Friday, 25 July 2008

Thomas H. Cook and Jill Paton Walsh

I admire a good many crime writers, past and present, and in the last few years I’ve developed a particular enthusiasm for the work of Thomas H. Cook. I’ve read some but by no means all of his novels, and Red Leaves is among my all-time favourites. Breakheart Hill is also brilliant.

So it was a great pleasure finally to meet the man himself at Harrogate. The subtly melancholic tone of his writing had made me wonder what he might be like in person; suffice to say that I found that he is both affable and charming. Because I am a fan as well as a crime writer - and I shall always be a fan, and in awe of great writers - I was especially delighted by Tom Cook's very kind personal inscription on my copy of one of his earlier books, Sacrificial Ground.

I also had the chance of a conversation with Jill Paton Walsh, once short-listed for the Booker Prize, and the author of the Imogen Quy novels. She pointed out to me (what I’d failed to realise) that her heroine’s initials were a jokey hint at the intellectual aspirations of the fictional detective. In the mystery field, Jill is best known for finishing Dorothy L. Sayers’ Thrones, Dominations. She’s written another ‘new’ Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and a third is in the works. Something to look forward to.


Xavier said...

How lucky you are to have met Cook - he's one of my favorite contemporary mystery writers and possibly the best plotter in the genre since Margaret Millar's prime.

Have you read The Instruments of Night?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about Red Leaves: I was recommended it by someone a year or so ago and I think it is an excellent book.

I've since read four or five others by Thomas H Cook. While I have enjoyed them all (especially Murmering of Stones) and think the author is a very good writer, I think that they have slightly too much of a "sense of foreboding" to them, so that the denouement does not entirely live up to it. There is also a common theme of the lousy father. But these are quibbles, I think he is really very good.

I haven't read any Jill Paton Walsh recently though I believe I read one or two by her years ago, possibly before she began writing in this genre? I am quite intrigued by her IQ (like it!) novels, though I don't usually read this type of fiction. But I found her expositions at Harrogate to be delightful (possibly a bit too early in the morning for you? But the Sunday session on "cozy" was a treat).

Martin Edwards said...

Xavier, I haven't read that one. What can you tel us about it?

Maxine, you're right. It's an open secret that 9 am is not my best time of day (I'm not really sure what is my best time, but it's definitely not then) but I am sorry I missed the panel, even though I'm not keen on the term 'cozy'.

Kerrie said...

Just letting you know Martin that I have given you an "award". See which explains all.

Xavier said...


Our common listmate Barry Ergang did a nice review of Instruments of Night on the GAdetection wiki:

I agree with him that it's not the kind of book to read when you feel depressed, but as Barry says, it's "well worth your time".
The earlier "Tabernacle" about a serial killer on the loose in Salt Lake City is a gem as well.