Archive for October, 2009


Posted: October 19, 2009 in Uncategorized



Posted: October 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

I thought I would belatedly join this meme at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise and start with C is for Colin Cotterill.

You can learn a lot about Colin Cotterill by exploring his fascinating website. As you will discover cartooning and writing are two of his great passions.

I have two of Colin’s books sitting on my TBR pile and am ashamed to admit I have not found the time to read either of them. This is terribly remiss of me as there are certain coincidences that lead me to believe I have to read these books soon.

I received a proof copy of Anarchy and Old Dogs at Crime Fest 2008 in Bristol but perhaps the blurb on the back was a bit too close to home for me.

‘When a blind, retired dentist is run down by a logging truck as he crosses the road to post a letter.’……….’ The dentist’s mortal remains aren’t nearly as intriguing as the letter in his pocket.’

As a retired dentist whose eyes and feet are faltering I don’t think I could dodge any trucks at the moment. But I must read this book!

When I entered the quiz for that prize I had no idea that my son would be in that part of the world within a few weeks. The coincidence is a little weird in that Colin Cotterill lives in Chumphon on the Gulf of Siam with his wife, Jess, while my son Ben is at the moment at Kampot, Cambodia on the other side of the Gulf of Siam visiting his girlfriend, Jess!

‘Eight years ago, Colin Cotterill became involved in child protection, and set up an NGO in the south of Thailand which ran for two years. After two more years of study in Australia in child abuse issues, he spent more time with the southern project before joining ECPAT-an international organization that combats child prostitution and pornography. He set up their training programme for caregivers.’

After reading this I think I can now forgive him running over a dentist, and I must read his books.

Modern computer technology is fantastic as earlier today I was able to not only speak to, but also to see Ben on video, when I phoned Cambodia, and Skype to Skype is free.


The project to read all the six shortlisted Ellis Peters Historical Award books before the award ceremony goes well. I have finished reading number five, The Interrogator by Andrew Williams. My review will appear in due course on Euro Crime, with thanks to publishers John Murray and of course Karen for providing the book.

On now to read number six, The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth.

The judges for this award do have a very difficult task, because out of the five books I have read you could make a strong case for three of them to win the Ellis Peters.


The complete Anthony Awards list can be seen at The Rap Sheet, but the major awards were Best Novel to The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly, and Best First Novel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland.

As Yogi Berra [the great Yankee catcher not the cartoon character] would say “It is deja vu all over again” for this Swedish phenomenon.

From Philip Kerr:

Dear Norman
I thought your readers might appreciate some clarification regarding the RBA prize.

First of all, European prizes are a foreign country: they do things differently there. Which is not to say it’s better or worse than we do them here. It’s just different.

The RBA International Crime Writing Prize is annual and is open to all unpublished crime novels. The must be submitted in manuscript. As far as I can gather there were one hundred and sixty of these manuscripts that were submitted for this year’s RBA award. The prize is a little trophy and a cheque for 125,000 euros; and a publishing contract for the winning book from the prize sponsors. I don’t know if there was a short list or not, I’m afraid.
But there was a panel of judges[critics and booksellers] and only one of them [I think] was employed by the RBA. It’s possible I haven’t got this entirely right. My Spanish isn’t great, but it’s not as bad as my Catalan, as you can judge for yourself by viewing the prize ceremony and my acceptance speech on the You Tube link here.

In April of this year I won a prize given by the French magazine Le Point. Mostly it was glory[not to be underestimated] but there were also a few bottles of rather nice wine, too , not to mention some useful publicity for my book. Until then I’d never wion any sort of crime writing prize [unless you count the Deutsche Krimi prize, but I really have no idea how that works or what it is] so I hope you’ll forgive me if I say that I was very proud to have won the RBA. I still feel that way.

It’s been my one moment in the sun during a twenty year writing career.

While I was in Spain I felt I was flying the flag for British crime writing and I was, perhaps, a little disappointed that the last issue of the CWA magazine Red Herrings mentioned nothing about my winning the prize. Perhaps they don’t read the Guardian.
Hope this helps.


Posted: October 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

The full list of yesterday’s prize awards at the Indianapolis Boucheron can be seen at The Rap Sheet.

The Barry Award for the Best Novel went to another Nordic mystery the superb The Draining Lake by the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason.

The award for Best British Novel, obviously a product of the publisher, Quercus, rather than the Swedish author or the American translator, also went to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The photograph is not the closest I have been to Indianapolis, but it was taken in Southern Indiana.


1626 Banff, Scotland:

Alexander Seaton, the hero and narrator of The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, was an aspirant to the ministry but was denied this position at his trials because of sinful behaviour. He is now a reluctant schoolmaster regarded by most in the town with a wary contempt. One of his few friends in the burgh Charles Thom is accused when the apothecary’s apprentice Patrick Davidson, is murdered with a rare botanical poison. Apparently the well travelled and educated Davidson, the provost’s nephew, stole the affections of the daughter of the house, Marion Arbuthnott from a smitten Charles Thom.
Charles is thrown into the tolbooth, and Alexander and another friend the doctor James Jaffray vow to prove his innocence
When a search of the victim’s possessions discover accurate maps of the coastline and other strategic points the provost William Watt, Baillie Buchan, and notary public of the burgh of Banff Thomas Stewart decide to send Alexander to Robert Gordon of Straloch, who is skilled in cartography for his opinion about the maps.

Was Patrick Davidson a popish agent? Is that the reason for his murder?

There is widespread fear of Catholic plots and foreign invasions and although Robert Gordon is a suspected papist his expertise and knowledge of cartography is needed.
Alexander is due anyway to travel to Aberdeen to buy books and enquire as to the standard of Greek needed for one of his pupils to gain a bursary to Marischal College.
In a series of recollections and discussions we learn that Alexander was the constant companion of Archie Hay, the laird of Delgatie’s son, who went off to fight and die for Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, daughter of King James in the German wars. The reader also learns the reason for Alexander’s disgrace and I won’t spoil that discovery for you by mentioning it here.
When Alexander returns from his journey to Aberdeen, Banff is in turmoil because there has been another murder , an event which has inflamed bigotry and lead to the terror of the witch hunt rearing its ugly head.
Alexander with the help of the mysterious wise woman of Darkwater must solve the murders and save the burgh from the Devil.

I will note at this point that a few years ago I attended a lecture at Exeter University where a friend from Dundee [who had left Scotland many many years before] jumped up at the mention of King James I of England, and shouted he was King James VI of Scotland in order to educate the English.

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton is the debut novel by Shona MacLean, mother of four and niece of the famous thriller writer Alistair MacLean, although the reader will think it the work of a much more experienced writer.
The book is brilliantly evocative of the period and one fully expects John Knox to jump off the page and start a blistering sermon at any moment. Shona MacLean, who has an M.A. and PhD in educational provision during the 17th century uses her considerable knowledge to create a real and believable world full of bleak dour characters [apart from the dead Archie Hay], who quote the Hebrew prophets and live in fear of the Kirk session.

‘Hosea, chapter four:”Hear the word of the Lord ye children of Israel; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.”‘

Shona succeeds in the difficult task of pulling the reader into the mindset of the 17th century, which was so very different from that of our own time. The novel contains some superb vignettes of life in Aberdeen and at Robert Gordon of Straloch’s castle, as well as accounts of the harsh treatment meted out to fallen women. It is an intelligent and exciting read with stunning descriptive passages that make you feel you are actually there in the freezing tolbooths or on the stool of repentance in the kirk in that cold miserable unforgiving Scotland of the 17th century.
If I have any criticism of the book it is that at 410 pages it is about 100 pages too long, and that there are numerous characters to remember, some of whom perhaps may possibly appear in sequels .
I also wonder why, and this book is not unique in this, the useful glossary is placed at the back rather than the front of the book. Also I suspect bayonets, as we understand them, had not been invented in 1626. But these are very minor quibbles, the novel is an excellent example of historical crime fiction in which evocation of the period, historical accuracy, and memorable characters are as important as the plot.

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton is the only Ellis Peters shortlisted novel that is not set during or relates to the Second World War, and this must make it a very strong contender for the prize.
The 17th century is such a fascinating and interesting period of history with so many uniquely characters that hopefully Shona MacLean will write some sequels.

If you have enjoyed or been intrigued by the Philip Kerr interview you can hear the man himself speak at Daunt Books, 83 Marylebone High Street tomorrow night Wednesday 14 October at 7.00 pm. tickets are £5.


The final part of my interview with prize winning crime fiction writer Philip Kerr.

14] On page 335 of A Quiet Flame Bernie gives a long list of those he blames for the rise of the Nazis. There were obviously many factors unique to Weimar Germany but do you ever worry that this situation could arise in the next few years in the UK?

No. The British are too keen on television and shopping for anything like this to happen. But I would welcome London becoming more like Weimar Berlin in a number of respects. At the very least I should like to see a lot more nudism in London’s parks. And women wearing suspenders.

15] It is said that authors need talent, hard work and luck. Which of these do you think is most important? Do you think people appreciate crime writing as much as literary writing and understand that crime fiction is by far the biggest selling genre?

You need all three. But the most important thing of all is hard work. I know I did.
The great Geoffrey Boycott [a famous Yorkshire and English Test cricketer] once commented that he had worked bloody hard to be so lucky. There’s truth in that, just as there’s truth in nearly everything Sir Geoff says.
I try not to talk about my work and myself too much. I think I’m a very boring person to be honest. All of what’s interesting about me goes into my books.

There is always a lot of special pleading for crime writing. But I think it gets as much appreciation as it deserves. If people didn’t appreciate it they wouldn’t buy it. End of story.
I see lots of good reviews in the newspapers for crime writers so I guess you’re talking about things like the Booker and I really don’t think anyone should be upset if they don’t win that. Some terrible novels have won the Booker.
Besides it seems there are plenty of awards and rewards for crime writing and I think it’s a good thing if people who often write very worthy but boring books should have their own little ghetto where their books can achieve a certain kind of success.

Thanks very much for the interview Phil, and the best of luck with If The Dead Rise Not for that elusive CWA Ellis Peters Award.

Part one, part two, part three, part four of this interview.

Reviews of :

My review of The Ignorance of Blood, Robert Wilson’s final book in the Javier Falcon quartet has been posted at Euro Crime.

This series features great characters, an interesting setting in Seville, complex plots, and real tension.
Robert Wilson is one of the few authors who can write a 600 page book and retain my interest throughout the story.