Monday 27 June 2022

New Books - Well Worth a Look!

2022 has been an exciting and busy year for me. Quite apart from anything else, promoting The Life of Crime is absorbing quite a bit of time. One consequence of this is that I've not had time to read as many new books as usual, let alone to review them in any detail. Yet I've come across a wide range of interesting novels and story collections during the past few months. Time still doesn't permit me to examine many of them at length, but I thought that I'd mention a few titles today, in the hope that readers may be encouraged to investigate further.

In terms of newer writers, I was very pleased to hear recently from Mary Grand, who sent me a copy of her latest book Good Neighbours. She was kind enough to write that listening to my talk at the Isle of Wight Festival three years back encouraged her to produce her first murder mystery, which earned a publishing deal. From my point of view, that kind of feedback is truly rewarding (and we hope for some similar results from the Crafting Crime online course!) and I do think that Mary's knowledge of the island makes the setting a valuable as well as attractive ingredient of her writing. I look forward to hearing of her further successes.

I was equally pleased to receive Death by Appointment by Mairi Chong. Mairi is a qualified doctor and her professional expertise informs this, the first in a series featuring Dr Cathy Moreland. So does her close understanding of the nature of that complex and challenging condition, bipolar disorder.

From the south coast of England, like Mary Grand, is an interesting short story writer based in Bexhill. John F. Bennett has followed up his previous self-published short story collections with another gathering of spooky tales laced with mystery, The Coastguard Cottages. When I say 'self-published', it shouldn't be thought that this terms carries an inherent stigma. I don't deny that there are plenty of poor self-published books, but it's worth remembering that (to take just one example) Marcel Proust self-published the first volume of In Search of Lost Time after publishers rejected it). 

A good example of what can happen to a gifted self-published author can be found in the experience of Tim Sullivan, whom I met recently at CrimeFest. Tim is a renowned writer and director for TV and film, but after creating the cop George Cross, who is on the spectrum, he began by self-publishing the series. He did so with such success that the books have now been snapped up by Head of Zeus. I have just finished The Patient and there's no doubt that George is a strong character of whom we are sure to hear much more.

And then there's a couple of books by Michael Z. Lewin, an American long domiciled in England, and a very well-established writer who earned praise from Ross Macdonald, no less. If you haven't read his Edgar-nominated Ask the Right Question, check it out: a terrific private eye novel. He's travelled on the reverse path to Tim, moving to self-publication with two books that are very different from his early fiction. One is a bulky novel set in the world of television, Men Like Us. Much shorter, and even more unusual, is Confessions of a Discontented Deity, a lively romp with a theological underpinning. 

At the CWA conference in Torquay, I was glad to chat with Allan Martin, and his Death in Tallinn, featuring a cop who is a former teacher, is not only a good story but also for me a reminder of my visits to Tallinn in the past, once on a brief cruise stop, once at the wonderful Tallinn Literature Festival, which gave me a great opportunity to appreciate a historic and fascinating city. 

So, a diverse mix here, and I haven't even mentioned the novels written by my fellow panellists at CrimeFest, such as James Delargy's Vanished, Rachael Blok's The Fall, Victoria Dowd's The Supper Club Murders, and David Hewson's The Garden of Angels. An important element of the ever-growing popularity of crime fiction is its extraordinary range, and the authors I've mentioned make good use of that range in very, very different ways.

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