Archive for June 4, 2013

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Usually when the CWA International Dagger Shortlist is announced I have read most of the books, but this year I have only read one of them, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas. I normally would not comment until I had read more of the books, but the  announcement on the CWA website reproduced below made me think the judges are unhappy at the quality of the shortlist. Surely if “several outstanding books” are not submitted by publishers within the deadlines some kind of failsafe system should be arranged. I can understand the organisers wanting a fee to include the books in a shortlist, but the prestige of the award will be tarnished if the shortlist becomes  a collection of books that wouldn’t have made it but X, Y and Z weren’t submitted in time. There is mention of terrible violence in two of the books, and I always wonder if this is really necessary in any circumstances. I will possibly get round to reading only one of the two violent books, but when I read in the press about the murder of April Jones, and the fact that Drummer Lee Rigby had to be identified from his dental records, I think authors and scriptwriters have some responsibility to tone down any descriptions of violence in their work.

It is a bittersweet irony that the first ever Israeli crime novel to be shortlisted D.A. Mishani’s The Missing File appears alongside a book by the grandson of Baldur von Schirach, Reichhsjugendfuhrer and then Gauleiter of Vienna, a man who served 20 years for crimes against humanity. No one could blame author Ferdinand von Schirach for the terrible crimes of his grandfather, but equally I don’t believe he can absolve his family name by writing novels, however well intentioned.

The last time Fred Vargas won this award in 2009, the shortlist included Karin Alvtegen, Arnaldur Indridason, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, and Johan Theorin. Was this a stronger shortlist than that of 2013?

An analysis of International Dagger shortlists over the past five years shows 8 Swedish, 7 Italian, 6 French, two  South African, Norwegian and Icelandic, and one  German, Argentinean, Spanish and Israeli novels were nominated. 

The announcement of the winner is on 15 July therefore I hope to review more of the shortlist before then.  

From the CWA website:

“Questions of quality led to two long discussions by the judging panel: one is whether a socially important book which is otherwise not exceptional in originality or aesthetic quality is, nonetheless, an ‘outstanding’ book; the other is the problem of exceptional violence.

In both cases, the judges agree that one of crime fiction’s claims to attention is when it reveals, analyses, and publicizes issues of social concern. Crime fiction can alert its publics to failures in laws and law enforcement, on the street, in the courts, and in legislation. It can perform the work of historical memory and bring injustices to public attention. Three of the shortlisted books raise these questions: one performs the work of publicity and has called the attention of its society to a questionable change in its laws; in two, though there is terrible violence, it is employed in the service of serious questions, and is never gratuitous.

The judges regret the non-submission of several outstanding books, and wish to remind publishers of the CWA’s deadlines.”