Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas books...

Lets face it folks, I'm honest enough to admit that Christmas isn't Christmas without books under the tree. Of course there is the love, and time with family and thoughtful gifts, and good company and food and wine, and love, and more love, and siestas because you've eaten too much, and tinsel and joy and peace and the wonderful break from the everyday and ordinary, and there's the love.

Then there's the books.

Hubby understands this - well, he jolly well should after all these years, so there were some very cool books under the tree.

Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton Photography by Jane Ussher, Essays by Nigel Watson.

This is one of those emotional books that reduced me to tears the first time I looked through it. It's a magnificent thing and something anyone with an affinity to Antarctica, and the spirit of exploration and heroicism of these amazing men, needs to have this book. Antarctica is a brutal environment, and it amazes me that these huts still stand. The fact this book exists makes me rest a little easier as it is an extraordinary record of the living conditions of the men that sheltered there. Jane Ussher captures the desolation and mood of these places, and revels in the minutiae. The YouTube clip shows some of the pics to give you a little taste

As people who keep track of my blog have probably gathered, I'm a little partial to the sport of fencing. Okay, I'm borderline obsessive, so I was delighted to have these two books under the tree...

The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte

A thriller about fencing - it doesn't get much better than that!

Here's the back cover blurb...

Fencing is not a game but a science. The outcome is invariably the same: triumph or disaster, life or death.

Jaime Astarloa is a master-fencer of the old school, priding himself on the precision, dignity and honour of his ancient art. It is 1868; Spain teeters on the brink of revolution, his friends spend their days in cafes discussing plots at court, but Jaime's obsession is to perfect the irresistible sword thrust. Then Adela de Otero, violet-eyed and enigmatic appears at his door. When Jaime takes her on as a pupil he finds himself embroiled in dark political intrigues against which his old-fashioned values are no protection.

The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Fencing

Okay, so this one isn't going to have universal appeal, but it's pretty self-explanatory.

I was also given some book vouchers - oh dear, how sad ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baking up a storm

Ah, the satisfaction of a good day's Christmas Baking. Mr Eight-year old and I had a lot of fun and we now have ready, for Yuletide consumption, a Pavlova, Christmas fruit mince pies, mini-pecan pies and two Christmas Stollen. The house smells delicious.

Mr Eleven-year old created these miniature marvels in marzipan...

The house is a symphony of Chrissydom.
Santa's plate has been lovingly prepared with fruit pies, a magic elf chocolate, glass of milk (I told them Santa wasn't allowed booze because he'd fall off his sleigh), and carrots for the reindeer.
Two extremely excited little fellas are trying to get to sleep...

Merry Christmas to you all.

God Bless,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Holiday for Crime

Following along the lines of my Murder for Christmas post, here's another little something I stumbled across yesterday. Ok, it wasn't strictly stumbling, I was rifling through the $1.00 books stand at Octagon Books (which was voted as one of the top ten second-hand book stores in the world!). But as I have a little tendency to collect Christmas themed books, including crime fiction, I had to pick out No Holiday for Crime by Dell Shannon, well, it would have been rude not to.

Here's the back cover blurb:

Murderers take no holidays, not even Christmas eve, and especially not in Los Angeles. Homicide Lieutenant Luis Mendoza, up to his ears in liquor-store hijackings and bank, home and chainstore robberies, as well as the usual spate of murders, is dealt a singularly baffling case - a young, devout Mormon on her way home is brutally murdered during a one-hour stopover in L.A. Mendoza's a tough cop, but a smooth operator who knows the sleazy L.A. underworld inside out - this holiday killer is not about to get away...

A blast from the past - 1973.

If seasonal malice is your thing you should check out Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise, who has a page devoted to Christmas with a taste of murder with her Suggest a Christmas Title page.

And before you think for a misguided moment that I got out of the book store with only one book - nah. Also picked up Scotland Yard by Sir Harold Scott - Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1945-53. Got to love that $1.00 book basket. There were also a heap of Keyhole Crime books, but I resisted those...for now...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


No, that's not my age! That's how many books I've managed to read this year. That's over one a week, which is great for me because I'm not a fast reader - I'm a savourer of words, I like to roll them around in my head and enjoy them. Last year I didn't manage to break the fifty mark, so I'm chuffed to have done it this year. I guess having more reviewing to do on radio and television has made me keep my reading up, which is a good thing.

So the breakdown:

20 of those books were crime fiction
17 books were non-fiction
37 books were written by New Zealanders

Here's the interesting bit TBR pile is a lot more than 56 books!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I know I shouldn't have, but...

Those lousy folk at The University Book Shop have been tempting me again. I'm sure they realise how little I have in the way of will-power when it comes to books, so they keep having these buy 2 get 1 free sales in their upstairs continuous book sale. They are, truly, evil.

So their latest sale resulted in ...

Whispers of the Dead, by Simon Beckett
The Girl of His Dreams, by Donna Leon
The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
Nature Girl, by Carl Hiaasen
An Imaginative Experience, by Mary Wesley
The Transit of Venus- the collected lectures of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Well, it would have been silly not to take advantage of the sale, wouldn't it?

And in reality, it's all UBS's fault!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Local picks for Christmas

Tonight I got to go on Dunedin's Channel 9 Dunedin Diary Programme, hosted by Dougal Stevenson, and give my Christmas recommendations for that all around perfect gift - a book. Dunedin Diary is deliciously local orientated, and Dunedin writers have been very busy, so I had difficulty narrowing it down to five.

Children's picture book:

Cloudcatcher by Sue Wootton and illustrated by Carla Braun-Elwert

Mr Bellavista gets a bit carried away in the bid for his perfect tomatoes.

Young Adult Fiction:

Bloodlines by Tania Roxborogh.

Fleance, son of Banquo discovers how everything changes when you're king.


The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley.

Boden Black, butcher, has his horizons expanded in all directions one summer on Mount Cook.


Time of the Icebergs by David Eggleton

Hot off the press.

Non Fiction:

The Tasman by Neville Peat

A big biography of a big ocean.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pulp Fiction

The Otago University Library Special Collections hold regular brilliant exhibitions, courtesy of Special Collections Librarian Donald Kerr, who has a lot of imagination and flair in presenting some of the cool things they have hidden away. It's great these treasures get to see the light of day, and therefore people become aware of them and use them.

The current exhibition is Pulp Fiction, and is a fab representation of the great collection of Pulp Fiction titles the library brought a few years ago. It's worth a look for the covers alone - I hear the design students have had a good time playing with them. Baby Your Racket's Busted has to be one of my favourites - it's so Marilynish

The collection isn't just limited to pulp crime, there's also science fiction, westerns and so much more.

The exhibition is online - so click here and have a troll through the covers and the stories behind the stories - it's well worth a look!

Friday, December 10, 2010

And another happy bit of pre-Christmas news...

...I now have an agent!

Courtesy of the ups and downs of the publishing world, the departure from Penguin New Zealand of Geoff Walker - my publisher and rock and shoulder to lean on, and the constant nagging of Paul Cleave, I finally got my act together and went in search of an agent.

So I am absolutely chuffed to say I am now represented by Gregory & Company, of London. They are a  specialty agency, particularly crime fiction, and have a few names on their list of whom you may be familiar - Val McDermid, Mo Hayder, Minette Walters, Paul Cleave, and now moi!

Lets hope it leads to great things. I feel a little more secure in my world now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting into the spirit of Christmas...

... How could I possibly resist when I saw this book pop up on Trade Me last week? Nothing drives you to homicidal thoughts quite like Christmas. Must be something to do with all the extra rellies around!

The book, Murder for Christmas, proclaims to contain '26 Takes of Seasonal Malice.' Doesn't that have such a great ring to it? 'Seasonal Malice?' Even the fly leaf contains the charming little line - 'Here is a perfect Christmas gift for the person who has everything - and plans to leave it to you.'

It contains stories from the likes of Ngaio Marsh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen - all the usual suspects.

What made me laugh out loud when I opened the book, though, was the book plate inside, which proudly states:
Christ's Collge
Prize for Merit
Form 3
Awarded to J.H. Dalton
December 1990.

So one has to ask, Did young Master Dalton inspire murderous thoughts in his Headmaster!?!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Big Night...

After months of anticipation we finally got to enjoy the big night which was the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. It was exciting to be flown up to Christchurch, get put up in a very posh hotel and then get dolled up in my new frock, cardy and shoes for the big event.

Photo : David Batterbury
A good sized crowd came to the Visions Restaurant at CPIT, enjoyed the drinks and nibbles and settled in for an evening of entertainment. It was great to see some familiar faces in the crowd including Bookman Beattie and Christchurch-based novelist Rachael King.

The entertainment came in the form of fellow panelists Ngaio Marsh Award finalist Neil Cross, Local crime author Paul Cleave (sporting a magnificent Movember effort!) and myself. The chair was instigator of the Ngaio Marsh Award, and Crime Watch blogger Craig Sisterson. Craig came up with a great bunch of questions for us, which we answered to some degree, avoided to some degree and generally had a fun time with. Both Paul and Neil are hilarious - the crowd was frequently in fits of laughter. They are also both interesting to listen to so I think the enthusiastic audience came away feeling informed and entertained.

Photo : David Batterbury

There was a wee interval for people to refresh their drinks, and buy books - I got to autograph plenty - which always pleases me! Then came the moment we had all been waiting for (and which I'd been worrying myself sick about all day - literally) the announcement of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. After such a great evening everyone was eagerly awaiting this moment.

The winner was announced - Congratulations to Alix Bosco, for Cut & Run.

Craig had to explain to the now subdued audience that Alix Bosco was a pseudonym for someone wishing to remain anonymous, and the award was duly accepted on her behalf by Louise Chrisp of Penguin NZ.

So, on to the Bouquets and Brick Bats...


Huge, huge Bouquet to Craig Sisterson for having the vision and enthusiasm to set up an award for crime fiction in New Zealand. To have a national award for crime fiction is an enormous benefit to the crime writing community, and not only promotes crime fiction, but also New Zealand fiction. Craig - thank you so much for doing this - you're a hero as far as we are all concerned!

Warmest congratulations to Alix Bosco for winning the Ngaio Marsh Award for best Crime Novel - it is a great achievement and something you should be very, very proud of.

Thanks to Ruth Todd, Morrin Rout and Maryanne Hargreaves, and the crew of the Christchurch Writers' Festival for your ongoing support of this award, despite rather difficult circumstances.

To fellow panelists Neil Cross and Paul Cleave, and chair Craig Sisterson for a fun night.

Brick bats:

To Alix Bosco - for not turning up.