Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction ... Finalist!

I'm rapt with the news The Faceless has been names as a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction.

My fellow finalists for the award this year are:

Paul Thomas - Death on Demand
Paul Cleave - The Laughterhouse
Julian Novitz - Little Sister

The winner will be announced on the 2nd of December.

Here's the link to the official announcement via Beattie's Book Blog.

It is brilliant that the New Zealand crime fiction award bears the name of Ngaio Marsh. As you all know, I'm a bit of a fan of Ngaio's and feel extraordinarily proud to be a finalist.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Where the Dead Men Go, by Liam McIlvanney

Where the Dead Men Go

By Liam McIlvanney

Journalist Gerry Conway is back at the Glasgow Tribune three years after losing his job courtesy of a story gone bad and a fall from grace. This time he is stranded reporting politics while his former underling, Martin Moir is the paper's top crime reporter. But when Moir goes missing and then turns up dead in his car in the bottom of a flooded quarry Conway and Moir's widow aren't convinced by the police conclusion of suicide. Conway embarks on a mission to find the truth and look into the stories Moir had been investigating.

Liam McIlvanney has swapped the wilds of Scotland for the wilds of Dunedin to take up the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand, but despite residing on the other side of the world makes full use of his knowledge of his old stomping ground and the politico-social environment of Glasgow. Where the Dead Men Go combines the pressing issues facing the city - the upcoming Commonwealth Games, the Scottish referendum on independence and the politics surrounding them and throws in a dose of organised crime to produce an edgy and relevant thriller. Gerry Conway is a hugely appealing character and with the story told in first person, his head space is a great place to occupy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Liam's first novel, All the Colours of the Town, and I enjoyed Where the Dead Men Go even more. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kathy Reichs in the Antipodes

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kathy Reichs for the Dunedin leg of her tour of Australia and New Zealand promoting her latest Temperance Brennan novel Bones of the Lost. What fun, getting to be in the hot seat asking all the questions of a woman whose work I hugely admire. Kathy was brilliant to interview, warm, witty and generous with her stories. We covered her professional life as a forensic anthropologist, the Tempe Brennan novels, Bones TV series and the perils of working with your children, as well as the new book. An hour went very quickly!

I also reviewed Bones of the Lost on National radio recently - here is the review:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If I Tell You I'll Have To Kill You

If I Tell You I'll Have to Kill You.

Australian's leading crime writers reveal their secrets

Edited by Michael Robotham

This book gives open access to the writing lives of 21 of Australia's leading crime writers. They share a look into their writing world, from beginnings, to what drove them to crime, to their day to day writing lives. Each writer tackles their brief in a different way, so you get many different viewpoints and such a range of backgrounds, tips, stories and inspirations. Each writer also gives their rules of writing and five books they would recommend.

I love books like this. As a writer I love peeking into other writer's worlds, satisfying my nosiness at how others approach their writing, and discovering they have just the same fears and worries as everyone else. There are stories of triumphs, trials, hard slog and laughter.

We get to see how far some writers go in the name of research, for example Tara Moss, who wanted to know what it felt like to be choked unconscious, so she could describe what Mak was feeling, so arranged for a professional fighter to oblige.

I love the quirky things you find out, such as Kerry Greenwood, writer of the Phryne Fisher series, now televised, having a tricorne writing hat, so everyone knows she is writing and do not disturb.

One of my favourite bits was Lenny Bartulin talking about not taking yourself too seriously, and relating how his four year-old was asked what does daddy do, and he said 'typing.'

This is a great book that will appeal to lovers of crime fiction and to those who want to write. It has great tips and stories and is uplifting and funny. A must read.

I reviewed this on National Radio on 13 August. The link is here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

By Fred Vargas

I reviewed this novel on National Radio today.

Fred Vargas is a French novellist who is a historian and archaeologist. I'd have to say she is one of my favourite writers. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is her latest novel featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, who is known for his vague and drifting style of detection where he observes and lets his sub-conscious do a lot of the processing until ping, he sees the connections.

Adamsberg is based in Paris, but this case pulls him to the village or Ordebec, where a young woman has a vision of the legendary ghost riders whose visitations over the centuries have been associated with death. Sure enough, the death toll starts to mount. This case also intertwines with a high profile case in Paris where a rich businessman is burned alive in his car and all the evidence points to Mo, a young man with an arson habit, but of course, all is not what it seems.

Fred Vargas finds the most intriguing people as characters in her novels, and this is no different. From Adamsberg's colleagues - Danglard with his encyclopaedic knowledge of everything but a weakness for wine, to Retancourt, an amazonian woman they are all in awe of and slightly afraid of. There is a recovering pigeon, and a pivotal role for Zerk, the adult son Adamsberg only became aware of weeks before. We see the interplay of these two people making acquaintance with each other, while seeing they are from the same mold.

Some readers may find Adamsberg's unusual, mildly eccentric, go with the flow method of crime solving annoying, but I really enjoy it, and combined with great storytelling and a colourful cast of characters, it made for a great read.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The John Lennon Letters

Edited and with introduction by Hunter Davies.

John Lennon is known as many things, a Beatle, musician, singer songwriter, poet, artist, peace activist, and this beautiful volume brings to life all of the different aspects of this man through his letters. He wrote a lot, and still took the time to hand write notes and replies to fans when well on the road to fame. Hunter Davies has tracked down letters written by Lennon from collectors, fans and relatives, as as illustrated in his introduction, it wasn't an easy search. The word letters is used very loosely as the book also includes everything from post cards to lists, forms he filled and play lists.

As well as giving a biography of John Lennon across defined periods of time, Davies also gives the story behind the letter, who it was to and the context in his life. Some are short, many sharp, and some, especially correspondence to Paul and Linda McCartney during difficult times is emphatic. The letters to Apple Music give insight into the music business. You get to see the undercurrents from inside The Beatles.

All of this correspondence is absolute gold. In this modern age of twitter, Facebook and email, this kind of material for the current cop of stars will be rare, which is a great shame. From the handwriting, scrawlings, crossings out and doodling of John Lennon you get a sense of the man as a person, a real human human being. It really does illustrate the power of the pen, in every sense.

I loved this book. Not only is it a beautiful object, it gives a unique insight into the life of a fascinating man.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Janet lurking down dark alleyways...

Dunedin has some pretty cool alleyways, many adorned with great murals. I've been out of action for a while courtesy of the Achilles tendon snap, so when I finally got into town to one of my favourite watering holes, Nova Cafe, I was delighted to find a very large portrait of Janet Frame in the alleyway next door.

I like the way she is spotlit to look angelic.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Retail Therapy

Because sometimes life throws you curve balls, and you just need to shop...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Write On Radio Show day

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Write On Radio Show day and in this summer holiday show I will be replaying two interviews from 2012; with Scottish Crime Writer Ian Rankin, who I caught up with on his November tour promoting his new book Standing in Another Man's Grave, and Dunedin writer Maxine Alterio, chatting about her novel Lives We Leave Behind.

If you are blessed enough to live in Dunedin you can listen in at noon on Otago Access Radio on 105.4 FM, or if you are elsewhere on the planet, the show is streamed live from their website here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congratulations - Diane Brown ONZM

I had a very pleasurable time yesterday afternoon at Diane Brown and Philip Temple's home to celebrate her receiving a New Year's ONZM honour for her services to literature. I know I have benefited greatly from Diane's services.

Way back when I was a budding writer but had no idea what I wanted to write I did an extramural creative writing course with the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies. I was very fortunate to have Diane as my tutor, and she was one of these fabulous tutors who told you the truth! My poetry was overdone, my short stories too flowery, but she enjoyed my long prose work and offered lots of constructive criticism that set me a great foundation for my writing career.

When I had the fabulous but terrifying experience of actually getting a publishing contract for my first novel, Overkill, Diane and Philip were kind enough to sit down with me and go through the contract, pointing out potential barbs but also explaining what the whole thing meant. That was hugely reassuring at an exciting but daunting time.

Diane has given so much to writers in New Zealand, nationally through the NZSA and also at an individual level, taking so many under her wing. Congratulations, Diane, your honour is so richly deserved!