Saturday 12 December 2009

Kirkus and reviews

From the United States comes the news that another source of crime fiction reviews is to cease publication. This time it is Kirkus, which that I’ve never actually seen in the flesh, so to speak, but only via extracts either photocopied or online. For those unfamiliar with it, Kirkus was well-known for including quite a number of rather harsh reviews, and at least one good crime writing friend of mine becomes quite animated (not in a happy way) if ever Kirkus is mentioned. But we are all prejudiced by our own experiences, and when Kirkus reviewed my books, it always seemed positive. So I’m sorry to see Kirkus disappear from a personal perspective – but more important, this development means that mid-list writers will tend to get even less attention from now on, and that’s a shame.

On a much happier note, I am in the debt of that witty blogger (and notable crime writer) Bill Crider, who kindly supplied me with a scan of a marvellous review of Dancing for the Hangman in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Jon L. Breen is one of the most respected crime reviewers in the US, and so I’m especially gratified that he said that the book is ‘one of the finest fictionalizations of a classical criminal case I’ve ever read.’

Suffice to say that this is a quote I’ll long cherish. Jon Breen also mentions ‘excellent and sometimes amusing writing’, and he picks up on the fact that the book contains one or two crime fiction in-jokes – not many readers have noticed this. For instance, as he points out, my ‘Notes for the Curious’ at the end of the book are so called in tribute to the great John Dickson Carr,

Publishers’ Weekly adds that the book ‘ranks among Edwards’s best work’, and I’ve been lucky enough to have The Serpent Pool noticed by the same publication at almost the same time. And kindly noticed, too: ‘The musty, sedate world of old books provides the backdrop for a series of gruesome murders in Edwards's absorbing fourth Lake District mystery.’

Good reviews are no guarantee of huge sales, that’s for sure. But they do help, and in any event they are great for morale. One can only hope that online reviews of quality fill the gap that Kirkus will leave.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Congratulations on the fine review by Breen!! That's terrific news; thanks for sharing it. I look forward to reading it.

seana graham said...

The crime question of the moment would seem to be, "Who killed Kirkus?" I'm kind of shocked by the death, actually.

Nice reviews, Martin. It's always great when a reviewer picks up on things that almost everyone else misses.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot and Seana.
'Who Killed Kirkus?' would be a great title, I have to say.
Incidentally, in both the Lakes books and Waterloo Sunset, I have a chain of Bavarian coffee shops called Kaffee Kirkus....

David Cranmer said...

Mr. Breen knows of what he speaks. Hands down one of the finest reviewers around.

And that is sad news about Kirkus.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I have to admit that there was a part of me that treated the news like your friend did. :) I got a lukewarm review for my recent release (not a bad one, though) and then have seen Kirkus either NOT review or give bad reviews to a number of mysteries.

Putting that bitterness away, though, :) it's not good to have a major reviewer disappear.

One odd thing they did before their demise was to open a vanity review department. You could pay 500.00 for a good review. Isn't that strange?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thought you might be interested in this NY Times article today:
The end of Kirkus brings anguish and relief (NY Times):


seana graham said...

It would be really disconcerting if you ended up with a bad vanity review, wouldn't it?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. I heard from yet another writer friend today, lamenting the lack of reviews. So many writers are in the same boat.