Category Archives: crime fiction general and debate

Two major crime fiction competitions: novel and short stories

Stylist magazine have teamed up with Faber & Faber and seek entries for a crime novel, with the deadline for entries on 12 July (by snail mail, so give yourself a few days before that).  Note that there is one overriding rule here: your novel entry MUST feature a female protagonist.

On World Book Day last week Bloomsbury launched its SHORT SENTENCE, short story competition for budding crime writers.  Click here to go straight to the dedicated site.  Or read on for the press release: Continue reading

City University London – New Crime Thriller MA Course

Via Crime Time, City University, London has announced that it is starting a Crime Thriller Writing MA course in September 2012.  More details can be found here at City University’s site.  Their commentary includes:

This MA – like its Literary Novel counterpart – starts with workshops and seminars, and then builds to the completion of a full-length Crime Thriller novel

The Crime Thriller genre is the most popular in the world. Sales of crime thriller fiction rose by 80% in the UK alone in the last decade. There is much talk that we are entering a second golden age of crime writing. Though this time the country house has been replaced by the inner city estate. Social relevance is a major factor, as too is the quality and craftsmanship of the writing.

With writers like Tom Rob Smith and A. D. Miller appearing on Man Booker Prize long- and short-lists, the literary acceptance of the genre has never been higher.

I suspect that latter paragraph may cause some comment, and possibly a little bit of controversy.

Jessica Mann and Sadistic Misogyny and Newspaper Accuracy

I just happened to be on twitter yesterday evening when tweets came through about the articles in the weekend's Daily Telegraph and The Observer.  Needless to say, so were a few others and a debate ensued.  What surprised me then was how this was suddenly news.  It had been debated before, on a couple of blogs, at the time Jessica Mann's original article was published in Standpoint Magazine.  But what appalled me yesterday was the inaccuracy in the reporting and it has now spread across the net today.

First the DT.  The headline was "Book reviewer quits over 'increasing sexist violence'". Well, no, she hasn't actually.  In Standpoint Mann concluded "So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me."

The Observer. The headline was accurate, but oh no, the standfirst then said "Leading novelist says graphic depictions of sadistic misogyny have become so extreme she refuses to review any more fiction".  Again, no, Mann did not say she wasn't going to review any more fiction.  See above.

Today, this piece of news has been picked up across the Alantic.  Canada's Quill & Quire carries the heading: "Novelist stops reviewing because of rampant misogyny in crime fiction".  The first paragraph ends "…that she’s giving up reviewing any more fiction".  (Again see above.)  The New York Times kept it short and snappy and accurate.  The New Yorker also managed to maintain accuracy on Mann's words but shunted off into the big feminist debate.

Now for some perspective.  Jessica Mann is declining to read crime novels of a certain type.  These are the ones she sees as:

"Each psychopath is more sadistic than the last and his victims' sufferings are described in detail that becomes ever more explicit, as young women are imprisoned, bound, gagged, strung up or tied down, raped, sliced, burned, blinded, beaten, eaten, starved, suffocated,  stabbed, boiled or buried alive."

On this morning's Today programme, she was given just over five minutes to debate her thoughts, along with Selina Walker, Publishing Director at Transworld with responsibility for their crime list.  You can listen to that section here.  But for the perspective, do note that Mann said this type of novel for her was "a very small proportion" and probably less than one tenth of the 600 crime novels published annually in the UK.

She added that this "small proportion of books will not be in my review list any more".

So she's not giving up, she's merely passing on a few that don't suit her tastes and she's had the courage to say so.  I'd guess that others have already been doing this for a while, but in silence.

An interesting meme of sorts…

Maxine has just posted her thoughts on this matter in Mystery Reader Cafe via Eurocrime and Karen, at Eurocrime, did so on Friday 2 Jan 09.  What's it all about?  The Yahoo group Mystery Reader Cafe is running the following challenge for 2009:

1. Read a mystery with the word "murder" in the title.
2. Read a mystery set in your region.
3. Read a mystery that has been on your shelf for at least a year.
4. Read a mystery from a "new to you" author.

Please remember that each challenge above should be a different book.

Both Karen and Maxine have posted with their results for 2008 and so will I and here it is:

Continue reading

Likes and Dislikes in Crime Fiction: 6 of the Best and 6 of the Worst

Norm in a recent post at Crime Scraps, Critical Perspicacity: Six Things listed six things he looks for in crime fiction and six things he doesn't like.  This got me thinking and here's the result.

Six things I look for in crime fiction:

Originality – this can come from many things, including sometimes, just simply the author's voice.  Cue Yrsa Sigurðardóttir for that last one; although Last Rituals had plenty of originality for me, it's the author's voice that drew me in the most.

Suspense – without it there's little point in turning the pages.  Before the festive break, I dumped a book on page 124 because by then, if it had ever tried to have any suspense, it had run out of steam.  I had even forgotten why I was reading about the main character.  Tom Bale's Skin and Bones made up for this; I loved the way he dropped in just one little fact occasionally.  This led to the thought "What's this all about?" and a whole new series of page turning that would have got me a star badge for nimble fingers when I was at school.

Continue reading

Novels Listed for the ITV3 Crime Awards

From The Bookseller, in addition to the ITV3 Writer’s Award for Classic TV Drama (shortlist of P.D.James, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Lynda La Plante, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid), the following awards and their shortlists are now announced:

Breakthrough Author Award    
Chelsea Cain Heartsick (Pan)
Stuart MacBride Broken Skin (Harper)
Michael Robotham Shatter (Sphere)
Anne Zouroudi The Messenger of Athens (Bloomsbury)

International Author of the Year    
Jeffery Deaver The Sleeping Doll (Hodder & Stoughton)
Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Quercus)
Karin Slaughter Skin Privilege (Arrow)
PJ Tracy Snow Blind (Penguin)

Author of the Year    
Lee Child Bad Luck and Trouble (Bantam)
Robert Harris The Ghost (Hutchinson)
Peter James Not Dead Enough (Pan)
Ian Rankin Exit Music  (Orion)

TV programming kicks off on Monday August 18, with Ian Rankin as the first featured author.  You can more information at ITV3 here.  Press pack information here.

I suppose the awards are the culmination of a TV festival celebrating crime and

Continue reading

NEW: Crime Thriller Awards from ITV3

From Marketing Week:

‘ITV is launching Crime Thriller Awards in a bid to boost the profile of the ITV3 brand. The event, which will be supported by a major advertising push, will be held in London and will focus on UK and international crime fiction from film, TV and books.

The awards, which will take place in the autumn, will be televised on ITV3 and the channel will run six weeks of crime dramas in the run up to the event.

An ITV spokesman says: "This is about getting the ITV3 brand out there. We are looking to associate the channel with quality crime fiction."

The award categories will include a breakthrough prize for a new crime author. The awards will also focus on the best crime TV and films of the year. Each award will be presented by a celebrity with a connection to crime fiction.

The crime dramas shown in the run up to the awards will begin with a specially-commissioned documentary profiling the "best" crime writers working today. The six authors who have been chosen are Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, PD James, Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid and Ruth Rendell.

ITV3 viewers will then be able to vote for the authors to select which one will win the first ITV3 Award for Classic TV Crime Drama. The documentaries will introduce the viewers to the personalities behind the shows and their writing methods. Each documentary will be followed by episodes of the crime shows that were penned by the writers.’

Nice one!

UPDATE 20:28: there’s more on this at The Bookseller.  Apparently there’s a launch event at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in July.

50 crime writers to read before you die

Thanks to Dec at Crime Always Pays for this post.  Otherwise, I’d have missed The Daily Telegraph’s 50 crime writers to read before you die.  A bit more debate can be found here, at Crime Scraps.  At the time of writing, The Telegraph’s comment section had attracted 226 comments on its article.

Comments are often intriguing.  I loved this one:

"I don’t read crime books – I find them to be mostly violent and upsetting.

I prefer to read historical and political biographies, such as that of Dr Livingstone and Jackie Kennedy.

I think people who like to read about murder and rape are mentally unhealthy."

There must be plenty of mentally unhealthy people out there then; all wandering around undiagnosed.

But oh, go on, such lists are subjective aren’t they?  Great to see John Lawton on the list.  Odd to see Frances Fyfield, with this comment – "Fyfield emerged as a rival to Minette Walters when publishers in the mid-1990s were obsessed with grim, cod-psychological nasties inspired by Ruth Rendell. She’s relaxed into a more comfortable format." – but no Minette Walters.

Glaring omissions for me include: Robert Wilson; Michael Connelly (ye gods, had the panel taken too many Mogadons?); Ian Rankin; John Harvey; Harlan Coben; John Sandford; Andrew Taylor; Minette Walters; Patricia Cornwell (for her early work) and lastly, someone no one has suggested in the comments there, Ridley Pearson (his Boldt/Matthews novels were excellent and I miss them).

Honno’s call for submissions for a crime anthology…

Honno, the Welsh women’s press is calling for submissions for a crime fiction anthology.  Here are the details:

"Honno press is on the hunt for the next generation of best-selling crime writers. Could you be the next Val McDermid or Patricia Cornwell? Can you craft a delicious mystery or a nail-biting thriller?

We’re looking for stories between 4000 and 6000 words for a crime fiction anthology. Stories should be in the English language and the closing date for submissions is March 1st 2008. Publication is provisionally scheduled for early 2009.

Honno already publishes bestselling crime writer Lindsay Ashford, creator of forensic psychologist Megan Rhys. She will be joined in editing the anthology by Honno editor Caroline Oakley, who also edits a number of award winning crime novels by major publishing houses, including Orion and Polygon.

Writers who submit their work must be female, Welsh, live in Wales or have a strong Welsh connection. More information from submissions@honno.co.uk . Submissions should be addressed to Crime Anthology, Honno Press, c/o Canolfan Merched y Wawr, Vulcan street, Aberystwyth SY23 1JH. Please enclose an SAE and your full contact details."

Welsh connections?  What’s stopping you?  Go on, give it your all, there’s plenty of time…

Borders UK’s Top Ten Books and a glaring omission from its readers…

I received an email last week from Borders UK.  They’d recently asked their customers to vote for their all time favourite top ten books (CDs and DVDs), with more than 20,000 taking up the baton online.  The glaring omission in my mind is that, considering crime and thriller fiction regularly appears in the top ten bestsellers (usually at least 50% of it, the last time I reviewed the lists), there’s nothing you could call classic crime or thriller fiction on the list of top ten books for Borders readers.  I wonder why?  Perhaps the crime and thriller aficionados were too busy readng their next fast paced, densely plotted and wonderfully character-driven novel to notice the vote?

Anyway, the top ten is currently on offer in store at "buy one get one half price" and here they are:

  1. Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Here the Borders customers put an American author at number one, but it’s not a surprise, really.  When Bryson held a very humerous mirror up to the UK with his Notes from a Small Island, back in the 1990s, UK readers took him into their hearts and the man will forever provide another view on everything.
  2. William Golding Lord of the Flies.  Pretty much a classic and one that is read at school.
  3. Gerald Durrell My Family and other Animals.  Again, another classic and one that features with the young.
  4. Frank McCourt Angela’s Ashes.  He wrote "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."  His started in the 1930s.  This was a book that took the UK by storm when it came out originally.
  5. Alice Walker The Color Purple.  I saw the movie back in the 1980s, so I’ve never read the novel, alas.  (Screen and book don’t work for me.  It has to be one or the other for one story; my only exclusion being that I’ll watch a screen version of a book I’ve read, to see what the production did to it.  Hopefully "justice", but as we know, this isn’t always the case…)
  6. Jung Chang Wild Swans.   Another book that took the UK by storm.
  7. Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tail.  Alas, as for The Color Purple, I saw the movie and never the twain shall meet…
  8. Ian McEwan Atonement.  I loved Saturday, but I’ve not read this yet.  The movie is out now, so if I’m tempted, and publicity is rife right now, my chances of reading the novel will be down the drain before you can utter the two syllable word "plumber".
  9. Nigel Slater Toast.  "Toast: the story of a boy’s hunger" is Slater’s memoirs of his life with food as a youngster before he grew up to become a food writer and author of many cook books.  I’m surprised at this entry in the top ten, but very pleased to see it.  Life has moved on so much in the last 50 years and we now have a far greater opportunity and span when it comes to ingredients and making up a meal.  In the 1960s we were still just emerging from the constraints of WWII and starting to discover new delicacies, as could be imported from foreign lands, reliably and regularly, to enable them to become foods of choice every week or month.  If you’re 40 plus, you’ll appreciate the memories in this memoir.  (What might have been "posh nosh" then, is to be derided now; but all achieve a retro comeback at some point.  Prawn cocktail anyone?  Even "Abigail’s Party" is to get the retro revisit treatment in our new millennium.)  The reminder of the "then" (the 1960s) in Toast and the comparison to now is staggering.  Having read Toast, then get yourself a copy of Slater’s "The Kitchen Diaries", in hardback if you can as the heavy tome is beautifully produced, in quality paper, pictures and binding, with a ribbon bookmark.  Where Slater once ate canned peaches, in The Kitchen Diaries he muses, by month on month what’s in season (back to British basics) and then provides recipes for what he does to these splendidly fresh and available ingredients.  Slater knows his food and its history.  And Toast is quite a unique memoir.
  10. Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  Again, I saw this movie first, so it does not augur well for a reading on my part.  Neither did I manage to watch the movie to the end; I became bored.

The biggest surprise for me on that list is Nigel Slater’s Toast, but it’s excellent to see it there.  I had thought his wonderful memoirs had received a somewhat quiet attention and reception.  Good to see otherwise!

As for the CDs’ and DVDs’ top ten, I’ll leave it up to you. You can find them on the Borders home page, at the moment. 

But why the lack of crime and thriller fiction in that top ten on books?  It seems odd, even if I lay the excuse that we are all reading our next tome of delight…

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Personally, I have a quiet admiration for Borders in the UK as they a have a different approach to bookselling.  In their newer branches, which I have experienced, I find the staff enthusiastically engaged in making things work and organising author events.  Local author featured book collections seem to be more widely thought through than those of their main competitors (if they have them).

I’m not sure where the future ownership of Borders is going – the last time I looked a possible management buy-out was on the table, and I hope this is the successful case.  Sucked further into the generic and repetitive high street and supermarket offerings will not service the buying public well.  Less variety of sellers leads to less choice and the same on the shelves at the same price, depending on how far you are prepared to walk and/or drive.

Any updates on Borders, anyone?

We need less generic High Street repitition of "same old, same old," being pushed under the same banner, across the same origins.  We need more promotion of the new to this world and the genre.  It’s time to give the newbies a better chance, surely?