miss Marple, Homicide to Inspector Morse.

Anyway, enough of that. On to the reviewlets:

FALLOUT - G J Moffat
Published: 2010
Publisher: Hachette Scotland
Setting: Mostly Glasgow
Protagonist: Logan Finch
Series?: 2nd
First lines: "How long is it now that you've been killing for me Carl?"

What Donna Says:
Glasgow lawyer Logan Finch's new sort-of-girlfriend DC Rebecca Irvine has taken off on a road trip to the north of Scotland with her drug-addicted rock star ex-boyfriend, and Logan's friend Alex Cahill and his team have been hired to babysit an actress who has come to Glasgow for a film premiere, and who has been receiving death threats. Things are going to get a tad stressful for Logan, Rebecca, Alex and everyone around them. What follows is a tense and exciting race against the clock for all of them. It was partly the short chapters with their alternating focus, and partly the cliffhanger format, but I found this a very fast and furious read. This is more of a straight thriller type of book, which is not my usual fare, but I really enjoyed it. The characters are interesting and well-developed and I really like the way that Logan - the main character - is kept slightly aside from the action. He's essentially an ordinary man on the street who has to deal with the aftermath and consequences of his friends and loved ones being the people at the heart of the action.

What Donna's Dad Says:
Take one lady policeman, one assassin with three assistants, a group of ex special forces operatives who have set up as personal bodyguards; mix with an airhead actress, an ex-boyfriend turned rock singer, an egocentric millionaire, a current boy friend with a thirteen year old daughter, and what do you have? (Note from Donna - I don't know, Dad, do you have FALLOUT?). The story is creepy, explosive, and totally entertaining. There are one or two surprises, which will come to you as you read the book. The main characters are truly likeable, and can be forgiven their past mistakes. The main assassin is a creepy sort and his assistants appear to be rather inept. This is a story that I enjoyed reading, and is one that I could recommend to my wife, as there is only a little bad language. This is a story that I enjoyed immensely and I will definitely read more by this author. The setting in Glasgow and the Western isles made a refreshing change to the usual one location. I deliberately keep it short as I do not want to give too much of the story away. The author wants to sell books, not have it given away for free. (another note from Donna - those last two sentences are because my Dad's original reviewlet was too short and I asked him for more. As you can see, he gets a tad stroppy sometimes...)

Wednesday 18 August 2010

It's All About The Book Festival...Except For The Bits That Aren't

Sadly, due to other commitments, I'm not going to be able to make it through to any of the events I'd like to go to at the Edinburgh Book Festival, although I am hoping to get through to meet the lovely Bookwitch, who is blogging about events. Another excellent blog of festival events is the wonderfully named Crivens, Jings and Help Ma Blog who has so far posted excellent reports of events with Iain Banks and Christopher Brookmyre. And more splendid festival coverage by both Alistair Braidwood of Scots Whay Hae! and Colin Galbraith (a crime writer himself), who attended the event with Craig Robertson and Gillian Galbraith,

And, in other book festival news, the BBC's arts editor speaks to Ian Rankin about Scottish arts funding as The Bookseller reports that the festival expects to cut author events.

The List on Louise Welsh's NAMING THE BONES.

One great thing about the internet is that so many people are willing to share their thoughts on books they've enjoyed. I love that. So here are a couple of book-loving bloggers on Caro Ramsay's ABSOLUTION, and Craig Russell's LENNOX.

And, finally, more reviews - first of all Eurocrime on G J Moffat's FALLOUT, and then The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Herald all review Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

You, Too, Can Be A Skagboy

Ian Rankin on The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And let Ian guide you around Edinburgh with this free iPhone app.

The Scotsman interviews William McIlvanney.

A review of Louise Welsh's play - MEMORY CELLS.

Listen to M C Beaton on BBC4's Front Row.

A new book from Gordon Brown (Glaswegian crime writer, not that other bloke) - 59 MINUTES will be out very soon.

Jay Stringer with an excellent review of Allan Guthrie's BYE BYE BABY over at Do Some Damage, and Vince Keenan with an equally excellent review of Ray Banks' BEAST OF BURDEN.

Fancy a role in Irvine Welsh's TRAINSPOTTING prequel, SKAGBOYS?

Sunday 15 August 2010

In Which Your Humble Blogger Is Likened To A Lorry Load Of Horse Manure

This weekend it was my Mum's birthday, so we took a trip to surprise her. Last time I surprised my Mum for her birthday she burst into tears and said "This reminds me of the time your Granddad arrived with a lorry load of horse manure." This time, she just cried. Result.

My parents live in a complex with a lot of other...ahem...people of a certain age (most of whom, apparently, are dangerous when in possession of a mobility scooter, if these signs are to be believed. All of them knew about my visit as my Dad had told everyone except my Mum. One of them stopped me in the hallway to chat. The conversation, as is its wont, turned to crime fiction (it turns out he's an Ian Rankin fan). "Are you the lady who writes books?" he said.

"Well, yes, I suppose I am," said I.

"I'd love to read it," said my new friend.

"Weeeeeeell, there's a lot of swearing in it."

"I don't mind."

So I went into my parents' flat. "I need to get your copy of OLD DOGS to give to Brian."

"What?!" shrieked my mother. "You can't do that." She jumped off the chair (and with her dodgy knees too) and barged past me. "Brian, you can't read our Donna's book."

"Why not?"

"It's full of bad language. You think she's a nice girl, but she's not." She did, however, have an alternative solution. She went back inside and brought out GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET. "Here, take this one. It's weird, but there's less swearing."

Errrrr...thanks Mum.

Ian Rankin doesn't understand his first book.

An interview with Kate Atkinson. And a couple of reviews of STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG.

More on the fight to save Conan Doyle's home.

If you're in Brighton on 20 November, you can go and see Louise Welsh.

The Coast Reporter has an article on Grant McKenzie.

William McIlvanney is taking a break from crime to write a book about Sean Connery. on Alexander McCall Smith's CORDUROY MANSIONS, The Musings Of A Dreamer on Iain Banks' THE WASP FACTORY, and Reading For The Joy Of It reviews Quintin Jardine's BLOOD RED.

And, finally, apparently, Scotland has more book festivals than anywhere else in the world. Yay for us!

Thursday 12 August 2010

Give Me The Blue M&Ms and Some Dancing Girls

First of all - huge congratulations to Russel McLean on his Shamus nomination.

How health problems inspired Paul Johnston.

You can now check if you're a beneficiary of Conan Doyle's will.

A few reviews, starting with one of Louise Welsh's play, MEMORY CELLS. Next, Rhapsody in Books reviews Ian Rankin's THE NAMING OF THE DEAD, Permanently Weird on Irvine Welsh's REHEATED CABBAGE, Musings and Wanderings enjoyed Philip Kerr's A GERMAN REQUIEM, Milo's Rambles calls Caro Ramsay's DARK WATER 'astounding' and a double-header of Peter May reviews from Cicero's Children.

More on the Wigtown Book Festival line-up with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid amongst others.

An interesting post in the Huffington Post from Otto Penzler on why PIs can't be noir.

And, finally, are writers the new rock and roll stars? Is Ian Rankin going to throw a TV out of a window? Is Allan Guthrie going to want an Iggy Pop style rider? (I particularly like page 15). And, on the back of his Shamus nomination, is Russel McLean going to go all LL Cool J and demand a bottle of baby oil and 2 dozen thornless roses? So, dear reader, what would your rider be?

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Not Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

I have an internet connection problem at home so am unable to post from home, can't get my e-mail and, therefore, cannot get my google alerts, so this is a very truncated teeny tiny postette. And if you've sent me an e-mail, please bear with me - I'm not ignoring you!

A couple of news items only then. Maybe I should write them in bigger text so that it looks meatier than it is...

First of all, a review of the marvellous Year Of Open Doors (short stories but not crime fiction related on the whole) .

Bad news - Edinburgh Festival facing budget cuts. Good news - new publishing, literacy and writers' centre planned for Edinburgh.

the CWA Dagger shortlists appear to have been...errrr...shortened. Congratulations to Karen Campbell for making the itsy bitsy teeny weeny shortlist with the marvellous SHADOWPLAY. And here's more about the nominees. Craig Robertson, unfortunately, didn't make the cut, but he's philosophical.

And, finally, an interesting article in the Guardian on writers as performers.

Sunday 8 August 2010

How Can It Be Sunday Evening Already?

This weekend's cinematic viewing consisted of JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY and WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE - both of which I can heartily recommend.

JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY is a Danish thriller - a sort of film noir version of the romantic comedy WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. At the start of the film we are introduced to the main character in a very SUNSET BOULEVARD way as he lies on the pavement in the rain, his blood mixing with the rainwater. Jonas - a family man with an ordinary, boring life as husband, father and crime-scene photographer is involved in a car crash which puts millionaire's daughter Julia into a coma. Jonas goes to the hospital to visit her and Julia's family assume he is Sebastian - the boyfriend she met in Hanoi (and who - this happens in the first minute so no spoilers here - she may possibly have shot, before fleeing the scene). When Julia wakes up, she's lost her sight and can't remember anything about her trip to the Far East and Jonas allows the deception to continue. Very twisty (very, very twisty, with lots of little tricks and traps), nightmarish and dark.

WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE is also dark, but it's also very funny. Achingly, bitingly funny. Eleven-year old Dawn Wiener - geeky and with absolutely no fashion sense suffers through Junior High where she is called Wiener Dog and Dogface and where her locker is the only one decorated with insults, amongst rows of pristine lockers. At home, Dawn's nerdy older brother is only interested in getting to a good college, and her perfect little sister spends all her time pirouetting in a tutu. And guess which daughter their mother blatantly obviously prefers. And then, to make matters worse, Dawn gets a crush on a hunky (but terribly thick) High School student, and is sure she has a chance with him. Unsettling, touching and bitterly funny, this is like a darker version of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

So, with the Sunday film reviews over, back to the book news.

First of all, the lovely Shari Low of the Daily Record reviews new books by Paul Johnston, Lin Anderson and Caro Ramsay.

Talking of Paul Johnston, Martin Edwards has a post on his excellent blog, describing Johnston - quite rightly - as "a writer of genuine quality." I would dearly love to see a new Quintillian Dalrymple book.

A couple of videos from the Edinburgh International Book Festival - first of all Ian Rankin on why he loves the festival, and then an interview with Quintin Jardine.

Will any of the international acclaim, plaudits and finance for a film version of Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe make its way back to Botswana?

A couple more reviews - firstly a couple for M C Beaton as Spinetingler reviews DEATH OF A WITCH, and Diary of an Anxious Reader reviews THERE GOES THE BRIDE. And 100 Degrees at Midnight on Philip Kerr's A QUIET FLAME.

More from Aly Monroe on the real life inspiration for Peter Cotton.

And finally, as I settle down to watch the third and final of the new Sherlock Holmes TV series, here's Steven Moffat on Arthur Conan Doyle's villains. And, apparently, Sherlock Holmes' style is the latest thing amongst fashionistas. So does this mean I should go out and buy a pipe?

Friday 6 August 2010

Friday Philanderings

A hodge-podge of pre-weekend links today.

First of all, well done to Peter May for winning his second French book award.

The Vinyl Villain with an excellent review of Karen Campbell's SHADOWPLAY - a review with which I heartily concur. And Stars/Crickets with a review of Louise Welsh's THE BULLET TRICK.

Jake Kerridge of theTelegraph spoke to several writers at Harrogate about being a crime writer.

The lovely Maxine over at Petrona is rounding up all her reviews by country. And she's reached Scotland.

See Val McDermid along with Sophie Hannah in Manchester on Friday 22nd October.

Lovereading on Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY TOOK MY DOG, and on Alexander McCall Smith's involvement in Scotland's Engage For Education events.

The Scotsman muses about authors called Black.

He's not Scottish, and I have really no excuse for putting this link here except that he's one of my favourite writers (and if you haven't read his books you really should), but this guest blog post by Steve Mosby over at Musings of an All Purpose Monkey is just brilliant.

And finally, if you want to buy a flat that Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus once visited, then it's yours for £360,000. And very nice it is too, but...£360,000????

Tuesday 3 August 2010

What I Read in July

SHADOWPLAY - Karen Campbell
Published: 2010
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Setting: Glasgow
Protagonist: Chief Inspector Anna Campbell
Series?: 3rd
First Line: 'On a hill swept by oak, a single soft glow shines from a darker bulk.'
Anna Cameron has been promoted to Chief Inspector and moved to a new Division. A fresh start and a clean sheet should be just the ticket. Unfortunately, Anna discovers that she now has the worst boss in the world. On top of that her Mum - who she doesn't have a great relationship with - is seriously ill. Anna has plenty of work to keep her busy - the racially motivated attack of a young man, the disappearance of an elderly lady from a nursing home, added to the fact that someone is threatening one of her officers. Underlying everything in this book is the theme of motherhood. This is one of the best books I've read this year. The first two in the series were excellent but this is something else - gorgeous and atmospheric writing, a wonderful sense of place with a mix of darkness and humour that is the very heart and soul of Glasgow, an authentic depiction of police work that makes you wonder why anyone wants to join up, characters that you really get to know and an absorbing plot. Gritty, witty, and pretty bloody amazing. I was totally captivated from start to finish.

Published: 2010
Publisher: Preface Publishing
Setting: Edinburgh
Protagonist: Gus Dury
Series?: 4th
First Line: '
The doctor was a no-nonsense west-coaster, type that called a spade a shovel and if you didn't like it would add, You got a problem with that?'
Gus Dury is back on the bevvy - and no bloody wonder after what happened in book 3. Not only is he back on the drink but he's in hospital and in a bad way after being run down by an old lady on a mobility scooter. When his best friend Hod visits and asks him to help him investigate the death of a student - son of a high-profile actress, Gus is reluctant - let's face it, his career as a PI hasn't turned out very well for him so far, has it? However, since he feels partly responsible for the cash-strapped state in which Hod currently finds himself, he agrees. One more bad decision in a whole string of bad decisions. Sometimes it feels as though nothing Gus does is ever going to be right. For me he's a thoroughly noir protagonist. He's constantly trying to dig himself out of a hole that's too big for him to scrabble out of. What's more, fate is standing giggling at the top, shovelling in more earth on top of him. And, when someone does finally throw down a shovel, it hits Gus on the head. This is a very dark book, but relieved by Gus' cynical, self-deprecating humour. After this entry in the series, I want a little gladness for Gus. Wonderful stuff.


Published: 2009
Publisher: Sphere
Setting: Bradfield and Worcester
Protagonist: DCI Jordn and Dr Tony Hill
Series?: 6th
First Line: '
"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."
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.

BADFELLAS - Tonino Benacquista (translated by Emily Read)
Published: 2010
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
Setting: South of France
Protagonist: The Blake family
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'They took possession of the house in the middle of the night.'
None of the Blake family are particularly happy to be moving to a quiet town in Normandy. However, as they're really the Manzoni family from New Jerse,y and are in the Witness Protection Programme after Fred ratted out of his former Mafia colleagues, the family don't really have a great deal of choice. So they settle into small town life...somewhat. Fred decides he's going to be a writer, his wife Maggie assuages her guilt by doing charity work and watching the neighbours (with the help of the FBI men who have moved in nearby to protect them and to make sure they don't do anything stupid), and children Warren and Belle do what they need to do to get by at school. And each of them does their thing more or less on their own. They could not be described as a cohesive family unit. Much more cohesive is the Family (best said with cotton wool balls in the cheeks) who are trying to track them down. This would make a great film - there are some scenes that made me grin from ear to ear and the whole book is a pacy black comedy. For me, however, the characters were just too lightly drawn. They held my interest but I didn't really care about them one way or the other.

Published: 2010
Publisher: Tyrus Books
Setting: California
Protagonist: Fiona Yu
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'It all started with my missing hymen.'
Fiona Yu is a successful attorney in her late 20s, commanding a nice office and a big salary. However, she's also a virgin who lives at home with her traditional (oh so traditional) parents. Her Dad is constantly trying to fix her up with a nice boy and reminding her to wear lipstick. Fiona has had to pretend to be something she isn't for most of her life. So now she's decided to rebel against everything her family and their culture stands for. However, the only thing she seems to have control over is her hymen. So her rebellion takes the form of using a dildo (sorry Dad) to break her own hymen - that will get that pesky 'family honour' she's been hauling around off her shoulders. However, when she discovers that she never actually had a hymen in the first place, she seeks medical assistance to get it reconstructed so that she can have the pleasure of breaking it. Enter gynaecologist and old schoolfriend Sean, who Fiona last saw just before he was taken off to a juvenile detention centre for setting a classmate's hair on fire. Fiona and Sean renew their friendship and have a few nights out. Strangely, all their nights out are followed by the discovery of a body the next day (not the same body each time, I hasten to add). Black comedy at its strangest - humourous and enjoyable if you can suspend your disbelief right from the start. I didn't like either of the main characters though and would have been quite happy if Sean had sprayed himself and Fiona with hairspray and lit a match. Enjoyable enough but ultimately unsatisfying.

Monday 2 August 2010

What's That Dangling From Your Window?

Alexander McCall Smith will be appearing at the Toledo Library on 21st October, Val McDermid will be at the Chiswick Book Festival from September 17th to 19th, and a nice line-up at Stirling's Off The Page Book Festival from September 11th-18th with Denise Mina, Iain Banks, Christopher Brookmyre and Louise Welsh. And the Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival - featuring Allan Guthrie, Stuart MacBride and Alexander McCall Smith - has a blog.

Manic Pop Thrills reviews Doug Johnstone's TOMBSTONING, which reminds me I need to get my grubby hands on a copy, Mockingbird loves Philip Kerr's THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, and The List is sort of unsure about Lin Anderson's THE REBORN, pronouncing it chilling and absorbing, but heavy on the info dump.

Aly Monroe with another instalment about the real life inspiration for Peter Cotton. I love her blog, it's always thoughtful and interesting.

And talking of excellent blogs, Karen at Eurocrime has a picture of the actor who is going to be playing Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie.

Ian Rankin talks to broadcaster Philip King at the Galway Arts Festival.

Here's an interesting interview with William Meikle, who I have just added to the blogroll.

And, finally, some people will steal anything. Note to the Lothian and Borders Constabulary - my spare bedroom does not contain two naked bronze men. No, Mr Polisman, I live in Glasgow, not Edinburgh. Here we don't bother with that artistic nonsense, we just dangle sex toys out of our windows.

Sunday 1 August 2010

No Sex Please, We're Donna's Mum

Crimefactory has an excerpt of Allan Guthrie's forthcoming BLOOD WILL OUT. I'm sorry, but with a cliffhanger like that, forthcoming just isn't good enough - you can't leave me like that, Al. But if you just can't get enough Allan Guthrie (and we hear that complaint so often here in Badsville) you can now download his novella BYE BYE BABY.

A couple of round-ups of Harrogate- first of all, Keith Walters' excellent long and comprehensive summary, secondly, Dagger nominee Craig Robertson's look at the event from the author's perspective.

A review of two Nicola Upson books featuring crime writer Josephine Tey as detective, a reviewlet of Ian Rankin's THE COMPLAINTS, China Rhyming enjoys Lin Anderson's DARK FLIGHT , and a reviewlet in the Telegraph of Irvine Welsh's REHEATED CABBAGE. (I love the bit about Jah Wobble just above it).

Catch Val McDermid at the Independent Woodstock Literary Festival on September 17th. And you can hear Louise Welsh talking about 18th century Scottish adventurer and diplomat George Bogle on Radio 3.

More about the TV version of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie.

Jon Meacham of Newsweek stands up for genre fiction with a great article and a spirited defence. Nice one Jon.

And finally - no sex please, we're British. My mum will be relieved that she can, at last, pick up a book without all that nonsense in it.