Monday, July 28, 2008

Around the world in crime fiction.

Em (from L.A.) found this article on the UK Guardian website.
Around the World in 80 Sleuths
by Jonathan Gibbs
"Holmes and Watson would be proud. Crime fiction is booming as never before - and with dozens of new titles translated into English for the first time, there’s a detective for every holiday destination. Jonathan Gibbs tracks down 80 of the best sleuths to escape with this summer.... "

and goes on to list 80 authors with characters from all over the workld

or easier still try the tiny URL link.

How many have you read?

Crime and Justice Festival pt.2

Gee, life and school did catch up with me in a big way this last week.
Only now getting around to part 2 of the C & J Festival.

A Conversation with Peter Temple

What a great way to kick off the 2nd day of the Festival. Peter Temple is modest and his humour largely self-deprecating. He talked about his writing process. Not for him 17 drafts. He couldn't understand that. He writes and re-writes and does it again until he's happy with it. Somehow I got the impression that he's probably never really happy with it and perhaps the manuscript has to be wrenched from his fingers to cries of "wait, I haven't finished with it yet."

He spoke about getting published - his first Jack Irish novel. In it he had Irish learning cabinet making,he loves football and has a fondness for horse racing. His first experience was being told that they loved the book, but perhaps remove the cabinet making, the football and the horse racing. Fortunately wiser heads prevailed and Jack was allowed to keep these interests.

He was asked about writing for television. Recently the tv movie VALENTINE'S DAY was screened. Temple's experience with this wasn't a particularly happy one. He was wined and dined and fussed over and his screenplay raved over.... but.... just a few minor changes herfe and there. He claimed there isn't much left of his original work.

I'm not so sure. I saw Temple's hand in the emotionally closed off and uncommunicative character of Ben Valentine. Regardless of how Temple feels about the end product. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Matters of Procedure
P.D. Martin, Garry Disher and Barry Maitland, with participating chair, Marshall Browne discussed researching and writing police procedurals. Phillipa spoke about getting started in this genre and brought along some books she found valuable in her research (I was furiously making notes at this stage). She also talked about a forensic text book she purchased from the U.S.A. She had tried to gain permission to witness an autopsy but failed. After seeing the images in the text book, she professed to be somewhat relieved that she didn't succeed. She said it gave her new sympathy for the victims and their families.

Garry Disher lives in a small community and knows the police officers who police that community so he said for him, it's a matter of a trip to the pub and buying a few beers, asking questions and perhaps organising a tour of this or that police station. Barry Maitland told a similar story.

Writing From Life
Crime writers - like any other writer - often use elements of their own life and the lives of
those around them in their fictionLeigh Redhead, Angela Savage, Dorothy Johnston ; discussed borrowing from life and the blurred line that divides fact from fiction .

It turned out to be a highly entertaining panel discussion as both Leigh Redhead and Dorothy Johnston had both worked in the sex industry at some stage. Leigh admitted that the character of Chloe in her book is her best friend. Her friend often rings her and says "So what's Chloe up to today." She also claims her friend only reads the bits of the book with Chloe in them.
Redhead also spoke of the different atmospheres in brothels in different states. Terms like "massage with hand relief" were used. The most difficult she claimed was a two person massage with hand relief. She said the most important thing is not to catch the eye of the other girl. Otherwise you're gone in fits of giggles.

Angela Savage's life experiences are very different - yet in some ways similar. Angela works for the United Nations and Non-Government Agencies in setting up Aids/HIV awareness and treatment programmse in Asian countries. She is currently living in Vietnam (as is Leigh Redhead)

It would be difficult to pick 3 more interesting authors to discuss writing from life experiences than these.

Nigel Latta's Darklands

The true surprise of the festival. I chose it because I wasn't really interested in the session the others had booked into. I didn't fancy waiting around in the cold outside and this sounded like it might be of some interest. Boy was I wrong. It was fascinating. The rest of the group ended up in this session as well when the other one was cancelled.

Nigel Latta is a clinical psychologist - a New Zealander who specialises in treating sex offenders and victims. Nigel is outspoken, profane ("I swear because I enjoy it and it get's my guys' attention"). and hugely entertaining. Surprising when you consider the subject matter.
His book INTO THE DARKLANDS is a fascanating read and Nigel has made a documentary series based around the book. We learned that apparently this series has been bought by an Australian tv network. (Fingers crossed that it is not shown in the wee small hours in some unpublicised time slot).

Trivia Quiz
A large box of books was on offer. And we were the only ones who signed up for the quiz. We did offer Simon the opportunity to cancel the quiz given there were only 4 of us but he insisted we go ahead anyway. What was odd was that at the end of the day Helen, Karen and I all ended up on the same number of points - I thank knowing the theme tune to Bergerac for that piece of good fortune and we all shared the booty when we got home.

We all left very happy and vowed to make the Crime and Justice Festival our number 1 priority next year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not much reading and fantastic news.

I'm back at school now with 4 new classes and attendant assignments, so not much reading being done the last few days.

I got sidetracked from reading Jarad Henry's wonderful BLOOD SUNSET into RAFFLES: AMATEUR CRACKSMAN by E. W. Hornung. A classic first published in 1899. It is the group discussion on Oz-Mystery Readers classic month and I put my hand up to ask the questions as I nominated the book and it won the vote. It's been many years since I read the book and I'm quite enjoying it, even though my mind isn't really in reading mode right now - it keeps wandering off to the assignment on Web 2.0 tools. However, now that I've broken the back of some of it, hopefully I'll be able to concentrate.

Now for the news. Wednesday was Allan's (hitherto known as The Childe) birthday. His 23rd. We organised to go out to a Smokey Joe's a local Cajun/Creole restaurant. The food was delicious as usual. However that's not the news.

Now when The Childe left school he didn't have a clue what he wanted to do. As luck would have it an apprenticeship at a bakery just across the road from us came up and he went for the interview and got the job. He's now been there nearly 5 years and is the only one who started his apprenticeship there at the time who actually stayed the distance.

When he qualified his boss wanted him to take on a Franchise Management course with a view to perhaps taking over the bakery when he'd finished. Well he applied to do the course and in doing so, learned the other day that he is one of 4 in the COUNTRY to win a scholarship. All his costs paid for by the company - in excess of $1000, PLUS he gets to attend the company's annual conference in October - all expenses paid. In Cairns in far North Queensland. Nice work if you can get it. when he learned about this hubby's reaction was "do they know just how much The Childe eats?"

Anyway, that's my news for the past few days..

Oh yes, and I am fully aware that I have yet to complete my diary of the Crime and Justice Festival.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crime and Justice make for great Festivals

I'm back from the inaugural Crime and Justice Festival held at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne over the weekend. And what a wonderful weekend it was. All crime, all the time. Nirvana for a crime fiction addict like me. The atmosphere was so informal and friendly. Unlike bigger events, author's werent' whisked away for signings, publicity etc. yes, there were signings, but if you missed an author then, chances were you'd see them later on.

Which brings me to Robert Gott. Poor man. Everytime he turned a corner, there we were in our usual hunting pack configuration (books under arms, glass or something red or white in hand or perhaps a coffee).

The one major problem with the Crime and Justice Festival was the decision making. Leave it to the professionals with Robert Gott, Sydney Bauer and Dorothy Johnston; Crime and Reason - Forensic Psychologist Nigel Latta, Kerry Greenwood & Liz Porter talk about crime motivation or perhaps Leigh Redhead, Garry Disher and Jarad Henry on keeping it local? This is just one example of the agonising choices we had to make with clashing events. Truly spoilt for choice (for the record we went with keeping it local). But isn't that a wonderful problem to have. But enough of that. You want details (or perhaps you don't, but you're going to get them anyway)

All three authors on this panel have set their books in the areas they work and/or live. Jarad Henry spoke about St. Kilda at night and how the weather can affect what people do. Blood Sunset (the title of his second book, which you must read it's fabulous) is a term the police use when the sun sets on a hot summer day and turns the sky red. It often augers a hot night when people come out and drink more than they should. The heat frays tempers more than usual and that's when blood is shed. Beware the blood sunset Jarad writes when signing his books.

Garry Disher spoke about the changes in the demographics of the Mornington Peninsula over the years, the increasing difference between the haves and the have nots and how that has changed crime patterns. His observations of life in the area very much inform his writing.

Leigh Redhead has been a sex worker. That's where her books are set. As part of her research Leigh did a Private Investigator's course. She stressedn upon her audience in her own inimitable way the vital importance of taking a funnel on stake outs.

Crime and Verse with Dorothy Porter
Dorothy talked about the two crime novels she has writen in verse. Monkey Mask and El Dorado. She also spoke about how the way kids are taught poetry in school often turns them away from it. What's wrong, she mused, about starting kids off with song lyrics. After all, aren't some of them poetry? She's got a point. Anything would be better than having to learn off by heart "I wond'red lonely as a cloud" in grade 3 as I did. Do they still inflict that on kids? Poetry should be taught by people who have a passion for it is Dorothy's thinking and I suspect she's probably right.

Colonel Mustard in the Library
Kerry Greenwood and Robert Gott have both written books with settings that pre-date sophisticated forensic testing. Robert Gott confessed to having chosen World War II as his setting our of sheer laziness. Police procedurals? Have to learn about it. Legal Thriller? Would have to be up on law. That'd require hard work. Forensics? Too much reserach involved. I don't believe Robert for a minute. But his stated reasoning was as entertaining as his books. If you've read A Good Murder then you'll know that the opening of the book has a dead woman floating in the town's water supply for over a week. Robert grew up in Maryborough in Queensland and said this actually happened. Although they didn't have Australia's most incompetent Shakesperean actor investaging (at least one hopes not).
End of part 1. Part 2 to follow

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review: Trick or Treat

Author: Kerry Greenwood
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Life is going well for Corinna Chapman. Her bakery is going gangbusters. Her apprentice, Jason, has revealed himself to be a talented baker, his muffins in particular are to die for. And her lover, Daniel shows all the signs of being blissfully happy.

When a cut-price bakery opens just down the road, it gives Corrina a few nightmares. She hopes the novelty of the cheap bakery will wear off quickly and people will return to her because of the quality of her goods.

Another fly in her otherwise sweetly perfumed ointment is the sudden appearance on the scene of Georgiana, one of Daniel's ex-girlfriends. Georgiana is tall, slim, blonde and incredibly glamourous. How can Corinna compete.

The inner city always sees its fair share of drug overdoses and attendant odd behaviour, but there is something that is sending people mad and causing deaths. Corinna is shocked to find her bakery is one of the suspects in the source of the drug.

TRICK OR TREAT is the third in the Corinna Chapman series and my first meeting with her. I liked Corinna enormously. Hers was a world I want to inhabit. Inner city living in a beautiful old building with what appears to be affordable costs with a group of lovely people. Lots of wonderful food and fine wine. I want that life!!! It's probably just as well I don't have it. I'd be the size of a house rather than the commodious garden shed that I am now.

There were a couple of tiny things that didn't quite work for me. The presence of cats in the bakery being one. My son is a baker and there's no way they'd be allowed to trade with felines on the premises. And the sheer hard physical labour involved in the job is glossed over. But that's understandable. Trick or Treat is as much a fantasy as it is a crime fiction. It is an idealised life. In that respect TRICK OR TREAT reminded me of The Darling Buds of May with the lavish and loving descriptions of meals eaten. And that was my main problem with the book. While reading these descriptions it was difficult to resist the almost overpowering urge to go and rummage in the fridge for a snack.

TRICK OR TREAT is a real treat, but not one I'd recommend to anyone trying to diet!!

Another one bites the dust & having a "ball"

Finished another book last night. TRICK OR TREAT by Kerry Greenwood. Will write the review later today.

Horrible cold day here today. One of those gloomy days when the sun doesn't bother to put in an appearance. I'm having toasted muffins with melted cheese and salami for lunch. Just the thing for a cold day.

Last night I watched one of my favourite tv shows. It's called Spicks and Specks and it's a music quiz show. It's hilarious.

Comedian Frank Woodley was guest last night as was the woman who played Little Nell in the Rocky Horror Movie. For reasons which will become apparent in the film clip I'm about to link Frank was in a woman's one piece bathing suit. The result cracked everyone up completely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lunch, test results and a new movie.

I went out to lunch with the TAFE crowd again yesterday. Well, perhaps crowd is overstating it a bit. There were just 3 of us. One is farm-sitting and no one had his number, another was sick with the lurgi and a third couldn't come because she was home alone and had forgotten the security code for the house alarm. Now that's the sort of thing that happens to me. Very reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

Shared a pizza with Kelly. Delish. One of those thin, crispy crusts that, when done properly are wonderful (not like the franchise chains) with a chicken, brie and spinach topping.

When I got home I found an email waiting to tell me I had passed the test for the module about using catalogue tools. A very pleasant surprise because I really thought I'd tanked it and would have to sit it again.It was the punctuation that caused me the headahces.

Another interesting piece of news. Chris Nyst,author and the writer of the screenplay GETTIN' SQUARE - one of my all time favourite movies and one I don't think has seen the light of day outside Australia is about to release another movie.

This one is called CROOKED BUSINESS. I love the publicity strategy they have used. They showed a preview to Mick Gatto - one of the major players in Melbourne's underworld - and asked him to review it. Since the UNDERBELLY tv series, interest in the Melbourne Gangland is sky-high and as Gatto has given the movie his seal of approval "Sensational: Underbelly with a sense of humour", then hopefully it will have a good audience

I'm not confident that it will make the movie screens here in Launeston any time soon. The disappointment is that it is scheuled for theatre release just 4 days after I return from Melbourne where I would have had a strong chance of seeing it. I'll just have to wait.. and wait.. and wait I guess.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Open File by Peter Corris

Allen & Unwin
205 Pages

Cliff Hardy is cleaning out his office after losing his Private Investigator's licence. He comes across a folder with the paperwork for a missing person's case going back to 1988, Australia's Bi-centennial year.

OPEN FILE is a look back at how Cliff did his job twenty years ago. It is remarkable to note just how much technology has changed our lives in the twenty years since that landmark year in Australia's history. It was an era before the common use of mobile phones - when you could still find a public phone booth and put a coin in the slot. There was no internet to use as a reference to find people and information. These things have become so much a part of our daily lives that we forget what life was like before we had them.

Peter Corris' writing style is to the point. He gets straight to the story and doesn't waste words. He also manages to evoke a very strong sense of Sydney. Corris knows these streets, he's had a beer at the pubs and a cup of coffee at the coffee shops. There is a reason why Corris is referred to as the "godfather of Australian crime fiction" and if you are wondering why, then one of his Cliff Hardy books will answer the question.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: BYE BYE BABY by Lauren Crow

Publisher:Harper Collins

Thirty years ago there was a victim. A victim of unbearably cruel actions who never saw justice. Now there's a serial killer on the loose.

DCI Jack Hawksworth doesn't know any of this when he is assigned the case. Jack is young for his rank and good-looking which makes him interesting to the media. He's also the subject of considerable interest and speculation amongst his female colleagues which doesn't help.

As if that's not enough, there's an officer in the "Ghost Squad" who seems intent on re-opening an old complaint against him.


BYE BYE BABY is a very thick book. At just over 500 pages, perhaps too thick.

The basic plot is pretty good, but there seems to be just a little too much window dressing. Jack is attractive to women, his past problems demonstrate that. His deputy, DI Kate Carter has a crush on him and is extremely jealous of attention he pays to any other female, despite the fact she is engaged to be married. I didn't like this particular plot thread, I felt it detracted from the story and made a character central to the book unlikeable when she didn't need to be. And perhaps its a sign of the author's inexperience with the crime fiction genre that many plot developments are telegraphed to the reader long before the police discover the clues. At times I felt like shouting at them not to be so dopey.

That aside, BYE BYE BABY differs from many books dealing with serial killers. There are shades of grey in this book which are missing from most other books with a similar theme.

Lauren Crow is a nom de plume for Fantasy author Fiona Macintosh who is making her first foray into crime fiction.

Musings on Doorstops.

What is is with authors these days that they seem to feel the need to write mighty tomes that you need a system of pulleys to read in bed without causing yourself injury?

Remember when a book that was more than 350 pages was considered thick? When the average was around 250 pages?

I've just finished reading a doorstop. It's was over 500 pages long. It could have been less than 400 pages and not really suffered. Sometimes it feels as if the author has thrown a bit of everything (including the kitchen sink) in effort to be worthy of the price the reader has to pay for the book. Sometimes more isn't more.

Even established writers who have developed a loyal following seem to be producing thicker and thicker books these days. Admittedly sometimes I don't mind: Reginald Hill recently wrote a 500 page plus book and I devoured every word, but he's rather exceptional.

Fortunately for me my next choice is just over 200 pages. Peter Corris' OPEN FILE. Not a spare word in sight. Every one of them used to tell the story and advance the plot.
What bliss.

So why authors writing longer books these days? Any and all theories welcome.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Another day another lunch.

Well, 2 lunches actually. Trip into town yesterday to have lunch with my fellow TAFE students (semester break at the moment). Local food hall. Won't go there again in a hurry. Walked bravely past the burger and steak sandwich place and went to the place that has heathly looking food. Chose a piece of pumpkin, spinach and feta quiche. It looked ok, but the pumpkin had almost no taste and the outside of it was overcooked. One of the others had a spinach and feta muffin and said it tasted as though it had been through the dishwasher.

Oh the point of all this is I ended up calling into my favourite book shop and buying THE BLOOD DETECTIVE by Dan Waddell, who is one of thre minds behind the tv series "Who Do You Think You Are?". That wasn't what swayed me in this impluse by, it was the positive comments on the cover by Mark Billingham and Reginald Hill.

Went walking with my walking group today. The Wobbly Women Walkers. Ended up having nice lunch at the local Museum coffee shop. No books acquired. A small victory there, not that there was anything to buy but still... I stayed away from all things books.

Not much else has been going on around here. The photo with the dogs is proving an attaction as they look so unbearably cute. Looks are deceiving though and right now Jirrah is outside with her battered frisby with lots of mud on her legs. At least it's stopped raining.

Still sloggon on with Bye Bye Baby and enjoying it more and more. I did promise myself a long session of reading it this afternoon, but the time is just slipping away......

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hawaii, here I come!!

I nearly forgot. After several months of prevarication and faffing about, I finally bit the bullet on my guilt and booked a flight to Hawaii!!

I'm going to Left Coast Crime in Hawaii in March next year!! The guilt comes from the fact that for health and stress reasons I gave up my job and enrolled in a full time course at TAFE. At the end of 2 years I'll be a qualified library technician. But because I've stopped working we're now down to one fairly meagre income. At least I had the airfare saved before I stopped working.

On the upside and the reason I finally booked my flights was that I found a site that offered student discounts on the flights I wanted - and with QANTAS. I save about $200 all up. Which aint bad. No more procrastinating. I'm probably not going to get a better deal and fuel prices are only going to continue to rise.

Quiet, cold Sunday.

The weather here continues to be mostly awful. We're getting our fair share of frosty mornings, the trouble is that the one thing that makes those frosty starts bearable is missing. Most days when it starts out this cold, the sun is out and we end up with a beautiful sunny but cold winter day. Lately though, soon after the frost, cloud has descended and the rest of the day is spend under dreary, grey skies which means the place doesn't warm up at all. Even the wood heater going doesn't seem to take much of the edge off the cold at the moment.

Reading-wise, not much to report. Making progress with Bye, Bye Baby by Lauren Crow. It's a doorstop of a book at just over 500 pages and perhaps could have done with a little paring down.

My aim to read all the Ned Kelly nominee long-list before the awards in late August is starting to look a bit shaky. I do hope not too many of the nominated books are as fat as this one.

Mind you, after a rocky start - I really did think I was going to struggle with holding my interest, it's starting to pick up, although I could live without the romance elements. If I wanted to read romance I'd read romance books. But that's my quirk.

Will anyone read my ramblings apart from me I wonder?