Monday, 5 February 2018

Books, Books, Books...

...and more books. So many good things to read, so little time to read them. And even less to write lengthy blog posts about them, alas, so today I'm going to round up a few among the many interesting titles that have, happily, come my way in recent months. They illustrate the variety of crime writing in a good way, and let me also mention a couple of forthcoming non-crime titles.

Let me start with Len Tyler's latest, Herring in the Smoke, another case for Ethelred Tressider, one of my favourite amateur sleuths. I've been a fan of this series since it began, even before I got to know Len personally. And I was greatly amused to come across a reference to myself in the narrative! This is a book that gets off to a brilliant start, when Roger Norton Vane turns up at his own memorial service, twenty years after he went missing and was presumed dead. I was intrigued to see what Len would make of this premise, and while I figured out one plot twist, the ending took me aback. I won't say any more; you'll have to read the book!

Frances Brody has quietly established herself as one of our leading purveyors of historical mystery fiction. When I visited New York recently, I seized - of course - the chance to pop into as many bookshops as possible, and I was pleased to see Frances' books prominently displayed in Barnes and Noble. Pleased, but not surprised, because her history-mystery series about Kate Shackleton has become as popular in the US as it is here. The latest is Death in the Stars, which I'm reading currently and very much enjoying.

Perhaps less well-known than Len and Frances, but certainly an author to watch is Sarah Williams, Not content with writing fiction and non-fiction, she also runs a small press. As S.W. Williams she published her debut novel Small Deaths recently. It's another historical mystery: a serial killer is on the loose behind the lines on the Western  Front. As Sarah Williams, she's also responsible for How to Write Crime Fiction, published under the Robinson imprint. I'm a sucker for how-to-write-crime books, I must admit. It's not so much that I want to do all the exercises etc that their authors may suggest, but I find it truly fascinating to see the different approaches that are recommended.

Now someone I've never met, but with whom I've corresponded recently, is Paul Roland. His main field is true crime writing, an area I've ventured into myself, for instance with Urge to Kill and Truly Criminal, a CWA anthology of true crime stories. Paul's work encompasses Jack the Ripper, crime scene investigation, and criminal profiling in In the Minds of Murderers. An author worth bearing in mind if this is your field of interest.

Someone else I've never met is the tireless researcher and anthologist Mike Ashley. Yet I owe Mike quite a debt, because many years ago, he took my first attempt at a Sherlock Holmes story, "The Case of the Suicidal Lawyer" (yep, a joke about the legal life is lurking in there somewhere...) This has led to a hugely enjoyable occasional sideline, culminating in my recent lecture to the Baker Street Irregulars. Anyway, back to Mike. He too has done a good deal of work with the British Library, and now he's edited two meaty anthologies of classic science fiction, Moonrise and Lost Mars, which will be the shelves soon. I enjoy quite a few sci-fi writers, and I've started dipping into these collections already. With any luck, this may be the start of an imprint to rival the Crime Classics.


6 comments:

Frances Brody said...

Pleased to have an honourable mention for the Kate Shackleton books, and in such good company. I also gather 'How To' books. The one I won't part with is William Ash's highly readable The Way to Write Radio Drama (1985) - introduction by Fay Weldon. She compares writing a radio play with riding a bicycle: wonderfully simply if only you knew how.

Mike Storey said...

Thanks for the paragraph on Frances Brody. I've been tempted to try her work, but there seem to be quite a few 1920s/1930s 're-creations' out there, some of them dire. So it's good to have a recommendation to follow up.
I've just finished listening to a genuine between-the-wars novel, Lois Austen-Leigh's The Incredible Crime - not a great mystery pehaps, but great fun. Kudos to the BL Crime Classics for bringing it back into circulation. And also for giving us some Lorac. She not only wrote good mysteries, but had a genius for good titles (or her publishers did). I'm sure Carter Dickson would have liked to have come up with Rope's End, Rogue's End and The Sixteenth Stair!

Belated best wishes for 2018.

Frances Brody said...

Hope you'll like my Kate Shackleton books, Mike. When the first one came out, a bookseller said to me, "If you'd written these a few years ago, no one would have been interested." So, timing matters, also attractive covers. I'll look out for Lois Austen-Leigh's mysteries.

Martin Edwards said...

Very good point about timing, Frances. So important, in life and in writing. And your covers are always great.

Mike Storey said...

Frances, you said you would look out for Lois Austen-Leigh's mysteries. Sadly she wrote only three more: The Haunted Farm (1932), Rude Justice (1936), and The Gobblecock Mystery (1938, all long out of print. In a Guardian interview at the time of the release of The Incredible Crime, Robert Davies at the British Library said that the BL might have to think about whether it could release The Gobblecock Mystery under its original title...
But Austen-Leigh didn't invent the name. The once best-selling author Mary Cholmondeley mentioned it in her 1921 book The Romance in His Life and Other Romances:
Our village is not really called Riff. It has a beautiful and ancient name, which I shall not disclose, but I don't mind telling you that it is…..not so very far from Gobblecock Hall. Of course if you are not Suffolk born and bred you will think I am trying to be humourous and that I have invented this interesting old English name. I can only say. Look in any good map of Suffolk. You will find Gobblecock Hall on it near the coast.
And you can still find it on Googlemaps!

Frances Brody said...

How intriguing, Mike! She is now definitely on my list and thanks for this great titbit of information.