Saturday, May 29, 2004

In the week, I finished The Prince of Deadly Weapons by Boston Teran. I’m a bit reluctant to comment on it; it seems like one of those books I have to mull over before I actually know what I really think. On first impressions, I am divided. I loved the first half – the pace, the style, the plot, the parade of characters who promised to become interesting. But I did not much enjoy the second half, because it didn’t really seem to go very far, and the characters remained stubbornly mysterious and static. I was thinking, Get on with it Mr Teran, or whatever the hell your name is, stop with the stylised prose which stops this plot flowing, it is essentially adding nothing. Get on with the story. (As a matter of interest, when I'd finished this book I went back to his debut, God is A Bullet , and dipped into some passages to check that style out again. In that book, I still think it works very effectively, and have no complaints.)

It is very seldom that a crime writer bursts as successfully onto the market and then falls so swiftly from grace as Teran has done. God is A Bullet (which I still adore, and always will) was superb, won the CWA John Creasy Dagger and got a debut Edgar nomination. A fair summing-up was offered by The Guardian:
This searing debut novel is a roller-coaster of an experience, noir as a purging metaphysical experience that will take your breath away.”
Aside from a few comments about its violence, it was practically a universal success. Justly, in my opinion.

Val McDermid even weighed in behind him for that first book, and his second Never Count Out the Dead too. And, let’s face it, support from Ms McDermid never does anyone any harm (Stephen Booth, Jim Kelly, Karin Slaughter, Minette Walters, Jeffery Deaver, Mo Hayder, Robert Crais…) The Prince Of Deadly Weapons was almost universally panned – and not a whisper has been heard about him for almost two years. (The webpage for the book also seemed to be abandoned half-way through, with links - particularly to “reviews” - leading absolutely nowhere.) As quickly as Teran blasted out a place for himself on the cliff-face of crime writing, he has been blasted back off again. In my mind that is a shame indeed. I am keeping my eyes out for news, though…

Now, a little news.

UK cover (well, they might alter it, but who cares) of Patricia Cornwell’s next novel can be found here. I like it.

I’ve got a nice slew of links for Henning Mankell fans today (I can’t keep away from Mankell, can I!). Firstly, some excellent news for those who lament the retirement of Inspector Wallander after only 8 books: Mankell has written a novella, entitled The Grave, starring the dour Swede. It will only be available in Dutch for the moment, though. It has been written for an annual (I think) Dutch crime-writing event: once a year, a well-known crime writer pens a novella, which is given out free with every crime novel sold. It’s an excellent idea, I think. Previous participants include Minette Walters, in 1999. She delivered a novella called The Tinderbox – which is being published in the UK in English this July. With any luck, Mankell’s tale will also find its way into translation too. I wouldn’t be expecting it for a while, though: the translation schedule of his novels into English has been notoriously choppy: the fourth novel in the series, The Man Who Smiled, has STILL to be published in English, even though we’ve had all the others, including the 8th and final one, Firewall. There’s also a short story collection (The Pyramid) yet to come…

After Firewall, in which Wallander retires, Mankell is writing a series of three more crime novels, which is also good news indeed. The protagonist this time around is Wallander’s daughter Linda, who’s become a police officer. The first of these books, Before the Frost, is being published in the UK this September. The US publication date, I have heard, is tentatively scheduled for 2005. The very first English language review (that I have seen), from the Swedish Book Review, can be found here.

Finally, a little more Mankell, then I’ll try and shut up about him for a while. This is a nice article from The Telegraph about how A N Wilson discovered him via Ruth Rendell.

Today, The Guardian have a good article on Jeanette Winterson. Winterson, for my money, has had one of the most interesting lives in the literary world: adopted by a Pentecostal evangelist, she was brought up to be a missionary, destined to go into the world and show heathens the error of their ways. In her teens, she broke free spectacularly by having an affair with another girl. She managed to get into Oxford University to study English after driving there and almost begging them. Oh, and she’s great friends with Ruth Rendell, who she sees as a “mother figure”.

(Incidentally, Rendell’s last novel, The Rottweiler , was dedicated to Winterson. 13 Steps Down, which I’m reading now and enjoying tremendously as it’s everything I want from Rendell, comes with a nice dedication to P.D. James, with “affection and admiration”. The two are also great friends.)

Also, The Guardian run an okay, entertaining short story by Adam Thorpe.

I've read several reviews now of The Book of Proper Names by French novella writer Amelie Nothomb, and now really want to read it. This latest one doesn't dampen that desire at all.

Matthew Lewin takes a look at some recent thrillers at The Guardian. Going under the microscope are Jonathan Nasaw's third Ed Pender novel 27 Bones (thumbs up!), Play to the End by Robert Goddard (thumbs up, a bit), Twisted, Deaver's short story collection (a thumbs up, which I can definitely second. The stories do get very repetitive if read one after another, though) and Jonathan Kellerman's latest Delaware novel (a "stinker").

To finish, today I bought my long-desired copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything . Bill Bryson is a God. Well, almost. He is certainly the funniest writer alive (alongside Terry Pratchett, of course!) and his Notes from A Big Country (UK title) is one of the very best non-fiction books that I’ve read. I’m very keen to see the most successful travel writer in the world turn his roving eye to the realms of science. This book was one of the bestselling UK non-fiction hardbacks of last year, at number one for weeks and weeks and weeks. Then, number one isn’t a position Bryson is unfamiliar with in Britain, as his status here is massive – I don’t know if it’s the same over there in the USA. Anyway, I’m very eager to devour this book, even though I had to pay £8.99 for a 687 page paperback, 112 of which are notes and bibliography (yes, you read correctly, 112). I’ve tentatively begun it, and will close with a single, beautiful fact: on the printed page, there are very roughly 500,000,000,000 protons in the dot of a single “i”.