Some crime fiction favourites for autumn

Crime fiction can sometimes feel all about the new: the latest debut, the next bestseller. I try to balance this with reading books from the Golden Age era and also fiction in translation, in particular Nordic Noir. If I was going to be completely honest though, my favourite type of crime fiction comes from none of those categories. What I read and re-read over and over again are crime novels from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. PD James, Ruth Rendell, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Colin Dexter.  Is there a term for this period in crime fiction? I’m not sure but there should be because it produced some stand-out authors, many of whom are still writing.

27152-books-origjpgThere will be no more Adam Dalgliesh books but Faber have released a small collection of PD James’s short stories entitled The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. The book has  an introduction by Val McDermid and although all the stories have appeared in publication before, they were completely new to me. James’s writing is a delight. She gives us plenty of intrigue but never forgets the human element in her writing. The second story, A Very Commonplace Murder, reminds us how much she had in common with Ruth Rendell whereas The Boxdale Inheritance is a classic Dalgliesh mystery. The book would make a gorgeous Christmas present for any crime fiction fan.

51putr9qilSusan Moody is a writer I first met at Iceland Noir and I remember her asking a helpful question at the first ever panel I spoke at. She’s the author of 34 novels which is an impressive output and I was keen to try one of her books. Penny Black  has just been reissued by new publisher, Williams and Whiting and it was the perfect opportunity to give one of Susan’s books a go.

Penny Wanawake is a tall, black, elegant part time sleuth who investigates the murder of her friend, Marfa, a model. Although based in England, she travels to Marfa’s home in the States and with the help of Kimbell, an American detective goes on the hunt for the killer. First published in 1984, the style took me back to the Jackie Collins books I used to devour as a teenager. Great fun.

51sswggqeel-_sy344_bo1204203200_I met Kate Charles at an event in Ludlow and, by complete coincidence, I was in the middle of reading her first book, A Drink of Deadly Wine.  Father Gabriel Neville is  priest of the prestigious St Anne’s Church in Kensington Gardens. When he receives a letter threatening to reveal an incident from his past, he calls on his old friend David Middleton-Brown who he hasn’t seen for then years. It’s a great page-turner with an interesting cast of suspects familiar to those involved in parish life. First published in 1991, the story feels fresh and I’ve got a whole series to discover.

Music to Write Books By – Susan Moody

Next up on my series of posts featuring music that authors write their books to I have Susan Moody.  I’ll be reviewing Susan’s book, Penny Black, shortly. The entire list of music chosen by authors can be found on the YouTube channel here.

susanmoodySusan was born and brought up in Oxford. She’s published 34 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake and the Cassandra Swann bridge series. She has also written many stand-alone novels, among them Losing Nicola and, most recently, A Final ReckoningThe Colour of Hope was an international best-seller and translated into many languages.

Her novelization of the Gold Blend coffee ads, Love Over Gold, reached the Sunday Times best-seller lists. Sadly, it was written under a pseudonym! She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the Universities of Tasmania and Copenhagen, and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers. She and her husband divide their time between south-west France and south-east Kent.

The complete Penny Wanawake series has been re-issued by publisher Williams and Whiting.

Susan, do you have particular pieces of music you write to?
Had I not turned to crime, I would love to have been a C&W singer, belting out those songs about wicked women and faithless love. When I lived in Tennessee, that’s all you could get on the radio.  And Tennessee is where I got the inspiration for Penny Wanawake, my tall, black, beautiful photographer protagonist (all 7 now reissued by Williams & Whiting)

Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?  
Not consciously, but music itself, be it classical, folk, pop, etc, does help to settle down and face that screen.  The only thing I don’t listen to when writing is jazz.  Too unsoothing.
Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood?
If I want to write about love, particularly love gone wrong, unrequited love, broken love and broken dreams, nothing beats The Carnival Is Over, closely followed by I’ll Never Find Another You, both sung by the Seekers.  They work every time.  It’s hard to see the keyboard through a veil of tears, but I manage.

Are there any longer pieces you can recommend. If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose?
Mozart, and more Mozart.  Symphonies in particular.   But I listen to all of his stuff.  Purists despise compilations of the  Best Bits,   It’s the mathematical purity of Mozart that I love, the sheer and absolute pleasure of his delicate precision, as fragile as a snowflake.  And of course you can sing along as loudly as you like.

What are you working on at the moment?  
The third book in my new series (published by Severn House),  featuring  feisty Alex Quick, ex-copper, art lover and general nosy-parker.
Thanks, Susan, for taking part and good luck with the writing.