Archive for May, 2009

I am ashamed to admit I have never read an Andrew Taylor book, but I did watch the superb Roth Trilogy on television and have his novel Bleeding Heart Square perched on my TBR mountain.

I missed the first few minutes of the interview conducted by Peter Gutteridge and arrived just as Andrew was discussing Bleeding Heart Square, whether Fascism could have taken a firm hold in Britain during the early 1930s, and the present danger we face today in the local and European elections which take place in a few days time. The agendas of some of the extremist parties standing for election in other EU countries such as Hungary, Slovakia and Romania are a warning that Fascism is not dead. 
Andrew and Peter spoke about the Roth trilogy, and the Lydmouth series. They also discussed Edgar Allan Poe [who was educated in England from 1815-1820] and his novel The American Boy, which had brought Andrew a second Crime Writer’s Association Ellis Peters Historical Award as well as a Richard and Judy bookclub recommendation. 
Andrew Taylor seemed a quiet studious man and perhaps was not comfortable when the Richard and Judy book club put The American Boy into the best seller list. He felt people treated him slightly differently and perhaps they expected a more outgoing personality. 
I was fairly exhausted by this stage of the convention so I may have got the wrong impression, but after listening to Andrew I will definitely read Bleeding Heart Square as soon as I can. 
The only reason I have not read The American Boy yet is that the paperback version has a very small print font, and the publishers did not think about us older folk who need large fonts. 

This was the last event that I attended at the very enjoyable Crime Fest 2009. If I am able I would definitely go again in 2010, but not attempt to drive between Bath and Bristol, which can now take over an hour as opposed to the 15 minutes when I lived in Bristol. 
I realised just how long ago it had been since I was a student in Bristol when a new bendy bus drove past our B&B in Bath and another guest [going to a 30 year reunion at Bath University] read on the side “last bus to the university 3.00 am”. 
He spluttered “Today’s students are spoilt, in my day the last bus was at 11.30 pm.”

I raged “In my day it was last ‘sedan chair’ at 6.30 pm, and we only had bread and dripping to eat”.
OK, a slight exaggeration, but the last bus was about 6.30 pm , and after that we walked home. 
I will be posting a few more photographs taken at Crime Fest over the next couple of weeks.


Posted: May 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

In the June 2009 issue of the BBC History Magazine teacher Guy de la Bedoyere bemoaned the fact that his pupils were drowning in learning skills, but starved of knowledge. 

His pupils laughed at him when he told them during a discussion about medieval villages and their food that “remember they did not have potatoes”. 
As well as that a talented artist in year 12 had never heard of Hans Holbein, and according to one young year 8 pupil during the English Civil War Charles I defied Parliament and captured Brazil. Sorry she meant Bristol!

M. de la Bedoyere commented “Now call me amazingly old-fashioned, but I think I heard that potatoes came from America by the time I was 12.” 

Perhaps one of the reasons translated crime fiction is of such a high standard is that with publishers not employing editors, or sometimes it seems like it, the translator remains as a backstop to prevent silly inaccuracies creeping into books. The charming Tiina Nunnally mentioned during our trip round Bath that she had recently  intervened pointing out to one author that in medieval Scandinavia they did not eat tomatoes!

I can’t be too critical of the young students, when a magazine like Mystery Scene Issue 109  comes up with this howler in an article on Olen Steinhauer‘s books.

“Oh, there is this crazy guy in Romania, Milosevic. He is like Hitler, but he’s going to be much worse.” And I said in some stupid , cocky American way, “You guys are so melodramatic! Come on have another drink.” Then two years later the Balkan War started.

I know Slobodan Milosevic allegedly had an expansionist Greater Serbia policy but I did not know he had taken over Romania. No wonder NATO had to intervene.

Mystery Scene also has a blurb about another author’s book that chirps cheerfully that detective X “must travel the globe to uncover a cunning plot”. 
The detective actually only makes one journey from Rome to San Francisco, which in my humble opinion is not the globe, but I suppose I am just “amazingly old fashioned” and like details to be correct.


This session was very amusing as Gyles Brandeth and Simon Brett knew each other very well and the jokes flowed back and forth. Gyles apologizing for once being an MP and making a joke about finding his feminine side and his subsequent inability to park his car, which I would not have the cheek to repeat here.  ;o)

I was particularly interested in that Simon and I had been at Dulwich College at the same time although he is a bit younger. Also I read that he was born in Worcester Park just across the A3 from where I worked in New Malden for 17 eventful years. 
Simon mentioned the opening at Dulwich of the Raymond Chandler Library by crime writer Tom Rob Smith and the existing of the P.G.Wodehouse Library. My memory might be faulty but in my days at Dulwich 1955-1961 Chandler and Wodehouse were not as highly regarded by the school as another very famous writer and Old Alleynian O.A. C.S.Forester
The reasons were that Chandler was a “crime writer” who had gone to Hollywood, and Wodehouse had broadcast from Berlin during the war, see here.

Simon discussed his time at Oxford , his job as a Father Christmas, his interest in acting, his career with BBC Radio, his  involvement with the pilot episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, his time with London Weekend television, and his creation of Charles Paris, the acting detective. It was all fascinating stuff and very enjoyable, so enjoyable in fact that I bought one of Simon’s books at full price and had it inscribed “to another O.A.”       


Posted: May 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

>Steven T. Murray aka “Reg Keeland”, the translator who brought Lisbeth Salander to an English readership, signing a huge pile of books  at Crime Fest 2009 watched by a very young fan and her father. 

Steven translated not only Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, but books by Karin Alvtegen, Henning Mankell, Leif Davidsen, and Camilla Lackberg.

You can read Steven’s blog here.  He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife Tiina Nunnally, who translated Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg as well as books by Astrid Lindgren, Karin Fossum, Mari Jungstedt and Leif Davidsen.


Ann Cleeves has the knack of drawing out the best from her subjects, and as last year when she interviewed Karin Fossum, this Hakan Nesser interview was a definite highlight of the convention.

Hakan Nesser has written 22 novels of which ten comprise his award winning Van Veeteren series. The reason he set his Van Veeteren books in an unnamed Northern European country was that he had not done the geographical research to set them in Sweden, and was worried if he did this his German fans would pick up on incorrect details when they read his books. With his dry humour you never quite know whether Hakan is joking or not but it makes a good story.
The Van Veeteren series features in two of the first four books sympathetic murderers with very good motives for killing their victims, but we were told that by books nine and ten some suitably nasty murderers turn up. 
The grumpy chess and badminton playing Van Veeteren retires from the police in book five and opens an antiquarian book shop, but his former colleagues continue to consult the intuitive master detective in the remaining books, while Van Veeteren becomes less abrasive because he finds a woman. Unfortunately so far we have only four of the ten books translated into English. 

Hakan and Ann went on to talk about the new series, the neatly named Barbarotti Quartet. Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti’s parents could agree on nothing except they wanted a divorce, which meant his Italian father and Swedish mother battled over his name and luckily mother won because the books are set in Sweden and he became Gunnar rather than Guisseppe Barbarotti. 
The Italian Swedish detective seems to be a captivating character who makes a bargain with God in which Barbarotti keeps score marking God’s performance. This all sounded such promising stuff that after the interview was over I did go over to Tiina Nunnally and suggest that with so many Van Veeterens and Barbarottis still to be translated into English Hakan Nesser needed a team of translators to quicken the process for the sake of us older readers. 

Earlier in the interview a much more serious Hakan, when discussing the sympathetic murderers in his earlier books, had said that he had told his daughters that if they were ever being assaulted or raped to tell the perpetrator that “my father will seek you out and kill you”. 


Posted: May 26, 2009 in Uncategorized


I can now reveal what Don Bartlett, translator of both Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl’s books, inscribed in my second copy of The Devil’s Star, which I reviewed here.

“To Norman, Very exciting to meet the Uriah I already knew, Don”

This was wonderful news for two reasons, firstly that the great translator Don Bartlett had read my blog, and secondly that if he thought meeting me was “very exciting” he obviously did not get out much, and was usually busy in his study providing us with more translations of the Nesbo and Dahl books. 

I am looking forward to Don Bartlett’s next two translations to be published which will be  K.O.Dahl’s The Last Fix [next month] a winner of the Riverton Prize, and The Snow Man by Jo Nesbo. 


I planned  to attend the Paul Johnston interview of veteran crime writers John Harvey and Bill James, which I thought would be a highlight of the convention. Unfortunately Bill James was unable to attend because of a family emergency but John and Paul gave us full value and the sparse attendance was very surprising.

John began by reading extracts from a favourite Bill James Harpur and Iles novel Roses, Roses. He then went on to talk about his own long career, writing westerns, the Resnick books, the attempt to put Resnick on TV with Tom Wilkinson, and retirement. 
At the end he gave a long list of books that he particularly enjoyed and I was pleased that he chose The Man Who Like Slow Tomatoes by K.C. Constantine, one of my featured Dartmoor Dozen.


You get a tremendous amount of information delivered at these conventions and it is impossible to retain everything in your brain. But I do remember that a couple of books were recommended by the translators Tiina Nunnally and Don Bartlett that they had particularly enjoyed translating.

Tiina recommended The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard, and Don enjoyed The Burnt Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen.         


The intervals at Crime Fest were too short. 

Thirty minutes is just not long enough to collect your thoughts, get a book signed by an author or translator, or chat with old friends and make new ones. The pace becomes just a bit frenetic as you try to remember which panel or interview you planned to attend next. When it comes to a mere thirty minutes for a lunch break this is ridiculous. While I can understand the organizers want to pack as much as possible into the convention if I want to socialize during the intermissions how much more important a little more time would be for the professionals cultivating their contacts. 
During one of the intervals I had the shock of paying full price for a hard back book at the Blackwell stall. £16.99 as opposed to the Amazon price of £9.34 with free postage. 
No wonder bookshops are closing.

One of the great delights of Crime Fest is that the ordinary fan gets to meet up close and personal some of the famous authors and translators. 
Photograph on the left is of author Hakan Nesser, in serious mood, deep in discussion with star blogger Maxine Clarke of Petrona.

On the right the group consists of from  left to right, Lady Petrona, Don Bartlett [translator of Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl’s books], Peter Rozovsky award winning blogger from the USA, and Karen Meek, creator of that great encyclopedic resource Euro Crime and surely a future award winner for services to translated crime fiction. 

The next panel was all about comic crime fiction. 

Bill James because of a family emergency was replaced by the highly talented and self admitted very poor ex- cultural attache L.C.Tyler
The other very funny participants were Ruth Dudley Edwards, Kaye C. Hill, Hakan Nesser and Simon Brett as moderator. 
I was still buzzing from the previous panel and the interval events, but what was noticeable is that Hakan Nesser‘s dry Scandinavian humour stood up well in this very amusing company.