Crime Fiction Round-Up

November is proving to be an interesting month for crime fiction and it would be a shame not share some of the events with readers of this blog. Sometimes, living in Derbyshire, it feels like all the interesting things take place in other parts of the country, particularly London. However, if you keep your eyes open and take advantage of the internet, you discover plenty of interest.

James Ellroy

The the self-styled demon dog of American crime fiction came to The Dancehouse,Perfidia-by-James-Ellroy Manchester in early November. The event was organised by Waterstones on Deansgate and was very well attended. For my money I would have preferred a more structured interview. It was left to Ellroy to read from his latest book, Perfidia, and then field questions from a very knowledgable audience. Manchester has plenty of fine journalists more than capable of facilitating a more structured event and I think we might have got some greater insights from Ellroy from more in-depth probing. He was, however, great to see and we were treated at the end to his recital of Dylan Thomas’s ‘In my Craft or Gentle Art’.

The Murder Squad.

The Murder SquadLast week, six of the best northern crime writers gathered at Linghams bookshop in Heswall for an evening of crime fiction talk. Cath Staincliffe, Ann Cleeves, Margaret Murphy, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis and Chris Simms talked about their books and characters in an event of interest to both readers and writers of the genre. Again the evening had a fantastic turnout and is evidence of what a vibrant local bookshop can do to promote writers. The passion that these authors still have for their books is an inspiration and I particularly liked the discussion on which character from another author they’d most like to write about. A white haired old lady from St Mary Mead was a popular choice. Thanks to Dave Mack (via Margaret Murphy) for the photo.

Serial

Those on Twitter will notice the amount of chat taking place about a podcast coming out from the States. Serial is a week by week investigation into the culpability of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering, in 1999, his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore, US. I’m not a huge fan of real life crime and certainly tend to avoid reading about it. But these podcasts are excellent and compulsive listening. The host, Sarah Koenig, has an impressive grasp of the minutiae of the case but it is the human element of the broadcasts that make them so fascinating. She oscillates between trusting and disbelieving Adnan’s innocence and we, as listeners, are right there with her. I don’t normally review books until I have finished them but for Serial, it is the real time unfolding of the drama that is one of its attractions. Highly recommended.

Iceland Noir

Next Thursday, Iceland Noir begins. I’ll give a full update in my return as there is a intensive programme ofIcelandnoirlogoSm events and panels. Those who want to follow the event can see live tweeting from @NordicNoirBuzz with the #IcelandNoir hashtag. Last year’s conference was a huge success and it’s fast becoming a ‘must attend’ event for readers, writers and fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. Watch this space.

While I’m in Iceland I’m hoping to catch up on my backlog of reading. If you’ve sent me a book for review, I will get there, I promise. I hope you’re all having a good reading month.

 

 

Review: James Ellroy – Killer on the Road

It’s been years since I read an Ellroy novel. However, as I’ve booked tickets to see himJames Ellroy in November, I wanted to do some catching up. His latest book, Perfidia, is out now. I’ll be reading it in the next couple of weeks as Barry Forshaw has given it a very interesting review in The Independent. However, Killer on the Road had been on my list to read for a while so this seemed the logical place to start before tackling Perfidia. Reading one of Ellroy’s earlier books, it was a reminder of why I liked his writing in the first place despite finding his work a perennially uncomfortable read.

Martin Michael Plunkett is a famous serial killer finally captured for the murders of four members of a family. While admitting these killings, investigators from various US states are convinced he is responsible for a decade long slay of violence. When he announces that he is writing his memoirs Plunkett, who sees himself as the ‘shape shifter’, finally reveals the tortured mind that leads him to the path of terror.

Serial killers are somewhat old hat now and yet this book, written in 1999, has managed to retain its freshness. Part of it is the clinical nature of Ellroy’s writing. We get a mix of forms of prose: straightforward narrative, diary entries, press clippings and, therefore, various points of view. But it’s the insight into Plunkett’s mind that provides much of the grisly fascination to the reader. Genuinely disturbed, there is nothing to redeem the character and we watch in horror as the killings span the decade of the 1970s.

But this is more than a psychological thriller. There are a couple of nice plot twists and the reader is often well ahead of law enforcement agencies. The blurb on the front of the book quotes Jonathan Kellerman stating this is the scariest book he’s ever read. It had me wanting to check under the bed while I was reading it. Classic Ellroy.