Crime Fiction Events – February Round-Up

I don’t often update readers of this blog on what I get up to outside my reading activities. However, I’ve been to a few crime fiction events over the last week or so which has brought up things of interest to readers of the genre. There’s a lot going on in the London crime fiction community at the moment which I think you’ll be interested in. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been up to, with a couple of questions I’d like you to think about thrown in.

Anya Lipska Book Launch

AL doAnya’ s excellent début novel Where the Devil Can’t Go, available for most of last year as an e-book, was published in print by The Friday Project this month, with a launch at Daunt Books in Marylebone. The book was one of my top 5 crime reads last year and I’m delighted that it will be reaching a wider audience. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to give it a go. My review is here.

Murder in the Library Exhibition

The British Library has an exhibition on at the moment which is curated around an eclectic A – Z of crime fiction. I’m sure there were some interesting discussions as the team decided who or what to put under each letter.  There were a few notable omissions (where was Ruth Rendell?) but it made for a thought provoking visit. A highlight for me was the original 1926 manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Retired Colourman. If you can get along to the exhibition before it finishes in May I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The Story of Crime Fiction BL event

An event at the British Library to complement the above exhibition featured a panel moderated by Mark Lawson with crime writers PD James, Henry Sutton and Jason Webster. The authors discussed who had been an influence on their own works – which brought up an interesting mix of writers including Dorothy L Sayers, Jospehine Tey, Micahel Didbin and and Raymond Chandler. A wide-ranging conversation ensued with one rather contentious point made. The panel agreed that in general women writers find it easier to create male characters, while male crime writers largely are unable to write convincing female protagonists.

Do you agree? I thought about this afterwards and an example I would use to argue against this would be Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest. However, the fact that I’m struggling to come up with many more suggests this is the exception that proves the rule. Does anyone have any other examples?

Italian Crime Fiction

Belgravia Books, a great bookshop about five minutes walk from Victoria station, hosted an event to celebrate Italian Crime Fiction last Thursday. Writer and journalist Barry Forshaw was in conversation with Ilaria Meliconi , the founder of Hersilia Press to explore the genre from Visconti to Camilleri. The interesting discussion encompassed both books and films and I especially enjoyed the comparisons of the TV series of Montalbano and the Camilleri novels.Belgravia Books event

Italian (and other Mediterranean) crime fiction doesn’t enjoy the popularity of its Scandinavian counterpart in this country. It was posited that perhaps the British psyche identifies more with Scandinavia than with Mediterranean countries. I think this is almost certainly true – but hasn’t stopped British readers enjoying the books of other hot climes such as Tony Hillerman or Adrian Hyland. Any suggestions as to why that might be the case?

So some interesting events and there are more in the pipeline. It’s always great to meet in person people I only know through their blogs or on twitter. And apologies for the terrible photos to accompany this post. Photographing these events usually involves me waving my iphone in a shamefaced way while the discussion is taking place. The next morning I’m usually dismayed by the quality of the result – for obvious reasons. I do promise to try harder.

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19 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Events – February Round-Up

  1. Sarah – I’m so glad you’ve had the chance to go to some of these events. They do sound absolutely terrific. You ask an interesting question about male authors who create female protagonists. I like T.J. Cooke’s Jill Shadow; I think he depicts her convincingly. And I adore Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma. Precious Ramotswe. Oh, and there’s Stephen Booth’s Diane Fry and Martin Edwards’ Hannah Scarlett; both very well done I think. This is fun to think about – thanks.

  2. I sometimes wish I lived nearer London so I could go to more of these events (we have very few around here).

    I’m off to London in a couple of weeks for a Childrens Publishers’ event so hoping to walk over to the British Library to see the Murder in the Library Exhibition while I’m there.

    • I don’t normally go to quite so many in one go Nikki-ann but there’s a lot of interesting stuff around at the moment. If you are in London, do drop me a kine if you fancy meeting for a coffee. It’s always nice to meet bloggers in person.

  3. Had no idea you were at Anya’s launch – or I would have said hello. Obviously you don’t look like your avatar pic in the flesh! (And presumably neither do I)

    • Oh dear. I was wearing glasses which might be the reason. And the wine probably didn’t help. Next time, hopefully. Are you going to Crimefest or Harrogate? I’m reading your book this week BTW.

  4. Your post sent me to my Goodreads account to try to find male writers who wrote convincing female characters, and I could only come up with a couple (I found lots of female writers who write convincing males): Jonathan Kellerman’s Petra Connor novels are decent (Billy Straight and Twisted), and Kazuo Ishiguru’s Never Let Me Go is very, very good.

    Your question about Italian fiction is interesting, but I haven’t read very many Italian books to come up with an intelligent answer.

    • Hi Rebecca, Petra Connor is a good character, I’d agree with you. I think on reflection the dicussion might have focussed on detectives so she would be a good example of this. Thanks!

  5. Sarah, I enjoy your posts of this type because I can enjoy the events vicariously. I was intrigued by the question about male writers who write convincing females. I know that I am always skeptical when I hear of such books. The only examples I came up with in a small sample of authors I have read… that even have female protagonists were: Alan Bradley; J. A. Konrath and Rex Stout. J. A. Konrath writes about Jack Daniels (a female cop) and I did not find the portrayal realistic, personally. Bradley writes about Flavia de Luce, about 9 years old, and I find her convincing, but she is a tomboy, so…. Rex Stout wrote one mystery with a female private investigator, Dol Bonner in The Hand in the Glove. Although I have loved every book I read by him, I cannot really remember if he does a good job with her character. Maybe not, because of the period he was writing in. I would have to re-read it… which I have been thinking of doing recently.

    Anyway, the point is, I really enjoyed this post and thinking about that question.

    • Thanks Tracy. And another reason to try and read Rex Stout soon. Alan Bradley is a good example although Flavia de Luce is a child and as you say a tomboy too. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  6. You’ve reminded me that I must try to get to the British Library Exhibition! I think in the cold weather I keep my trips to London short and scuttle home rather than looking for something extra to do. That’s a very interesting question about men writing as women – I get annoyed with authors who get small details wrong (they trip me up and stop me enjoying books) and that happens both with cross-gender writing AND with people who write about eras they didn’t live through!

    • Yes I know what you mean about historical details. When they get them wrong it is very annoying and can completely spoil my enjoyment. Ariana Fraklin was a writer who I think used to get it spot on.

  7. I agree that not too many male writers can accurately depict women protagonists. I’d agree about Precious Ramotswe, well-written by Alexander McCall Smith.
    I’d also give Arnaldur Indridason kudos for his character, Elinborg, in the excellent mystery Outrage. Not only did he do a good job writing about this woman police detective, but he did well focusing on a crime against women. He also wrote an excellent book The Silence of the Grave about another crime against women.
    His sensitivity is apparent.
    On Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe: Oy! Those books are fraught with sexism. Nero Wolfe is afraid of women and doesn’t want them in his house. Archie Goodwin is a womanizer. The depictions of women, especially in the earlier books are awful. I had to just ignore this in order to read the books, not something I do easily. Don’t read this series if sexism will upset you. Some of my women friends won’t read the books, as they get so aggravated about how women are depicted.
    I have to think about this question more; it’s an issue I am always thinking about when I look for mysteries.

  8. Thanks for the info Kathy. I’m going to read one Rex Stout just to satisfy my curiosity. Thanks for the tip-off re the sexism. I’ll post a review here when I’ve read it.

    Do let me know what you think about Anya Lipska when you’re read it. I’d be interested to hear. I think the dislocation felt by those coming to a new country for work comes across very well.

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