Monday 29 August 2011

Appeaser of Gangsters and Breaker of Wind

I mentioned last week that I've been involved in making a film for a charity I volunteer with. Well, today was the second day of filming. After last week's antics (which involved appeasing Glasgow gangsters and football hooligans), we thought this week would be much simpler. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case - mostly due to weather this time. We wanted shots from the Squinty Bridge (seen in the photo at the top of the page). By this time, the wind was howling. This would have been fine, apart from the fact that the microphone was picking all that noise up. The speaker for this part was patiently waiting to say his piece but the wind just wasn’t dying down.

“I know this might sound weird, Donna,” said our Director, “but do you think you could go and stand about 5 feet in front of him.”

Ah, my big break. My acting talents were required at last. “You want me just to stand by the railing, wistfully looking out towards the river? Or perhaps I should glide elegantly past him as he speaks? Just tell me what you want me to do. I’ve been studying the great Method actors.”

“Actually, I want you to stand in front of him and act as a windbreak.”

A windbreak? I was mortified. I know the camera’s supposed to add twenty pounds, but I thought that was only if you were in front of it – not within ten feet in any direction. However, consummate professional that I am, I bit back my tears and stood in the required position – trying to look as fat and wide as possible. Apparently, I succeeded – we got the shot – despite the wind I successfully broke. (Not as in “I broke wind”, you understand.)

Luckily, my enormous bulk came in handy at the next location. The Director wanted a shot looking up Kelvin Way. The only problem was that there was an enormous green rubbish bin spoiling the shot. Not your normal household rubbish bin – it was about 6 times the size and really, really heavy. As I wheeled it out of shot towards the side of the pavement, I realised it was on the way towards a parked car, at speed. I would like to say that I threw myself in front of it, but I didn’t. The Director ran up and rescued me.

Anyway, enough of that. The wonderful For Books' Sake reviews Shona MacLean's CRUCIBLE OF SECRETS.

Another one of those lovely mystery book sculptures has mysteriously appeared. Here's a post on some of the recent ones at the Edinburgh Book Festival. And more from the Guardian blog on the Festival.

Irvine Welsh in a sneaky plot to sabotage Hearts? And a trailer for Ecstasy.

Ian Rankin auctions off a character and himself for cancer research.

A review of Val McDermid's VILLAGE SOS on Radio 4, a great interview with her in the Scotsman, and Val wants to make people care when someone dies.

A review of Ray Banks' BEAST OF BURDEN.

Yay! Douglas Lindsay's blog is back after taking a break over the summer.

And, finally, this photo was taken by my partner, at a town in the Buckfast Triangle ("you get used to it").

When I was looking for articles to explain Buckfast to those of you who don't know, I found this brilliant one from the Uncyclopedia. Do read the warning at the top.

I think this photo is brilliant. Someone spent ages getting this display juuuuuuuuuuuust right.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Good News,Old News, New News

Catching up a wee bit here.

Brilliant film news for Tony Black - I can't wait to see this - Tony Black, Richard Jobson and Dougray Scott? Bloody hell - what a trio. Huge congratulations Tony.

A couple of reports from the Edinburgh Book Festival that are vaguely crime fiction related, including Bella Bathhurst's favourite moments from previous festivals.

A review of Ian Rankin's EXIT MUSIC, one of Alexander McCall Smith's THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH, It'sACrime enjoyed Craig Robertson's SNAPSHOT and Karen at Austcrime reviews the CRIMESPOTTING short story collection.

An article on the TV version of Kate Atkinson's CASE HISTORIES.

Louise Welsh on Saturday Review.

Check out Val McDermid's Woman's Hour drama VILLAGE SOS.

Irvine Welsh on the set of ECSTACY.

The Gold, Steel and New Blood Dagger shortlists.

Sunday 21 August 2011

I'm a Thug and a Zombie

Hello, dear Reader, I hope you've had a splendid weekend. I've just spent a lovely day filming part of a short film for a charity I'm involved in. When I say 'filming', my involvement was minor, consisting mainly of fielding variations on the question "Haw, hen, is this part of that Brad Pitt zombie film they're making in George Square?" I'm trying to tell myself that they're mistaking me for Angelina Jolie, rather than a zombie, but...since I look as though I've eaten Angelina Jolie and still had room left over for dessert, I'm not exactly convincing anyone. My confidence was further dashed when we were filming in one of the stations. We had to get security passes, complete with photos, to be allowed to film there. Two of my colleagues - let's call them John Smith and Fred Jones - were first up to get their passes. They came back with nicely printed passes in the names of Mr J Smith and Mr F Jones. I was up next. I helpfully spelled my name. "Is that with an R E at the end?" said the official. I said that it was. I received my pass. All it said was "Donaldmuire". I didn't even get a Mr. I mean, the photograph wasn't particularly flattering but...still.

Allan Guthrie's Thuggish 13. And look at me, in there, nestled in such good company, looking all hard and mean and that.

A nice review of Len Wanner's DEAD SHARP: SCOTTISH CRIME WRITERS ON COUNTRY AND CRAFT. And a few more reviews - Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON, M C Beaton's DEATH OF A CHIMNEY SWEEP, Craig Russell's THE DEEP DARK SLEEP and BERTIE PLAYS THE BLUES by Alexander McCall Smith.

A short story by the brilliant Ray Banks over at Shotgun Honey.

I don't know whether Radio New Zealand have just put up these old radio interviews with Kate Atkinson and Val McDermid, but they just came up in my google alerts, so I thought I'd mention them.

Talking of Val, some reviews from the Edinburgh Book Festival, including one of Val's event. More book festival stuff with a review of the Iain Banks event, one of the William McIlvanney one I mentioned previously, and a podcast with Louise Welsh. And the Falkirk Herald chats to Alan Bissett.

The full line-up of the Soho Literary Festival, which includes Philip Kerr.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A veritable plethora

The Drowning Machine with an excellent review of Allan Guthrie's TWO-WAY SPLIT. And Allan Guthrie interviews Nigel Bird over at Criminal-E.

Peter Rozovsky on comic crime fiction and why Chris Ewan's humour works.

Lots of crime fiction appearances coming up. First of all, Russel McLean is at Blackwell's in Edinburgh tonight, Ian Rankin is appearing at the Morley Literature Festival on October 13th, and Val McDermid will be at the Ilkley Literature Festival on October 2nd. Before that, Val's at Waterstone's Deansgate, Manchester on September 12th. And remember, if you're in Edinburgh tomorrow, you can take part in a world record attempt.

Savidge Reads reviews Val McDermid's TRICK OF THE DARK, The List on Gordon Ferris' THE HANGING SHED, a review of Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey mystery, AN EXPERT IN MURDER, a reviewlet of Ray Banks' most excellent BEAST OF BURDEN, Criminal Element enjoys Catriona McPherson's DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS, and Murder By The Book looks at Chris Ewan's THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO PARIS.

A review of the stage version of Alexander McCall Smith's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BERTIE and the print version of 44 SCOTLAND STREET: BERTIE PLAYS THE BLUES. And if you want to see where the 44 Scotland Street novels are set, you can do that very thing here. Finally, on the AMS front, you can listen to him being interviewed on Real Radio at the EBF.

An interesting interview with Gavin Knight about HOOD RAT covering crime fiction (I don't agree with all the points, needless to say), true crime, and feeling out of his depth in Glasgow.

A couple of reviews of the William McIlvanney event at the Edinburgh Book Festival where he takes a swipe at London publishers.

In another book festival event review - the careful Lin Anderson and the louche Tony Black. He is rather rakish.

And, finally, Scottish cow in freak ladder accident.

Monday 15 August 2011

Half-mugged on a wet day

An excellent piece on Val McDermid in The Guardian.

A great interview with Ray Banks over at Hardboiled Wonderland, and Ray talks about his favourite short series' here. The young man has good taste - Woodrell, Willeford and Raymond are 3 of my absolute favourites. I'd also add Mr Banks to that list.

You can go to jail as part of the Wigtown Book Festival at the end of September.

If you're in California you can see Catriona McPherson in San Mateo tomorrow and in Davis on Friday.

Helen Fitzgerald wants to buy your kidney.

Sherlock Holmes banned for being anti-Mormon.

The lovely Declan Burke mentions Charles Cummings' THE TRINITY SIX. Talking of Declan, here's a smashing review for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL (a marvellous book, which you can win here).

Scotland on Sunday reports on the launch of the Edinburgh Book Festival, while the Guardian blog tells you what you can expect over the next couple of weeks, and whether tickets are still available on any given day. The Daily Record has a beginner's guide, and the BBC announces more stuff.

The FT has an interesting article on e-books, including the information that Ian Rankin's Edinburgh iphone app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times.

Ah, how I wish I was going to Bouchercon.

Finally, Glasgow crime decreases on wet days, apparently. Having been half-mugged on a wet day, I have to disagree.

Thursday 11 August 2011

I have a headache...

...and cannot think of a suitable title for this post, so here is the Scottish crime fiction news.

A sucker punch from Philip Kerr, apparently.

Nigel Bird reviews Douglas Lindsay's THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMPSON. Brilliant stuff, and I am thrilled to be mentioned in the same breath. My regular reader (hello Dad!) will know I am a big fan of Douglas Lindsay. And Nigel has been very busy. In Dancing With Myself Scottish crime fiction fan Fiona Johnson interviews herself. As does Doug Johnstone.

Talking of Doug Johnstone, here's another interview with him over at Len Wanner's excellent The Crime of It All. And you can catch him at various events over the next few months. Personally, I'm hoping to get to the Literary Death Match. It's a couple of days before we head off to Berlin, so hopefully I'll make it. I'm not quite sure how it works, despite this helpful article, but I'm sure it will be fun. Which makes me wonder who, dear reader, would you like to see in a Literary Death Match?

A great interview with the multi-talented Ray Banks over at Vince Keenan's blog (and goodness me, thank you, Ray!).

Chris Ewan is having a lovely time on his US grand tour.

A review of the theatrical adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BERTIE.

The Scotsman reviews Lin Anderson's PICTURE HER DEAD.

Like whisky? Like Ian Rankin's Rebus? Got a spare £1000? Just think how many bottles of Buckie you could buy with that.

Irvine Welsh on the cast of FILTH. And he returns home to Leith to support young talent.

Chris Brookmyre on the shortening of his name.

Finally, a look at Raymond Chandler's dislike for the genteel British amateur detective.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Just call me Fatty Acids for short

Apologies for the less than regular postings over the last few days. I'm back down at my Mum and Dad's at the moment. It's my Mum's 80th birthday this week, so I have come down to celebrate.

Today, we went to the bingo. Sadly, I didn't make out like a bandit this time. However, I did win a jar of Tesco Value Lemon Curd. That's saved me a whole 22p off my next week's shopping. Well, it would have done if I actually ate lemon curd. Somebody else won the packet of Strawberry Whip. I was gutted. That had my name written all over it (assuming I changed my name to Maltodextrin, Modified Potato Starch, Emulsifiers (Propane-1,2-diol Esters of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithins) , Gelling Agents (Tetrasodium Diphosphate, Disodium Phosphate) which, by the way, I was totally prepared to do.

Anyway, on to the news.

Gillian Galbraith and Shirley McKay at the Inverness Book Festival on Thursday,

A great review of Chris Ewan's THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO VENICE, and the Deseret News calls it 'fun and entrancing'. Finally, an interview with the man himself over at Novel Rocket,

Ian Rankin is supporting the StreetSmart campaign, to help homelessness projects.

Breathing Fiction puts the spotlight on Denise Mina. And an article in the Daily Record on Gordon Ferris.

A review of Nicola Upson's third Josephine Tey novel, TWO FOR SORROW, one of Alexander McCall Smith's THE LOST ART OF GRATITUDE and a review for THE DOG WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.

Lots of Irvine Welsh news: first a trailer for ECSTACY, an interview with Irvine Welsh about the film, and news on FILTH.

Caro Ramsay talks about Jack The Ripper, The Musical, amongst other things.

If you want to help set a world record, and you can be in Edinburgh on August 19th, here's your opportunity.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Defining Genres By Bedroom Scene and other nonsense

As I am not at home, but thought I would be able to post a proper post today and haven't been able to, here is a re-hash of a couple of old posts, following up on the genre debate.

First of all, how to define genre by bedroom scene:


There was a knock on the door of my hotel room. I knew who this would be. My heart started beating fast like a baby sparrow fluttering in my ribcage. I fluffed up my hair, touched up my lipstick, adjusted my heaving breasts and opened the door. Tarquin stood there, leaning against the door frame like a bronzed God. His Armani jacket was slung casually over his shoulder and an errant lock of hair formed a little kiss curl over his forehead. I wanted to reach out and tenderly push it back into place. He smiled at me - a smile which reached from his chiselled jaw right up to his smouldering eyes, softly caressing the contours of his exquisite cheekbones on the way up.

"Hey there gorgeous," he said leaning close, his hot breath warming mycheek. "I've got something for you."

My eyes travelled down to the straining crotch of his tailored trousers,where his throbbing manhood lurked. I trembled. "You'd better come in then." I said.


There was a knock at the door of my hotel room. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the bedside lamp. Who could this be at 3am? My nerves were still on edge from the threatening phone call I'd received earlier. The voice, slightly mechanical and completely without intonation, had said "Don't say I didn't warn you." The receiver had gently been replaced after a few seconds. I crept over to the door and looked out of the spyhole. The corridor was empty, the lights low; the whole hotel was sleeping. As my heart beat returned to normal, I realised I had been holding my breath.

I relaxed but tensed up again almost immediately. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the wardrobe door opening.


There was a knock at the door of my hotel room which woke me up from my dream. I felt half regretful and half relieved. I felt disloyal for dreaming about Inspector Danny Trevelyan when I should be concentrating on looking for my sister, who had mysteriously disappeared three days ago.

"Who's there?" I called out. There was no reply, just another knock. I got out of bed and walked to the door. With my hand on the doorknob I glanced out of the spyhole. There was no one there. As I turned away, puzzled, I saw the wardrobe door opening. I let out a squeak of fear and stayed rooted to the spot as a tall, handsome man stepped out of the wardrobe.

"Danny? What are you doing in the wardrobe?"

His eyes twinkled. "I came to tell you something about your sister and saw something mysterious in the wardrobe. "He shrugged. "I got locked in and didn't want to wake you up." I wasn't sure that I believed him. Was he all that he seemed? Was he even really a police inspector? But there was undeniably an element of sexual tension between us that troubled me more than anything. Well,except the mysterious disappearance of what's-her-name of course.


The explosion knocked the bedroom door off its hinges. Butch threw himself down by the side of the bed, grabbing his Uzi as he flew over the night table. The two men in balaclavas sprayed bullets into the room before turning and running off down the corridor. Butch jumped up, ran to the window and looked out. A black SUV with tinted windows was just pulling away in the courtyard below his hotel room. He could catch them.

Not stopping to open the window he jumped through, landing on the balcomy below. He turned to the shocked white face of the girl who'd been sitting on her balcony reading the morning paper. "Sorry lady, criminals to catch. I'll be back." He kissed her hard, grabbed the drainpipe and effortlessly slid to the ground. He ran towards his souped up chevy with 40 million horsepower under the hood and go faster stripes along the side. The idea of a car chase ending in a spectacular crash and the SUV bursting into flames excited him.


I quietly got out of bed, leaving Sheriff Pete Mallory gently snoring.I needed to get a head start on the day, what with having to make fresh bread, pack the childrens' lunches, finish the quilt I was handsewing for the Women's Guild Summer Fete, and take Andrew to the school concert and Butthead to the vet. Or was it the other way round? Since the murder of my neighbour Philip Stover I had been at sixes and sevens and hadn't been able to concentrate on anything other than trying to solve the crime, despite Pete Mallory's insistence that I keep my pert little nose out of business that didn't concern me.

I shook him awake. "Sheriff Mallory, do you have the key to Philip Stover's house? There might be a vital clue there that you missed. And, by the way, you need to get up and leave before the children wake up. I'm not supposed to have a love life since my husband ran off with his secretary 8 years ago."

He groaned. "Not that it's any of your business, but the key's in the front left pocket of my trousers. You really MUST learn to keep your pert little nose out of business that doesn't concern you. Now, for goodness sake come back to bed and give me a kiss. It's 3am, the children won't get up for 4 hours. And while we're on the subject - what the hell's wrong with sliced bread from the supermarket, let the children pack their own damn lunches - there's something weird about 4 30-somethings who all still live at home anyway. And another thing, the damn quilt's already bigger than Madison Square Garden and you've only been sewing it for 2 weeks; Andrew can take himself to the school concert - he's the headmaster for god's sake, and I can never remember - is Butthead the dog or one of the children? And for goodness sake, stop calling me Sheriff Mallory - we've been seeing each other for 6 years and you've stuck your nose into 12 murders over that time."


I reached over the mysterious dame in my bed, opened the drawer of the bedside cabinet and pulled out a half bottle of whisky. I took a slug and savoured the welcome burn in my throat as it went down. I lit a cigarette, screwing up my eyes against the smoke as it curled into the air. The Venetian blinds slanted a weak light into the room, leaving a pattern of gray stripes on the rumpled bedsheets. I looked at the broad as she lay spreadeagled on the bed. "Of all the beds in all the world,"I muttered "Why did you have to walk into mine?" She was a strawberry blonde and I knew she was trouble from the moment she'd stepped into my office the afternoon before. Her jailbird boyfriend had gone on the lam but she thought he'd been fingered by The Duke's mob of gorillas. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd seen her sleazeball boyfriend getting on a Greyhound bus to Chattanooga, a petite brunette hanging from his muscular arm like....well, like something really delicate that hangs from something really ugly. It's early, I've got a hangover - similes and metaphors don't come easy until later in the day. Give me a break.

So anyway, I fed her some brandy, along with some line about how a cute tomato like her could always find another sucker to take care of her and here she was - in bed with that next sucker. Her lips had lost the layers of red lipstick and looked beestung and bruised, false eyelashes had given up the battle during last night's exertions and one of them now lay gently on her cheek like a depressed spider, and she smelled of expensive whisky and cheap perfume. God, she was gorgeous.


The phone rang. "Shit." Inspector Alan Jeffries woke with a start and reached out over his wife's prone body for the phone. He knocked the alarm clock off the cabinet in his haste and his bleary eyes caught sight of the luminous dial. 3am. "Shit," he said again. There could only be one reason for the phone ringing at 3am.

"Yeah?" he said into the receiver, rubbing his hand through his hair and over his eyes, trying to force himself awake. He belched - the sour beery taste made him wish he'd just come straight home last night rather than going out for a pint with the lads yet again.

"Guv? Watters here. You'd better come down to the Docks. We've got another murder."

Jeffries' wife stirred. "Alan? It's no good - I hate being a policeman's wife. I want a divorce."


Agatha Parple opened her bedroom door with a sigh of relief. She was so glad it was 9pm and she could turn in with a nice cup of hot cocoa. This had been a hectic day - from the moment she'd walked into the dining room at breakfast and seen Colonel Arbuthnot face down in the kippers with a south American blow dart in the back of his neck, until the moment she'd assembled the household in the library and Revealed that the murderer was young Fotheringham, who reminded her so much of the butcher's son, she hadn't stopped once all day. The sheets of her bed had been turned down by Betty, the slightly common but good hearted maid with the unfortunate habit of dropping her aitches. Agatha reached down and unfolded her nightdress from where it lay warming on the hot water bottle Lady Alexander thoughtfully provided for all her guests. Ah, surely the greatest bedtime experience anyone could ever have - the feel of toasty brushed cotton against one's skin.


William stirred as I opened the bedroom door and the scent of toast and jam wafted towards him. He opened his eyes. "I thought you'd be hungry after trying to solve the murders,." I said, "so I went downstairs and rustled up a treat for you." I put the tray in front of him. As he ate, I went through the recipe in my head, to make sure I'd cooked it correctly:

Toast and Jam: Take two slices of bread
Put bread in toaster
Switch toaster on and cook until a sort of brownish colour (pale brown rather than dark brown - definitely not black)

Handy hint - when the smoke alarm goes off, your toast is done
Remove from toaster and spread with butter (or vegetable spread of your choice)
Ladle a generous helping of jam over the top
Serve while still warm


Hector Lector opened the bedroom door. His victim was spreadeagled on the bed, her legs and arm tied to the bedposts. Hector made sure he had covered all his serial killer trademarks. His victim was a blue eyed woman with one arm and he had drowned her in a vat of hot chocolate while narrating The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner. He had then tied her to the bed and had drawn a picture of a squirrel on the wall and scattered rose petals around the bedroom floor.

For a time the pounding in his head had subsided. He would be able to forget for a while that he had been 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.

Hector sighed happily and left the bedroom.


Bob took off his boxer shorts and turned round, gazingly lovingly at his new love. Lumarella gasped in shock and drew her little pointy head back. "By Jupiter, what's that?" she cried. "On MY planet that looks like the tool we use to stir our Grogon Juice."


Legolas got out of bed in a huff. "What do you mean 'It's small'?" he said. "Of COURSE it's bloody small - I'm an elf."

Next - from noir to cosy in...errrrr...12 easy stages:

Noir fiction has our protagonist spiralling down into the pit of despair, thrown there by a mocking Fate, who then stands at the edge of the pit shovelling dirt onto the head of the protagonist until he is half-buried. Fate then throws the shovel down into the pit and the hapless protag reaches out for that glimmer of hope, only for it to whack him on the head and kill him. Noir for me ends with the characters going to prison/becoming alcoholics/ betraying each other and their own morals (if they had any to start with) - mostly a one book deal (after all, who'd want to put the poor sucker through all that again?)

Add a wisecracking sidekick, a couple of shoot-outs and the love of a good woman for our PI who decides he's going to kick the booze, and you have a hardboiled tale.

Add a nasty serial killer, a morgue, some sharp knives and a know-it-all woman with a degree in pathology, who just happens to be a cordon-bleu chef and you have a forensic thriller.

Give your serial killer a quirk and have him choose victims who are blue-eyed women with one arm who he drowns in a vat of hot chocolate while narrating The Rime of The Ancient Mariner. He then ties her to the bed and draws a picture of a squirrel on the wall and scatters rose petals around the bedroom floor, because he was burned by a scalding mug of hot chocolate when he was a baby, force-fed to him by his mother Rose, a Women's Royal Navy Sailor, who lost an arm in a bizarre accident involving a rabid squirrel. Add in a few italicised passages from the viewpoint of the killer and you have a psychological thriller.

Include quotes from an obscure Turkish poet left at the scene of the crime (the poem, not the poet), have the killer be a master chess-player and chuck in a discourse on philosophy every six pages, and you have a literary mystery.

Throw a lawyer into the mix who uses his courtroom skills to unveil the bad guy, despite the fact that his extra-curricular investigations puts his own life in danger, and you have a legal thriller.

Give your lawyer an acquaintance who's a cop with a passion for justice at the expense of his home life, who's been divorced six times, is driven by the job and who relaxes with a glass of beer and some jazz music on the stereo at the end of a case and you have the loner cop book.

Give him some mates, a few jokes, a couple of attractive female colleagues, an annoying senior officer, too much paperwork and some inter-departmental squabbling and you have a police procedural.

Introduce your newly optimistic and upbeat policeman to a nice widow with a penchant for sticking her nose in where it's not wanted, and who always seems to be tripping over dead bodies and you've got an amateur-sleuth mystery.

Give Ms Nosy a clever, mystery-solving iguana as a pet, a hobby knitting bird tables out of left-over wool, then throw in a recipe every couple of chapters and you have a cosy.

Make the iguana talk, and give him the starring role, or give the heroine the ghost of a dead relative to contend with and you have a paranormal crossover mystery.

Transport the whole shooting match back to 1665 and dress them in pantaloons and bustles and have them declaim "Gadzooks" and "Oddsbodkins" every now and again and you have a historical mystery. Well, you might have to lose the iguana...

Tuesday 2 August 2011

The Genre Debate

In my previous post, I linked to an article in the Telegraph about why people read thrillers and which was - shall we say - a tad condescending to those who read genre fiction. This topic is one that always irks me. I hate that sort of snobbishness (whichever side of the fence you're on). For me there are books you like, and books you don't, plain and simple.

I'm not even going to touch the definition of thrillers, but expand it to all crime fiction.

I really can't stand D H Lawrence. And I still have nightmares about being made to read a book at university in which nothing happened except every 8 pages or so a caterpillar crawled up a wall (Alain Robbe Grillet's LA JALOUSIE (a book which was trumpeted by my lecturer as "a masterpiece")). By the fifth appearance of the caterpillar I wanted to bash its little head in with the most convenient Nancy Drew book in my collection. All that bloody navel gazing. If I want to gaze at anyone's navel I have one of my own. OK, it's not pretty, but it's mine damn it, and it's an honest navel. I don't need to spend £10 on a book just to be bored by someone else's lumpy navel. But that doesn't mean I'm saying it's a bad book - it's just not a book I liked.

Give me a book that engages my mind, my emotions, takes me into another world, makes me laugh and makes me cry, written by someone who wants to tell a good story, with engaging characters and excellent writing. You get books like that in every genre (including the 'literary fiction' Hensher seems to prefer), I just happen to prefer crime fiction.

And I dislike the whole idea of crime fiction (or any genre fiction, in fact) being seen as the neddish little brother of literary fiction. It seems that unless books are picked up by the establishment and lauded as 'literary' then they are unworthy.

Don't we all get different things from a work of art (in the general sense to include literature)? And isn't what we get from that work of art dependent on our emotions, our background, our experiences? So surely the understanding and the meaning is going to be slightly different for all of us? My understanding of Jane Austen is going to be different from my grandmother's understanding of Jane Austen. Yet the favourite book of both my grandma and I was Pride and Prejudice, and we used to have some great discussions about it.

And who's to say what Jane Austen's intention was when she wrote it? OK, she wrote about it in some letters, but who's to say she was telling the truth? :o) And if I want to think that William Blake's Tiger, Tiger is just a lovely poem about a tiger, then who's to say I'm wrong and poor old William doesn't whirl in his grave every time someone comments on the religious symbolism and significance. "Damn it, I saw a tiger at London zoo and was really impressed, you pretentious dickheads", he might be saying.

I am glad that I can enjoy, or not enjoy a book without caring whether it's a literary masterpiece or a piece of genre 'trash'. I can pick up a book with pure unadulterated joy, and come at it without any preconceptions. I like books which are well written, have characters I can care about (not necessarily like but care what happens to them) and which engage me and, yes - shock, horror - entertain me. I couldn't give a stuff about what happens to Paul Morrell in Sons and Lovers, but I do care about what happens to The Grinch who stole Christmas. Where would be the enjoyment in picking up a book by some feted and lauded 'genius' and feeling that I had to gush about it? Sometimes, the emperor just isn't wearing any new clothes.

I don't like posing and posturing. In any genre, when the author gets in the way of the words as though he's sitting on my shoulder pointing to the page as I read "Look at that turn of phrase, isn't that divine?" then it really turns me off.

I agree with Raymond Chandler: "I think that certain writers are under a compulsion to write in recherche phrases as a compensation for a lack of some kind of natural animal emotion. They feel nothing, they are literary eunuchs, and therefore they fall back on an oblique terminology to prove their distinction."

Hensher's slightly sneering attitude really bugs me. Why can't people be allowed to enjoy things for what they are without being made to feel that they are somehow less of a person because they like crime fiction more than literary fiction, or prefer Madonna to Mozart, or comic strips to Canaletto, or Lear to Larkin? People like what they like and it makes us who we are. And being snooty about other peoples' tastes because they are 'simpler' or 'deeper' or have less 'literary quality' than our own is just pure snobbery. Forwards or in reverse, it doesn't matter. What is the point of trying to make something which can enhance peoples' lives inaccessible to all but the select few?

I like difficult books. I like simple books. I like books full stop. I just don't like being told that that difficult book has more merit than the simple book I've just read - the simple book that made me laugh and made me cry, and left a little bit of itself in my brain and in my heart. I don't think that JUST because a book is difficult it's better than a simple book. Sometimes a tiger is just a bloody tiger.

Bringing this waffling back to crime fiction, one of the main attractions of crime fiction is the excellent characterization that these books usually have. Crime fiction takes an ordinary character at an extraordinary time in their lives and shows how they react and cope in the dark place into which they are taken. Or, in the case of police procedurals and PI novels, how they deal with death and devastation on a regular basis. They have a far wider and deeper approach to characterization than a lot of more mainstream novels and say a lot about humanity and society. It's the whole order from chaos thing, and sometimes it's just continuing chaos - and that's all good. Sometimes order is achieved, sometimes it isn't. I don't always like it when the ends are tied up all nice and neatly, I like ends to be left loose. But I like there to be ends.
I guess what I'm trying to say (very badly) is that I read crime fiction because there's such a wide variety of stories about 'people'. There are points and plots and problems - great characters and strong stories.

The crime fiction genre is huge and varied and wonderful. There are a lot of books out there that I find dull and bland or at the other end of the spectrum so gory that I need to wash the blood off my hands after I've read them. I don't enjoy books where crocheting cats with a degree in astrology solve the murder, but I have friends who do. I don't like books which make me feel I could carry out an autopsy if pushed, but I have friends who do (I'm not sure which of those groups of people scare me more!). There is something for everyone. Although I prefer my crime fiction either dark, twisted, noir and warped, or full of black humour, it doesn't mean to say I don't read anything else.

And nobody should be made to feel that anything they choose to read is unworthy. If you read something and love it, then I want to hear about it. Even if the book is not to my taste, I love hearing people's enthusiasm for the books they love.

Oh, shut up, Donna.