Saturday, May 08, 2004

Recently, I've received word that the Guests of Honour for the 2005 Harrogate Crime Writing Festival will be Ruth Rendell and Michael Connelly. (Thanks to Val McDermid for this info.) I don't think I could possibly pick two better guests of honour. The best crime writer in Britain and the best crime writer in America, together at one festival. I am there. (The website of the 2004 festival can be found here.)

It's been quite a week for Mo Hayder. Firstly, earlier in the week her latest novel Tokyo was reviewed by The Telegraph. Yesterday - and ta to Ali for bringing this to my attention - she was interviewed in The Times. (I hope that article is acessible - it should be: the current week's articles are always professed to be free and available. After then there is a subscription - somewhat miraculously, though, I seem to be able to get to articles from as long ago as two years. Lucky me.) The book has also recently been reviewed at The Mirror, even though the review itself gives away a little more than I'd like.

To add to your joy, respected novelist (ah, the sarcastic humour) James Patterson's UK publisher has provided a synopsis of his next Alex Cross book:

"A bomb goes off in a small town in the Western USA and FBI agent Alex Cross is summoned in to help with the investigation. Calls from an anonymous villain do little to explain the violence as reports come in of similar bombings across the globe. Meanwhile, Alex has been visiting little Alex at Christina’s house in Seattle. As the court date to decide the boy’s custody draws closer, Alex is determined to get his son back somehow. Explosive surprises from his past make re-appearances and Alex must think on his feet. This is surely his most volatile case yet."

A bit more info about Ruth Rendell's next novel (find the wonderfully twisted British cover here, folks) Thirteen Steps Down has also seeped out:

"A classic Rendellian loner, Mix Cellini is superstitious about the number 13. Living in a decaying house in Notting Hill, Mix is obsessed with 10 Rillington Place, where the notorious John Christie committed a series of foul murders. He is also infatuated with a beautiful model who lives nearby - a woman who would not look at him twice. Mix's landlady, Gwedolen Chawcer is equally reclusive - living her life through her library of books. Both landlady and lodger inhabit weird worlds of their own. But when reality intrudes into Mix's life, a long pent-up violence explodes."

Now, if that doesn't sound like classic, shiveringly good Rendell then I don't think anything does. I'll never be able to elucidate the amazement I feel that she is able to write a book (or more) a year and never let the quality drop. Some writers take over a decade to write a single novel that is just as good as one of hers. (And her penchant for odd names clearly remains as strong as ever.)

Finally today, some more words on Henning Mankell, who is, I have now decided, a sheer crime writing genius. I'm slowly becoming obsessed with his brilliant books (well, I was told I would). I finished Sidetracked a few days ago, and was once again blown away. Inspector Kurt Wallander? Excellent. Mankell's writing? Excellent. It's probably even better in Swedish - something is always lost in translation. And his depiction of the anaemic Swedish landscape gradually haemorrhaging with violence is simply remarkable. I can understand why not everyone may like his books - after all, they're damn bleak and depressing at times, but every self-respecting reader of crime novels has to try him at least once, I feel.

I've also been struck by how bizarre Mankell's fictional methods of murder are - his background in the theatre (acting and directing) almost screams out at you through them. In the first chapters of Sidetracked, a girl commits suicide in a rape field, setting fire to herself in front of Wallander's eyes. Later, bodies start turning up with their heads scalped, Native AMerican style. In The Fifth Woman, a man is murdered in a pit of sharpened bamboo canes. One Step Behind finds four youths shot to death in a forest while acting out a masque. In The Return of the Dancing Master an elderly recluse is beaten to death and his feet are flayed, so the killer can leave the steps of the tango printed on the floor in blood. I'm told that a man is fried to death on powerlines in Firewall. This may make me sound very odd indeed, but I love it. They're all rather stark examples of Mankell's refreshing inventiveness. Do yourself a favour - pick up a book by Henning Mankell. There are three great male crime novelists in this world. Ian Rankin and Michael Connely are two; Mankell is now the third.

I might have linked to this before, but this is an absolutely excellent profile of the man himself.