Archive for June, 2008

>A GOOD YEAR

Posted: June 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

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Despite all the interest in the election campaigns in the USA and Zimbabwe it was British Health Secretary Alan Johnson who I think has come up with the political quote of the year so far.


Referring to the the Prime Minister Gordon Brown he said [from the Daily Telegraph]:

‘In terms of what he is achieving in very difficult circumstances, I think it’s been a good year’.

I am just glad Mr Johnson is not the education secretary insisting on a syllabus that teaches that 1066 was a good year for King Harold, 1812 was a good year for Napoleon, and 44 BC was fantastic for Julius Caesar.

>FINISHED, STARTED, NEXT ?

Posted: June 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

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I have just finished The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin [review to  appear on Euro Crime in due course] and started Echoes From The Dead by Johan Theorin. 

The highly praised Johan Theorin is another book very kindly given to me at CrimeFest by Karen of Euro Crime. 

After that I have a huge mountain of other books to read including the probable next in line The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. 
This was given to me at CrimeFest by Maxine of Petrona, and as I  also received a signed copy of Philip Kerr’s The One From The Other from Crimeficreader; I am a very lucky boy. 
It must be the beard. 

>VOLK’S GAME:PRIZES WON

Posted: June 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

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The questions I set to decide the winners of  two copies of Volk’s Game by Brent Ghelfi were:

1) Who is the President of the Russian Federation?
and
2) Who is the detective who features in the Boris Akunin series that includes Turkish Gambit and Murder on the Leviathan?

The correct answers were: Dmitry Medvedev [not Vladimir Putin] and Erast Fandorin. 

Copies of Volk’s Game will be sent off to the winners in British Columbia and New Milton, Hampshire.

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I am always praising the beauty of  Devon’s countryside [when it is not too misty to see Dartmoor Prison] and the interesting places to visit around the county.  

Set just outside Budleigh Salterton a few minutes from the sea and the start of the Jurassic Coast [ a World Heritage site] is  the charming gallery, The Art Room which is well worth a visit. It is run by a very attractive lady who has a very handsome cousin.
In the red brick complex there is a farm shop and even a dental laboratory specialising in chrome dentures which proves that even on a beautiful evening in lovely surroundings I can’t get away from teeth.
So if you are on holiday in Devon pop in and say Crime Scraps sent you.

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5) Will the other books in the Mock Quartet be published one a year or at the same time?

 [Well I could hope couldn’t I as I am certainly looking forward to the other books.]

I do not know that, it is a question to my English publisher, Mr Christopher MacLehose. [see note end of post]

6) Will they be filmed and which of them would you like to see as a movie?

I sold the film rights to my three novels and I expect a big English-language movie with international cast and  a twelve -episode TV series. I am happy that almost the whole cycle will be made into a film.

7) Breslau had a mixed ethnic population before the Second World War, is Wroclaw now mostly Polish?

Before the Second World War Breslau was inhabited by Germans and entirely assimilated Jews, who differed from their co-citizens only in the matter of religion- not language, outfit or habits. There was also a small Polish minority.
Much earlier the town was Prussian, Austrian, Czech and Polish.
Although today Breslau [Wroclaw] is a Polish town with a homogenous population, its inhabitants are very much interested in its multicultural history.

8) Poland lost a huge proportion of its population during the war, and now it is losing many of the most talented young people who are moving to the UK to find work. How do you think Poland will cope? 

This is a question for politicians and sociologists, and not a modest crime writer. My answer therefore will be intuition based: we will manage. As we did in the past with more serious problems!

9) The wartime occupation seems to dominate much of Norwegian crime fiction. Do you think that the Second World War and the Cold War will continue to dominate Polish crime fiction in the future?

I do not see a distinct and clear trend in the Polish literature connected with the wartime occupation. It might be present in the genre of historical crime novels, which seems to be more and more popular in Poland.
It is my pleasure to be one of its representatives.

I would like to thank Marek for his time and his very thoughtful interesting answers to my questions. 
Lucy Ramsey of  Quercus books  for arranging the interview and not forgetting of course  Karen of Euro Crime for providing the book. 

The good news is that the End of the World in Breslau, number two in the Eberhard Mock Quartet, will be published in English in March 2009. 

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I recently reviewed Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski for Euro Crime comparing it favourably with the work of Philip Kerr.

This is the first of four books, the Eberhard Mock Quartet set in the German city Breslau which has since become the Polish city of Wroclaw.


Marek Krajewski is a lecturer in Classical Studies at the university in Wroclaw and his books are a homage to the city he knows so well and its turbulent history. I was lucky through the medium of the internet and a translator to be able to ask Marek a few questions.

1) I really enjoyed Death in Breslau is there a tradition of crime writing in Poland?

I am extremely pleased that you liked my novel. I am bursting with pride that in Great Britain-the homeland of Conan-Doyle and Christie- my debut novel was so well received.
In Poland between the wars there was a very faint tradition of crime writing, then, during the communist period authors were writing under pseudonyms [most often English, eg. Joe Alex=Maciej Slomczynski, a popular translator of Shakespeare] or created ideologically loaded police novels.
The situation changed after 1989, now we have many Polish crime writers, including me.

2) Do you read much crime fiction from the English speaking world and has anyone inspired you?

Fiction from the English speaking world is the real empire of crime novels and thrillers, although Scandinavia slowly becomes a criminal superpower too. I read of course, and have read many authors writing in English. 
I was especially impressed with two, who were my true literary inspiration:
Frederick Forsyth and Raymond Chandler. These are true masters!
 
I also like novels by Elisabeth George. Recently I have taken real delight in reading Val McDermid.

3) What crime fiction novel would you like to have written?

If I understand correctly, you ask whether I envy any author their novels? It is not so much a question of envy, but rather of literary mastery I would like to achieve.
I hope that one day I will write  a novel as good and thrilling as “The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler.

4) Eberhard Mock is a detective for his time and place; did you base his character on a real life person or is he drawn purely from your imagination?

It is an entirely fictional character although his name is authentic. I found it in a prewar address book and really liked it, because it creates interesting stress patterns.

[To be continued]


>BARCELONA

Posted: June 23, 2008 in Uncategorized

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Rather surprisingly I really did not enjoy An Olympic Death by Manuel Vazquez Montalban featuring gourmet detective Pepe Carvalho. 


But Karen at Euro Crime has intrigued me with news of the publication in English of Death Rites the first of  Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s series about Inspector Petra Delicado of the Barcelona police.

‘tough, sexy, at times apparently pitiless is a new kind of cop in Spanish crime fiction.’

Well I do like books about female detectives although at my age perhaps Miss Marple is more my scene than Petra Delicado.  

But Barcelona does seem worth a visit.

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You can always rely on Karen of Euro Crime to keep us informed about essential new publications and here we learn about the long awaited release in English of the first in the Inspector Van Veeteren series Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser

Those Scandinavian crime fiction aficianados who have not read any of the other books in the series will be able to start reading them in the correct order for once. 

You can read an interview with Hakan Nesser at Detective Beyond Borders where Philly crime fiction expert Peter Rozovsky has been singing the praises of the Van Veeteren series for some time. 
Mind’s Eye will be published in the UK in July.

>NOT ALL CRIMES ARE CRIMINAL

Posted: June 23, 2008 in Uncategorized

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Just in case anyone might think that the CARE villages at Blackerton and Shangton are anything like the old NHS institutions that restricted people’s rights I have posted these photographs to give a glimpse of what will be destroyed. The photos are of Grove Cottage at Blackerton.

The arguments can be followed here.

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Mrs Crime Scraps bought this Rupert Annual in a charity shop the other day claiming that rather than looking like the author of The Enchantress of Florence [in the opinion of  Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays] I looked more like the character Podgy.

 

But after the recent celebrations, with more to come, I will have to come back down to earth and face the problems of the relocation of CARE Blackerton, and of selling a retirement apartment in a falling market.
I have recently been in touch with the folks at CARE Shangton; their view of the relocation situation, the trustees and management is……………… [removed on the advice of Crime Scraps legal team]

There will be more on this subject over the next few months. It is all about service users  choice but in reality you only have choice as if it fits in with management plans. 
Service user is one of those management speak terms for the residents who were once called villagers at Blackerton and Shangton. 
You can apparently turn a service user out of their home and it sounds better than evicting a resident. If you go here and scroll down you will find a series of posts listing some of the arguments against the closure of the villages that have been successful for 40 years. Or you can go here.

Terminology can be very important as I remember when we NHS dentists were instructed not to call our patients ‘patients’ anymore. They were to be called customers!
That meant they could be charged a lot more. It was also all about change , and no change not being an option and other phrases that sounded marvelous but in fact led to the gradual destruction of NHS dentistry as we knew it.

One of my most fervent wishes is that the rhetoric of Senator Barack Obama will be matched by good deeds, I am assuming he will be elected. 
I do hope he is not going to be like another young charismatic good talker Tony Blair who promised “change” and that “things could only get better” back in 1997, or like the present PM Gordon Brown who promised “change” and a new sparkling government only a year ago. 

But back to the important stuff coming up in the next few days a Crime Scraps exclusive  interview with Polish crime writer Marek Krajewski.
Marek is the author of the Eberhard Mock quartet the first of which Death in Breslau I reviewed for Euro Crime here.