Wednesday 31 May 2023

Framed - 2021 film review

Framed is a new film, flawed and low-budget, but quite interesting as an example of an attempt to rewrite Rear Window as a story about moral dilemmas. Thomas Law plays Karl, who quits his job in order to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer. He becomes intrigued by an attractive female neighbour, and starts to take pictures of her from his London flat, as she appears at her own window in various states of undress.

Karl has a good friend in Virginia (Lottie Amor), who works for a law firm (although she doesn't display in-depth legal knowledge, to put it kindly). She finds out about Karl's photographic pastime and disapproves. Things become a little more complicated when Karl not only keeps snapping pictures but finds himself encouraged to do so by the neighbour. She sends him encouraging messages and starts to pose for him. Then Karl sees a man appearing in the neigbour's flat.

There's quite a bit of discussion about personal privacy in this film, although I think some reviews have been over-generous about the merits of that discussion: it's conducted on a pretty unsophisticated level and doesn't strike me as being as intelligent or as thought-provoking as some have claimed. The storyline of the film simply isn't strong or smart enough to enable writer-director Nick Rizzini to make many particularly meaningful or memorable points. 

There are thrillerish touches in the film, and an obviously phoney policeman makes an appearance at one point. Judged as a mystery, Framed doesn't succeed, but I don't think it should be judged as a mystery. Karl's naivete and foolishness are irritating, but the two lead actors are an appealing couple, and the real strength of the film lies in the depiction of the way their stuttering relationship develops, despite their disagreements about Karl's voyeuristic behaviour. And because of that focus on character, despite having numerous reservations, I did quite enjoy Framed.     

Monday 29 May 2023

Where the Crawdads Sing - 2022 film review

Where the Crawdads Sing is a film based on Delia Owens' book of the same name - a first novel published by an author in her late 60s which became an international bestseller. I haven't read the book, and I've read some reviews which suggest that the film is inferior - but in that case the novel must be exceptional, because I thought the film was very good. 

The setting is an American marshland. Not a locale that I'm familiar with, but I did once go on a boat trip around the marshes of Grand Cayman which reminded me a little of the film's setting, despite being on a smaller scale. It's an evocative background, and makes for very attractive cinematography. 

At the start of the story, a young man's body is discovered by two cops. He has fallen from a fire tower and soon murder is suspected. The victim has been seen around with a local girl known as 'the marsh girl'. When the cops approach her she flees, only to be caught. What is more, she is then put on trial - on evidence that seemed to me rather flimsy, to say the least.

Most of the film takes the form of an extended flashback, with scenes from the trial intercut. We learn the story of Catherine 'Kya' Clark, who was abandoned by both her parents and her brother and grew up on her own in the marshes. A relationship with a young man peters out and she gets involved with the murder victim, a much less appealing character.

It's really quite a straightforward story, but so well directed by Olivia Newman that the film's length didn't bother me. The locale is terrific and so too is the performance of Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya. Astonishingly,  Daisy is English. A glittering future beckons for her.

Friday 26 May 2023

Forgotten Book - A Crime of One's Own

Edward Grierson's A Crime of One's Own has been sitting quietly in my TBR pile (mountain range would be nearer the mark) for quite a few years. I greatly admire his first crime novel, Reputation for a Song, and his award-winning second mystery, The Second Man, was also very good, but this one, published in 1967, is much less well-known. I'm not sure it even made it into paperback in this country.

Grierson was a barrister and a magistrate who wrote a varied mix of books. I get the impression of someone who, admirably, wrote to please himself rather than publishers, but despite his considerable talent this may have led to his work being neglected since his death in the mid-70s. This novel was his fourth foray into the mystery genre and he never returned to it.

Possibly he was disappointed by the book's lack of commercial success, but it's a story that I found very enjoyable. And it is a bibliomystery. The hero is Donald Maitland, the young and rather naive owner of a provincial bookshop and lending library. He begins to suspect that customers are using his books as a means of passing secret messages. Is there a link to a local high-security establishment? He soon has spies on the brain.

There are plenty of witty references to the world of authorship and publishing. I loved the satiric account of a publisher's letter breaking bad news to the hapless author Bernie Stredder, a splendid comic character with a darker side. The plot is rather wacky, but there's a good trial scene and plenty of swift but engaging characterisation. John Cooper, no mean judge, rates this book highly. And now I've finally read it, so do I. 

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Disappearance at Clifton Hill - 2019 film review

I have vivid memories of my one and only trip to Niagara Falls. It was on a coach trip from the Toronto Bouchercon a few years back and although the weather was a bit iffy, the company was splendid and the Falls were magnificent. Since then I've enjoyed watching the old film Niagara and now I've also taken a look at a recent movie set around the Falls - Disappearance at Clifton Hill

The story begins with a family outing in rural Canada. A young girl is shocked to see a boy with a patch over one eye, who is clearly terrified. Then she witnesses his abduction. She tells the story, but nobody believes her. We then fast forward to the present. The girl is Abby, played by none other than Tuppence Middleton. Her sister is Laure (Hannah Gross). Their parents have died and a rather slimy lawyer has brokered a deal under which they sell their failing motel to a family called Lake, who own most of the little town.

Abby has gained a reputation, not least with her sister, for being a compulsive liar, so when she starts to reinvestigate the mysterious abduction, she gets little sympathy from anyone. A local conspiracy theorist called David Bell (David Cronenberg, perhaps better known as a director), seems more helpful. He is deeply suspicious of the Lakes and soon Abby discovers a connection between the boy she saw and a pair of stage magicians called the Magnificent Moulins.

The plot thickens nicely from then on. This is a well-made film and it boasts a final twist that came as a genuine surprise to me. Often these days, movie twists of that kind are rather meretricious but on the whole I think this one works well. This isn't as renowned a film as, say, Shutter Island, but I enjoyed it at least as much.

Monday 22 May 2023

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery - 2022 film review

I enjoyed Knives Out, a nice escapist whodunit. In commenting on my blog post about the film, the eminent critic Michael Dirda made some accurate criticisms of the plot, but like me he didn't let them spoil his pleasure too much. The success of the film meant that a sequel was inevitable and this takes the form of Glass Onion, in which Daniel Craig reprises his role as Benoit Blanc, the greatest detective in the world.

I feel that Glass Onion differs from Knives Out in two key respects. First, the set-up is even better. I was definitely gripped. Second, the film loses its way badly - in my opinion - in the latter stages. The mystery was easy to solve and the resolution excessively drawn out. 

Miles Bron, a tech billionaire, invites five associates to a murder game party on his private Greek island. Their challenge is to solve his murder. Blanc also turns up, but Bron denies having invited him. Another guest is Cassandra, whom Bron removed from the business and subsequently defeated in litigation. It's clear from the outset that he cheated her and it also emerges that the other guests have motives to commit murder. However, when someone dies, surprise, surprise (or perhaps not!) - the victim isn't Miles. And then someone else is shot...

So far, so good. Edward Norton, as Bron, is convincingly odious. But we then get a very extended flashback which gives a very different perspective on the events as they have been presented to us so far. To a degree, this is quite clever, but it also tests credulity to the limits and beyond. Given that, at this point, most mystery fans will have figured out what is really going on (the central trick can be found in a couple of Agatha Christie novels), I began to lose interest. A pity, but perhaps writer and director Rian Johnson simply got carried away. 

Friday 19 May 2023

Forgotten Book - The Mendip Mystery

Lynn Brock (the main pen-name of the Irish novelist and playwright Allister McAllister) was a major figure in Golden Age detection and his character Colonel Wyckham Gore was, for a time, one of the leading fictional detectives in a crowded field. Brock's mysteries were convoluted and often ingenious, but although the quality of his writing was a cut above the average, his work soon faded from sight.

His strengths and his weaknesses are on display in The Mendip Mystery, published in 1929 and known as Murder at the Inn in the United States. Gore is asked by a chap called Stanton to look into the whereabouts of a woman who has been missing for many years. I found it rather astonishing that Gore didn't press for an explanation as to why his client wanted to track her down and this omission does rather haunt the story.

Anyway, off he goes to the south west, only to pick up another job. He stays at a very seedy inn, the sardonically named Bower of Bliss, and encounters two beautiful young women. Before long, all manner of dark deeds are taking place. At times it isn't easy to keep track of what's going on, and in due course some very lengthy explanations - a Brock trademark - are required, in order for us to understand fully all that has occurred.

There are some unorthodox ingredients, including a rare example of the murder of a child (rather horribly suffocated under a load of gravel - Brock was quite a tough writer) as well as some that are more commonplace and some (notably an account of escapees from an asylum) that definitely haven't stood the test of time. In particular, the ending is highly unusual. 

It's not really a spoiler to say that the main culprit gets away with it, because Brock wrote a follow-up novel called Q.E.D., aka Murder on the Bridge, in which he revealed all. This was a daring experiment, followed up in rather lamentable fashion, a few years later by G.D.H. and Margaret Cole in another pair of novels, 'the Pendexter Saga'. Brock's endeavour is more successful, and I admire his ambition. He is one of those authors whose books are flawed but more interesting than many a smoothly accomplished formulaic whodunit.

Thursday 18 May 2023

Sepulchre Street - the first week's reviews


Many thanks to all the bloggers who took part in the blog tour organised by my publishers to celebrate the arrival of Sepulchre Street. When a reviewer takes the trouble to try to understand what an author is trying to do, and then expresses approval, it's hugely rewarding for an author. I'm also glad that the general view is that this story offers plenty of enjoyment even for readers who haven't read the previous books in the series. So I'm very happy. Here is a selection of comments:

‘A fascinating book…Martin has done something rather magnificent here. If this was written as a pure thriller, it would be a deeply satisfying book, but woven throughout the thrills is a cleverly plotted mystery – with a cluefinder at the end to prove it. It’s worth reading, but I do warn the reader that they’ll end up repeatedly kicking themselves at the things that they missed…All in all, this is an absolute triumph…The best book so far in an outstanding series.’

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel


‘The opening of the book is one of the most inventive I have read, perfectly setting up what is to follow…Martin Edwards poses many questions, with a wonderfully inventive plot, the writing combines all that is good with the golden age but with a modern day twist. The plotting is superbly thought out, constructed in a way that leaves a few clues along the way, though you may not always pick them up, the book is paced perfectly for the period and just flows along. There are touches of the gothic which only heightens the reading enjoyment. In parts there is a conspiracy taking place with some definite unsavoury characters who act first then ask questions later, overall a slick and taut plot knitted together by the quality of the writing.

Plotting though on its own is nothing if you don’t have the characters to match, this is another area where the book shines, it is hard not like Rachel Savernake, strongly and fiercely independent she comes across as a no nonsense person not averse to taking a risk or two...Martin Edwards writes characters that are relatable, you get a real sense of who each are and the period in which they live.

There is a certain humour within the book, equally its drips with tension and drama, as it races towards the ending. Location plays its part, the story moves seamlessly around, the way the book is written you can feel yourself there…a superb read, by a writer who knows how to engage with the reader, I was captivated throughout, the pace of the book perfect for the times. It takes the best of the golden age and combines it with a read for today…

Martin Edwards is a favourite author of mine, writing, plotting, character, location, setting his books have it all.’


‘A complex and deeply satisfying mystery…Martin Edwards really can write. His plotting and narrative are brilliantly done, and he weaves together marvellous threads which culminate in some wonderfully dramatic climaxes throughout the book…There are multiple plot elements but Edwards never loses his grip on these, and the final resolution is one I would never have guessed!

…The settings are vividly drawn and atmospheric, and I really felt I was inside the action – the book is quite a page-turner…As well as plot and setting, Edwards really excels when it comes to characters. His players are lively, entertaining and very well conjured; I was particularly impressed by his ability to draw such strong female characters, and also to weave some of those issues women face into his plot without them ever sounding forced…I thoroughly enjoyed this clever, absorbing and entertaining book…a wonderful read!’

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

Sepulchre Street is another fantastic, intriguing detective story from one of my favourite series…This book has a great pace to it…The author drops lots of clues throughout the book so you have to pay attention to everything…There is also a cluefinder at the back…I loved this idea and enjoyed going back to see the (many) clues I missed…this is a fantastic series!’

Over the Rainbow blog

Sepulchre Street is the fourth in the Rachel Savernake series and I think it is the best so far. It grips from the start…I loved the nods to Golden Age crime fiction, the cluefinder, the map. A lot of the fun of the novel lies in the period details and the way in which the 1930s are lovingly evoked: the clothes, the nightclubs, the songs (some invented, but very much in the spirit of the time). Cocktails were all the rage and their appearance is something of a running joke…I romped though the novel far too quickly and didn’t want it to end. All in all a splendid read.’

A Reading Life

‘Edwards has written another corker of a thriller/detective story set in 1930’s London…a puzzle Poirot himself would be proud to have solved! You will need to pay attention to every word to try to work out the ending…I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of Agatha Christie who like a good puzzle to solve.’

Two Heads are Better Than One blog


‘Mystery and intrigue aplenty fill the pages of this brilliant who-dunnit…I love the character of Rachel - clever, strong and someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly…A wonderful nod to the Golden Age of crime and mystery writing, this is a series of recommend over and over.’

Wendy Reads Books blog

‘I absolutely love this series…Rachel Savernake is an excellent protagonist. No nonsense, clever, tough, and mysterious herself, she loves a challenge…A twisting piece of thrilling golden age crime fiction to get your teeth into!’

Travels along My Bookshelf

Sepulchre Street is very well-written and has a great storyline and has you hooked from the start…Another brilliant book in the series and I can’t wait to see what Rachel is up to next!’

Murder Jo Wrote

‘The author has created yet another immersive mystery that pulls you in and enthrals you with its surprising twists and turns! Enjoyably there is also a touch of the macabre and matched with a fast-paced, chic and sophisticated setting of the 1930s…Rachel is the perfect leading lady…witty, clever, intriguing and…thrilling.’

Secret World of a Book

Sepulchre Street is probably my favourite to date; four books in the characters are developing nicely… There's a lot going on in here with all sorts of twists and turns, some interesting hints for future directions the series might take, as many easter eggs as a dedicated classic crime fan could hope for, and a host of other fun references to chase up. It's no easy thing to build a convincing past but I think Edwards does a really good job of it. It's his obvious knowledge of and affection for Golden Age crime that makes it work for me, coupled with a cast of characters who are neither self-consciously old fashioned, or entirely modern but stuck in fancy dress. Add the gothic atmosphere (John Dickson Carr would be proud) and character development to the other elements here and it's a hard to beat series.’  

Desperate Reader blog                                                                                    

‘Intriguing, clever, entertaining.’

What Cathy Read Next     

‘A thrilling and haunting read that is perfect for fans of historical crime and detective fiction.’

A Cottage Full of Books


Wednesday 17 May 2023

Eye in the Sky - 2015 film review

Eye in the Sky is an outstanding action film, much of its strength deriving from the way it balances high-stakes drama with an exploration of almost impossible ethical choices. The director, Gavin Hood, and the writer, Guy Hibbert, do sterling work and the acting is excellent. You'd expect that from the charismatic leads, Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman (whose last screen role this was) but a special word of praise must also go to Barkhad Abdi, who is brilliant as an undercover Kenyan agent, a testing role that he handles with aplomb.

The set-up is that Mirren is a tough British colonel who has been tracking a female terrorist for years. Intelligence has now been received that this woman and a group of other terrorists are gathering together. A joint operation between the Americans, British and Kenyans is to capture the targets. In London, Rickman is the deputy chief of the Defence Staff and he is in a COBRA meeting with top politicians. They all watch footage filmed via drones operated skilfully by Farah (Abdi) and this reveals that in fact the terrorists are plotting a suicide bombing mission. We see them strapping on the suicide belts. Capturing them is no longer a realistic option. If they are not killed by a remote-controlled missile, then a large number of people will die.

But there is a big problem. A small girl is selling bread just outside the compound where the terrorists are preparing. A missile strike may kill her too. Mirren is intent on eliminating the threat and Rickman, although less ruthlessly focused, concludes that is the right thing to do. But the politicians and lawyers waver. They are agonised by the choice and I can understand why.

The central difficulty in these terrible dilemmas, I think, is that we are human beings who look to humanise situations. We see the lovely and totally innocent girl, so any decent person will want to save her. But shouldn't a decent person also use their imagination to try to picture the significant number of other people who will suffer and die if no action is taken? It's easy to understand why decision-makers want to shuffle off final responsibility, but one of the most chilling - yet entirely believable - moments in the film comes when the politicians start thinking about the dilemma in terms of propaganda rather than humanity. I'm thankful that I've never been involved in any comparable life or death decision-making. But I have taken part in meetings to discuss high-stakes issues involving many people's livelihoods and futures and at such times, you see human nature in the raw. It's seldom a pretty sight, and this is made clear, compellingly, by Eye in the Sky.

This film also makes it clear that there are no easy answers, no consequence-free decisions. Balancing risks is crucial. But it's also very painful. A superb film, strongly recommended.  


Monday 15 May 2023

Celebrations and CrimeFest

CrimeFest was a wonderful weekend of celebrations and catching up with old friends as well as meeting some very pleasant new people. For me, it was an occasion of great good fortune, so much so that even a long and tortuous journey home felt pleasant and relaxing! The highlight was undoubtedly the banquet on Saturday evening, when The Life of Crime was awarded the CrimeFest H.R.F. Keating prize for best non-fiction book about the genre, but there were many other great moments.

Not long after checking in and registering, I moderated an Authors Remembered panel, with an excellent group of colleagues covering an eclectic mix of authors: John Lawton (on Stanley Ellin), Peter Guttridge (Donald Hamilton), David Beckler (Friedrich Durrenmatt) and Chris Curran (VeraCaspary) - my own choice was Margot Bennett. After a pub meal with Simon Brett and other friends, some of us got together as a team for the annual pub quiz (not held in a pub, but in the hotel), and after a recount we managed to win, by a narrow margin. So prizes of books and DVDs - very nice.

On Friday I took part in a panel moderated by the editor of The Life of Crime, the wonderfully cool David Brawn, along with Mark Billingham and Vaseem Khan; sadly, Covid meant that Janice Hallett couldn't join us, a real shame. In the evening, there was a very pleasant dinner hosted by the publishers Severn House, and talk about a possible book project. Before then, there had been a great moment when it was announced that The Life of Crime had been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger for non-fiction. The award has never been won by a book that isn't true crime, but it's great to see it in the list of finalists.

I was lucky to have three panels, concluding with one chaired by Maxim Jakubowski, and along with Mason Cross, Vaseem, Samantha Lee Howe, and Donna Moore we discussed our stories inspired by Cornell Woolrich for the Black is the Night anthology. On a sunny afternoon I enjoyed walking along the river with Jason Monaghan and Dea Parkin before the drinks reception which preceded the banquet and the great moment when I was presented with the award. After that I was quite happy to go along with others to watch the conclusion of Eurovision!

It was wonderful to see people again and also to catch up on some lovely reviews of Sepulchre Street on the blog tour. All the copies on sale in the book room were snapped up, which is always gratifying. As ever, huge thanks go to Donna and Adrian Muller for all their hard work in making CrimeFest such a great event. It was very memorable for me and I'm truly appreciative.

Friday 12 May 2023

Forgotten Book - Deadly Pattern

I enjoyed Douglas Clark's The Libertines sufficiently to seek out another in his long series of police procedurals featuring Masters and Green, which encompassed no fewer than 27 books appearing between 1969 and 1990. The premise of Deadly Pattern, which dates from 1970, intrigued me, as did the setting - a rather bleak bit of the seaside on the Lincolnshire coast. It's a short book, with interesting elements but regrettable flaws.

Five women in their forties have gone missing from the area and recently the bodies of four of them have been found, buried in rather shallow graves in the sand dunes. The local police are baffled, so Masters and Green are called in to solve the mystery. And finding this particular serial killer involves not only finding the fifth body but also figuring out a motive - what is the pattern that connects the victims?

I imagine that, when this book came out more than half a century ago, serial killer novels were quite a novelty. When we read the story today, having probably read lots of books of this kind, we hope for some degree of originality in treatment. The setting appealed to me - I'm not sure where it's modelled on, but Cleethorpes may be a possibility - as did some elements of the plot. However, in some respects I found the story lacking.

Why? Clark's style is pleasingly readable, but it has irritating features - for instance, anybody who can't tolerate casual sexism should probably give it a miss, because by any standards the relentless chauvinism does become wearisome. Green, the sidekick, is a bolshie radical of sorts, and I'm not clear from the books I've read what Clark was trying to do with the character, I can see there's a contrast between him and Masters, but it's too crudely done for my taste. Above all, the book disappointed me because - even though the connecting link in the pattern seems relatively feeble to a modern reader - there are good ingredients in the storyline, but I think Clark could have made much more of them. This was either a short story idea or one that could have been developed with more attention to characterisation and mystification - as it is, the serial killer is screamingly obvious. I did entertain some hope that I might have been cunningly misled about his identity - but no such luck. However, as Jamie Sturgeon helpfully pointed out when commenting about The Libertines, Clark got into his stride with his later books.

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Sepulchre Street, Crimes of Cymru, and more...


I'm having quite a week. A workshop for writers in Frodsham on Sunday, followed by an Anthony award nomination for The Life of Crime on Monday and an enjoyable event at Newark Library yesterday talking about My Life of Crime. Today sees publication of my latest British Library anthology, Crimes of Cymru, and tomorrow, as I set off for CrimeFest, Head of Zeus aka Aries Fiction are publishing the fourth novel about Rachel Savernake, Sepulchre Street

It's a busy time, but I'm acutely conscious that the nice things that are happening right now are the culmination, in many ways, of years of work on my writing. So I'm determined to make the most of the good times. And I am truly gratified by the very first review of Sepulchre Street, for the blog tour, which comes courtesy of Puzzle Doctor on his great blog In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel; 'an absolute triumph...The best book by far in an outstanding series.' 

It's immensely rewarding when a thoughtful reviewer 'gets' what you are trying to do, and Puzzle Doctor picks up on a key element of this and the other Rachel novels, namely that I'm trying to introduce material into the stories that Golden Age writers wouldn't have written about, but doing so in a way that is (I like to think) consistent with the approach that the better authors would have adopted, had social taboos been different. And by this, I don't mean graphic sex and violence, by the way - there is some violence, but not more so than in plenty of Golden Age books, although I try to treat it quite seriously, because I find violence frightening.

Crimes of Cymru is an anthology that was especially interesting to compile. At first, the prospect of finding enough good classic Welsh or Wales-related crime stories to fill a book seemed quite a challenge but thanks to help from a number of experts in the field, I've come up with a collection that I think is eclectic and strong. It's been a particular pleasure to collaborate with Janet and Rebecca, the daughters of the Welsh author Cledwyn Hughes, one of whose stories features in the book, and I am hoping that this publication will kick-start a revival of interest in his work. 


Monday 8 May 2023

The Man with the Golden.....Derringer!

I had an extremely surreal moment at Dublin Airport last week as I waited for a connecting flight to Manchester after travelling back from the States. I glanced at my emails and found one sending congratulations, not for the Edgar win, but for something completely different. I was told I'd won a Lifetime Achievement award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Or, to give its full name, the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement. I must admit that for a time, I thought I was imagining this, while carried away on a wave of excitement after the Edgars. But I wasn't hallucinating and now I've had time to take it all in properly, I must say that this award is a source of great pride and delight for several reasons.

First, I look at the previous winners of the Golden Derringer, going back to 1999. The only previous British winner is the great Ruth Rendell (all the other winners have been Americans, including such notable names as Lawrence Block, Loren D. Estleman, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, and S.J. Rozan). It's wonderful to be in such company.

Second, I knew Ed Hoch and he was a delightful man. He and his wife Pat showed me a number of kindnesses on our occasional encounters at Bouchercons. He was also a brilliant and incredibly prolific short story writer who wrote a wonderful story, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, for my anthology Green for Danger. We took part in the 1995 Bouchercon Mastermind quiz together - a photo of that memorable occasion is to be found in Marv Lachman's book The Heirs of Anthony Boucher - see above. It's a real privilege to win this award named in his honour. And I like to think Ed would be pleased.

Third, I really love short stories and reading the short stories of others, as well as writing my own, is a source of continuing pleasure. I've used the form to experiment and to try to develop as a writer and this has worked really well. They have brought me a few prizes and nominations, starting with my very first story, 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?', which was the first fiction I had any success with. To be recognised now by my peers in this way really is amazing.

Fourth, it occurred to me, once I'd got over my jetlag, that I've now won lifetime achievement awards for fiction (CWA Diamond Dagger and the Dagger in the Library), non-fiction (the Poirot award), scholarship in the mystery field (the George N. Dove award) and short fiction (the Golden Derringer). I must admit I find it hard to believe that I've been so lucky. It's something I never expected, even in my wildest dreams as a would-be crime writer, but it really is extremely gratifying . And truly humbling.    

Friday 5 May 2023

Forgotten Book - Obelists at Sea

A forgotten book with a difference today, since this week sees a new edition of C. Daly King's Obelists at Sea, published by Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press in its American Mystery Classics series, and with an introduction by me. I'm very glad to say that it's already received a coveted starred review in Booklist.

The review said: '"Ingenious … A satisfyingly complex solution to both crimes; sometimes brilliant and sometimes hilarious applications from psychology; and a 'clue-finder' at mystery’s end―all of this makes for a delightful Golden Age return. With an engrossing introduction by novelist-critic Martin Edwards, who also edits the British Library’s Crime Classics series.' A really good start!

I've always enjoyed Daly King's flights of literary fancy. His writing is sometimes flawed, often a guilty pleasure, always 'different'. I first read this novel many moons ago and before I reread it for the purposes of writing the intro, I thought it the weakest of the three 'Obelist' novels. This was a good example of a situation where I enjoyed the story more the second time around, partly perhaps because my expectations were different.

My writing is very different from Daly King's, but there are occasional nods to him in my Rachel Savernake novels, especially in my use of Clue Finders, a device which he did not invent but of which he demonstrated true mastery. His books are sometimes a bit crazy, generally a lot of fun, and this is a commission from Otto which gave me a great deal of pleasure.

Tuesday 2 May 2023

A Trip to Remember

I'm back home, reminding myself how to get over jetlag, after a truly exhilarating trip to the United States. I had a packed itinerary and before setting off I was genuinely daunted about how things would go. As it turned out, wildest dreams were exceeded. I returned bearing an Edgar and, at a stop-over for a flight connection in Dublin there was an amazing moment when I learned that I'd received a lifetime achievement award for my short crime fiction (more of which, another day). The chance to meet old friends and make new ones was, after the strange few years we've all had, absolutely wonderful. What's more, I managed not to lose my passport or mess up the complex logistics of the trip, and that counts as a real triumph!

I flew out to Washington DC before catching a train to New York and dashing from my hotel to the pre-Edgars party hosted by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. There I had the chance to catch up with Janet Hutchings, Charles Todd and Bill McCormick among others, as well as meeting Michele Slung and Joseph Goodrich for the first time. Then it was another dash back to get changed for the champagne reception for Edgar nominees and to meet my American publicist Jennifer Dee (pictured below with the Edgar) as well as fellow nominees Robert Thorogood and Donna Moore (in the above photo), Jamie Bernthal, and Mary Ann Evans.

The Edgars banquet was lavish and I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Anthony Horowitz (below, with his Edgar), whose A Line to Kill I had, by coincidence, read on the plane trip. He is a terrific entertainer. And then there was an unforgettable repeat of an experience I had at my last Edgars banquet seven years ago, when The Life of Crime was announced as the winner of the Best Crime Non-Fiction Book award. I don't believe in preparing speeches in advance for these things, but you can see my attempt to express my delight on the MWA Youtube channel

Over the years, not many British authors have received two Edgars and I do feel quite humbled by this recognition. I am proud of The Life of Crime, but it's one thing to believe in yourself and your work, quite another for others to do so. There's no doubt this ranks among the top highlights of my entire writing career.

After a celebratory drink with Jennifer, I dashed off to Otto Penzler's late night party and chatted about book collecting with Larry Gandle and Otto before heading back for the hotel, happy but acutely aware I was due to catch a train at 9 am to return to Washington. I managed to catch it and registered for Malice Domestic before joining Catriona McPherson, Ann Cleeves, Vaseem Khan, and Victoria Dowd for a delightful dinner - on a wet night rather reminiscent of Manchester on a bleak autumn day - see above! There was also the chance to chat with fellow diners Michael Dirda, Gigi Pandian, Jeff Marks, and my holiday companion from Hawaii, Steve Steinbock. Mike Dirda and I had another drink in the hotel before the end of the night and as always it was great fun to exchange ideas with one of the finest literary critics around.

On Saturday morning, there was a panel with fellow Agatha nominee (and ultimate winner) Dianne Vallery and in the afternoon I was on another panel, chaired by James Lincoln Warren and featuring Victoria, Jeff Marks of Crippen & Landru, and Shelly Dickson Carr, grand-daughter of John and one of the most delightful people I know. I was pleased to meet some lovely people for the first time, including Gay Kinman (bottom photo, with Art Taylor), who edited an anthology containing my story 'The Outsider' and Tina de Bellegarde and Carol Pouliot, on whose Sleuths and Sidekicks blog an interview with me will appear shortly. The Agathas banquet was another grand affair and after that there were drinks with Ann, Catriona, and two more of my American friends I haven't seen for years, and who have battled with very serious illness, Tonya Spratt-Williams and Shawn Reilly Simmons. I have thought of them both many times over the frustrating time when I haven't had a chance to see them in person. It was so good not only to chat with them, but also to see how marvellously well they are looking after all they have been through. Tonya, incidentally, gave a brilliant off-the-cuff speech at the banquet, where she was Fan Guest of Honour.

 On Sunday, there were conversations with a host of people, including Jeff, Shelly, Shawn, Steve Steinbock, Bruce Coffin, Josh Pachter, Nina Wachsman, and many more. I also enjoyed catching up with Maya Corrigan, who told me how shocked and delighted she'd been to find one of her books mentioned in The Life of Crime. After the traditional Agatha tea, it was all over for another year, but I left with many happy and energising memories of a truly fantastic few days. 

There was a funny moment as I returned through US security at Dulles airport. I had taken the Edgar in my carry-on bag and the cameras picked it up. So the bag was taken to one side for scrutiny. The security guard was suspicious of the apparent weapon concealed in loads of bubble wrap (thanks for which go to Jeff Marks). I had the same experience seven years ago, and this time I was armed - with the photo at the top of the blog, which persuaded the guard that I was not intending to do anything savage with my trophy. An amusing coda to a great trip. You never get the chance to chat to everyone at as much length as you'd wish at these events, but I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I did have, and the sense of being back among so many friends for whom I have a great deal of affection and regard. And much as I love the awards side of things, that is what counts for so much in the long run.