Crime fiction awards

Don’t you just love marketing and branding? You can now vote for "Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year" It used to be just "crime novel of the year" and it is billed as "the only British crime fiction award to be voted for by the crime-reading public". Last year’s winner was Lazybones by Mark Billingham. I’ve read it (and another one of his) and it is good. I haven’t read the other two or three of his because although they are well written and feature an interesting detective, they are a bit on the "dwelling lovingly on the gruesome for the sake of it" side (gruesome is fine with me, wallowing in it isn’t) and suffer from tremendous hype, possibly at least partly because the author is (apparently) a well-known comedian. I can’t remember which book I voted for last year (it wasn’t Lazybones) and can’t look it up as it was pre-blogging for me.

To this year’s award. You have until 14 July to vote at Ottakar’s website, and here is the shortlist of six:

Strange Blood by Lindsay Ashford

One Last Breath by Stephen Booth

The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

The Torment of Others by Val McDermid

Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

Of these six, I have never heard of Ashford or Edwards, I bought the Susan Hill about a year ago but have not yet read it, and I’ve read the other three. Booth’s first two novels were excellent but he’s struggling now to keep it going I think. I’d find it hard to choose between McDermid and Rankin, they are both excellent writers. I think I would just go for Rankin out of these two, as "Torment" isn’t one of McDermid’s best, being let down somewhat by the denouement, and "Fleshmarket" is one of Rankin’s. But pretty much neck-and-neck in my view.

I must read the Hill book soon, especially as the author is a blogger (Susan Hill blog); her blog is an extremely interesting one to read and I do recommend it, as well as the rest of her site. Sadly her blog does not seem (so far as I can tell) to have an rss feed so I keep forgetting to check it out. Susan also leaves great comments (usually about bookselling) on other people’s blogs, notably CharkBlog and Grumpy Old Bookman, so you may have seen her name around even if you haven’t read/seen "A Woman in Black" or read some of her other books. And I guess I need to check out Ashford and Edwards and consider putting them on my list (sigh).

The crime fiction book of the year, incidentally, is tied in to the annual Harrogate crime writing festival, 20-23 July. I have never been to this festival although I have been very tempted, as it always has a great programme and looks wonderful. Just one of those things that there isn’t time to do if you have a job and want to use up your holiday time out of school term with your family. One day, maybe. Anybody interested in going along with me, if so?