Sunday, April 18, 2004

Sitting here, cracking open pistachio nuts and drinking coffee, I am in a mild state of perplexed disbelief. Why? Well, as it is Sunday, the hebdomadal (sorry) bestseller lists lie before me again, and the paperback of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time does not even make the grade, slipping off entirely from last week, when it was number 1. Don't be silly! Go and count again, please. You've got it wrong. While it's not impossible, it strikes me as incredibly unlikely that a book that has been so very very popular for so very very long could possibly plummet off the list suddenly. (Whereas the hardback goes back up to number 1? What is going on!?)

Otherwise, there's not a lot of note. Lee Child has disappeared completely, the usual suspects remain (The Lovely Bones, etc.) and The Kalahari Typing School for Men finds itself at number 9.

Elsewhere...The Telegraph, on the 16th, had a good interview with Zoe Heller. Now, if you still haven't gone out and bought Notes on A Scandal, you must do so forthwith! Yesterday, in that same paper, I was also surprised to find a nice profile of/interview with Boris Akunin, but they don't have it up yet, so I can't link it. Fear not, I will do so when they have.

Denise Mina's new book, The Field of Blood has long been scheduled (by amazon, anyway, who I believe far too readily) as coming out this month. I've been hearing rumors, though, that this is completely untrue and that we won't actually be seeing it until March 2005. This doesn't surprise me, because, for an impending publication, everything has been suspiciously quiet. Plus, I read somewhere that she's finding it, "bloody hard work". Amazon.co.uk also has also just put up the UK cover design for Mark Billingham's The Burning Girl. I know this might change, but I always love seeing the first glimpse of a book's cover. It makes the prospect of it so much more tangible...

The Sunday Times also reviews a couple of crime books this week. Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon, and Firewall by Henning Mankell. (I hope you can access those articles...If not, this is a short fragment from the Firewall article:

Gradually, Wallander uncovers a plot to undermine the world's financial system. A group of computer hackers has tampered with cash points and other electronic money outlets in an attempt to cause havoc. Questions of responsibility and morality, of justice and democracy, are explicitly raised. Yet, overall, the book lacks the mordant comedy of the earlier Wallander procedurals, and a certain authorial weariness shows in the writing. Firewall nevertheless remains a compelling Euro-thriller, and Inspector Wallander has never been more attractively grumpy.

And this is a short fragment from the Leon article:

The latest in Donna Leon's Venetian crime novels sees Commissario Guido Brunetti once again battling the apathy, ambition and downright malevolence of his colleagues, most notably the snakelike Lieutenant Scarpa, against the backdrop of a slowly decaying and creakily modernising city in which every undredged canal exudes a stench of corruption. Even the angels, such as Brunetti's acolyte Signorina Elettra, are not above a spot of ethical double-dealing to further their progress; even the sybaritic Brunetti himself is portrayed as giving as much consideration to lunching as to sleuthing. Leon's talent for sketching Venice with equal measures of affection and exasperation is undimmed, and Brunetti and his serious, thoughtful wife Paola remain subtle and pleasing creations.) Both of these are books I heartily reccomend.

(A little more on Henning Mankell. Firewall was also recently reviewed in The Guardian by M John Harrison. I feel I must draw attention to the wonderful line:

"This is partly why we identify with him so. He's less a character than an ongoing rhetorical question reminding us that the world has got out of hand."

I must also draw your attention to a review in The Scotsman last year, which said, "I realise that this is practically heresy, but to my mind Henning Mankell can write the socks off Ian Rankin." Now, coming from a Scottish newspaper, that is a very strong statement indeed. Do I agree with it? Actually, when considering the quality of Mankell's recent books, I do.)

Here's another recently unveiled cover for you to see, this time the US design for Ruth Rendell's The Rottweiler.

Now, a final few words. At the moment, I am reading Half Broken Things (I remain adamant that there should be a hyphen in there) by Morag Joss, and it is another most commendable novel. It was the surprise winner of last year's CWA Silver Dagger (well, it was a surprise, I think, only for those who hadn't read it. When you read it, you know why.) In short, it is about three damaged people who come together and at last discover a life that is worth protecting. Here is an excellent interview with the author from Shots. (It endeared me to her immeasurably, especially when she said that two of her favourite novels were Michael Cunningham's The Hours, and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, which also happen to be two of my favourite novels of all time.)