Category Archives: Blogs

Reading Matters Moves

Kim’s wonderful book site, Reading Matters has moved and can now be found here.  It also has a new and rather modern look.  But above all, it’s the content that drives me, and I hope you, there.  And in a world of increasing commercialism among book blogs*, Kim retains sound values including independence at the core.  Take a look if you’ve not already done so.

ReadingMattersNew150914[* This might be the topic of a future post here.]

The Book Q and A


Spotted at Margot Kinberg’s fine blog – The Book Q & A.  I found the questions very interesting and thought I’d give it a go.  The following is not confined to crime fiction …

What are you reading right now?

A manuscript.  It’s a thriller.  Leisure reading is curtailed at the mo and the nearest I am getting to it is some children’s fiction.  But that’s partly research too …

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

A number of things are crying out to me and I hope to pick one up just for pleasure.  It’s been a while …

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

(1) A proper devouring of Reginald Hill’s oeuvre and (2) ditto for William Boyd.  (3) More recently I simply have not found the time to pick up Gone Girl and I really want to know how it’s constructed to see what all the debate’s been about.  (4) Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.  (5) Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  I beg a (6) here too – Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.  It’s now been so long with one or two of these that I’m not sure I still want to read them.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?

Private Eye.  Unmissable, especially for the truthful/sarcastic/gossipy literary review pages.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

If something is really bad I won’t read it to the end.  I have found myself presented with a few real howlers on times and there are certainly a few vying for this category although it has to be just the one …

I can still remember being really annoyed with one book at the start of the noughties.  I thought it was a waste of money as nothing really happened for pages and pages.  The cover synopsis was more thrilling.  That book was Sasso by James Sturz.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

Shutter Island as I felt the ending cheated the reader.  When I read it I think I’d have slapped the author if he’d been in the room with me.  (And thanks for the ‘seemed really popular’ description as this was really a marmite book.  Quite a few agreed with me, while some loved it.)

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

John Lawton’s Black Out.  As the Lawton launch pad.

What are your three favourite poems?

‘Stop All the Clocks’ by W H Auden; ‘i like my body when it is with your body’ by E E Cummings; ‘Leisure’ by W H Davies.

Where do you usually get your books?

Publisher promotional copies; online booksellers, mainly Amazon Marketplace and sometimes Amazon itself; I use the library – the first thing I did on moving recently was to join my new library; charity and second hand shops.

Where do you usually read your books?

In/on bed.  When travelling on a train (if I can discipline myself and not natter to a neighbouring passenger which I am prone to do).

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

Oh yes.  Severe competition with a fellow bibliophile friend to read through everything available as soon as …

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

I don’t remember.  Due to painkiller medication I find it impossible to stay awake half the night however good the book is.  For the same reason my memory is sometimes more than a little bit crap.

Have you ever ‘faked’ reading a book?

Not that I can recall.  But who knows what an imaginative child might have done?

TheWelshGirlHave you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

Oh yes.  Take a look at the Peter Ho Davies hardback from Sceptre on your right here.  Beautiful.  The picture does not show the texture which is also beautiful.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

Aesop’s Fables for the tales and because I had a really gorgeous and solid illustrated copy.  For some strange reason the story of The Princess and The Pea stays with me.  The origins of my inner pedant?

What book changed your life?

Simone De Beauvoir’s When Things of the Spirit Come First.  It spoke to me at the time: woman can be independent.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

Recently I was stunned by the opening of Derek B Miller’s Norwegian by Night.  We get right into the head and situation of Sheldon Horowitz in so few words.  Boom; it’s a beauty.  And he is so like the Grumpy Cat of male protagonists – you simply adore him.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

This has changed over the years due to the level of activity from the authors in my pot, but right now within my top five I’d have: John Lawton; Robert Wilson; Minette Walters; Mary Wesley; Ursula Bentley.

What book has no one heard about but should read?

I am answering this one not with a specific book but with the name of an author because his marketing has not been too good in the UK and you may well have missed him.  If you like thrillers check out Tom Bale.  And to keep it easy, just click here.

What three books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Please allow me some flexibility: anything by John Lawton; Danny Miller’s debut Kiss Me Quick; Ryan David Jahn’s debut Acts of Violence; Robert Wilson’s Falcon quartet.  So that’s four ending with a quartet.  I can still count.

What are your favourite books by a first-time author?

Ryan David Jahn’s Acts of Violence and Danny Miller’s debut Kiss Me Quick are first-time published in the UK – from my time as a judge for the CWA’s John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.  I thought both were superb, for different reasons but they both drew me in and didn’t let go.  I’d also add to that list Derek B Miller’s Norwegian by Night (clever and seamless storytelling) and Thomas Mogford’s Sign of the Cross (classic crime style given new life).  For first time in fiction I have to add Lawton’s Black Out.  Finally, Mari Strachan’s The Earth Hums in B Flat touches Welsh parts other novels cannot reach.

What is your favourite classic book?

I don’t have one.

Other Notable Mentions?

Some rising stars in crime: Elizabeth Haynes; Jane Casey; Erin Kelly; Hanna Jameson; Paula Daly.  Great to see Margaret Murphy back as one half of A D Garrett.  Broadening out – and I don’t mean her waistline – Zoë Sharp.  You heard it here first.  Keep an eye on her website for future releases coming soon.

Maxine Clarke – Petrona – a tribute to a dedicated crime fiction reader


Maxine with Håkan Nesser at CrimeFest in Bristol.

With great sadness, some of us learned today that Maxine Clarke of the Petrona blog passed away this morning.

Maxine was well known to many on and via the net, with many also experiencing the pleasure of meeting her in person, becoming her friends.  It was the love of crime fiction that brought us all together.  Maxine was a great champion of crime fiction, especially translated crime fiction, and also a champion of its translators – key people to the process whose skills she felt were often overlooked.  She was both a prolific reader and reviewer of crime fiction on her own blog, for Eurocrime, and on goodreads and Amazon where she was an Amazon Vine™ Voice and a Top 500 Reviewer.

Maxine started her blog in the December of 2005.  Initially, it covered an eclectic mix of her interests: most notably her reading and also science, which was the sector of her working life.  In later years it settled with a focus on crime fiction alone.  In addition to her prolific reading and reviewing she was also a prolific blogger and commenter and in this she was the creator and supporter of a community.  No doubt because she revelled in the stimulating discussion and debate of crime fiction online, Maxine was the one to set up the Crime and Mystery Fiction Group on friendfeed, a place for honest opinions.

Maxine was a well-respected reviewer and opinion-setter, also known for her warmth and generosity, her wit and her incisive mind.  I will never forget the warmth and generosity she extended to me when I lost my parents in 2007.  Neither will I forget one of her blog posts over a previous festive season which attracted a sudden barrage of comments when a significant number of female crime fiction readers discovered they also had a penchant for Mark Harmon in common.  It became the joke of the season.

Maxine’s productivity and ability to multi-task were simply phenomenal.  Via the net, and because of crime fiction and her engaging character she became a welcome feature in the daily lives of many and she will be sorely missed.  She was an outstanding friend to many.

It is hard to accept that I write of Maxine in the past tense here; hard too to have lost the opportunity to write to her this Christmas in the hope of further reconciliation after our clashing opinions during the year.  (Sadly, I think we reached an impasse.)  But, dear Maxine, like so many others I remember you with love and a warm heart, confident that if we’d had the chance for a face to face discussion all would have been resolved fully.

Maxine was a true lover of crime fiction and a rock in the lives of many.  It is so hard to believe she is no longer with us but she will always be remembered with love and respect, and for her massive achievements.

My condolences to Maxine’s family at this very sad time.

[My thanks to Norm for use of his picture.]

Further tributes from:

Spamming: inadequately

I didn’t publish this piece of spam commenting, but I thought I’d share it for the amusement.  If you want to have any chance of getting your site link published with a stupid comment, it’s best not to insult the site owner.

The subsequent time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt [sic] disappoint me as much as this 1. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I in fact believed youd [sic] have 1 thing fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one factor which you might repair for those who werent [sic] too busy searching for attention.

The comment came up on old post: The Isle of Dogs by Daniel Davies.  In which I did no whining, I promise.

Recommending Book Blogs #3

A day late, but this is the end of September choice.  Moving into the territory of books of all genres, if you haven’t come across Reading Matters yet, where have you been?  Kim Forrester or “Kimbofo”, the blog’s editor, is an expat Australian who has lived in London since 1998.  Kim has archives dating back to March 2001 and at the time of writing has 603 book reviews online.  As we entered 2011, Reading Matters had clocked up one million hits and it’s easy to see why.  This blog is a labour of love and passion, written professionally, and always engaging.  If you seek quality thought and debate in your book discussions – but without the uppity-Booker-devotee-exclusive-club angle – this is the place to go.

My Life as a Book, 2011

Taking books that I have read during the last year, I am joining in with the Pop Culture Nerdmy life as a book’ meme for 2011. Here are my answers:

One time at band/summer camp, I: (endured) Cold Rain (Craig Smith).

Weekends at my house are: (like) Herring on the Nile (L C Tyler).

My neighbour is: An Agent of Deceit (Chris Morgan Jones).

My boss is: Hunted (Emlyn Rees).

My ex was: (ground) Into Dust (Jonathan Lewis).

My superhero secret identity is: The Dispatcher (Ryan David Jahn).

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because: (I get within) Terror’s Reach (Tom Bale).

I’d win a gold medal in: Think of a Number (John Verdon).

I’d pay good money for: A Lily of the Field (John Lawton).

If I were president, I: (would be) All Yours (Claudia Piñeiro).

When I don’t have good books, I: (go) Off the Rails (Christopher Fowler).

Loud talkers at the movies should be: (put) Into the Darkest Corner (Elizabeth Haynes).

Recommending Book Blogs #2

This month’s end of month ‘Recommending Book Blogs’ series focuses on Petrona: Mainly about reading with an accent on crime fiction from around the world.  Started back in December 2005, Maxine’s Petrona goes from strength to strength and to get a feel for the quality try out her recent outstanding articles ‘Crime fiction from Sweden’ and ‘Crime fiction from Norway’.  If you are not already aware of this blog, then I think it won’t take you long to realise that you simply have to follow it.  Maxine is also the founder of the friendfeed crime and mystery fiction discussion site where lively and opinionated crime fiction discussion takes place.  Few words are required here from me.  If you follow the links you will read why.

Some crime news…

Mike Ripley’s September Shots Mag column, Getting Away with Murder is now up.

A big welcome to newbie crime blog on the block: Mean Streets.  Brought to you by novelist and The Writers’ Workshop founder, Harry Bingham.  Harry has a new crime novel out next year and it has a Cardiff setting.  Thus It’s a Crime! eyes will be performing surveillance over its emergence into the world.

Do catch up you foodie crowd!

Some, who have been writing about books and reading since the mid-noughties will remember the old bookmarks-at-dawn-debacle circa 2006.  (The ‘professional’ aggressor, one Ms Cooke, asserted ‘Deliver us from these latter-day Pooters’.)  Well now it seems the foodie circuit has finally caught up.  Only this time it will be real knives unleashed.  ‘The sniping of waggish bloggers is often more like horseflies on mules.’ says Tom Harrow in Intelligent Life.  Do give it a read if you feel like a laugh and love the warm glow of déjà vu.  You can use your linen napkin to mop up your tears.