Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Crime Scene; Britain and Ireland

I received a review copy the other day of a new book published by Five Leaves, and written by John Martin. Described as "a reader's guide",and titled Crime Scene: Britain and Ireland, it aims to discuss crime writers past and present on a geographic basis, 'where the setting of the book is crucial, giving the story context and local relevance.' I began by dipping into it rather casually, because reference books like this, even relatively compact ones, can't sensibly be read from cover to cover in a sitting, but I soon found myself absorbed in the wealth of information supplied.

I've never met John Martin, but a biographical note on the cover explains that he is a former librarian, and past judge for the CWA Dagger in the Library. One thing is for sure - he knows a great deal about the genre. Putting a book like this together is not a task for the faint-hearted, not the poorly read. He mentions a great many novels, and my impression is that he has read them, rather than relying on potted summaries by others, because there is a personal 'feel' to the commentary that I find appealing.

I should add that there is an entry about my work which is extremely positive and generous, and this blog also earns a credit, so (being only human) I'm naturally inclined to applaud the excellence of John Martin's judgment! But even if I wasn't mentioned, I'd find a book like this a must-read. It's not dissimilar in some ways from a book published back in 2002, Scene of the Crime, by Julian Earwaker and Katherine Becker. I met Julian and Katherine when they were researching that book, and found them very pleasant company. I can recommend their book too, but of course much has happened in the genre in the past twelve years, and in the absence of a new edition, John Martin has not only spotted a gap in the market, but filled it admirably.

To write a book of this kind, I think you have to be a real enthusiast for the genre. In the entries I've read, Martin's enthusiasm shines through. The emphasis, inevitably, is on relatively modern books, but there is also material that dates back much longer - discussion of Charles Felix's The Notting Hill Mystery from 1865, for example. This book is definitely my cup of tea, and I hope that John Martin's hard work is rewarded by excellent sales. I shall continue to dip into it regularly.

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