Silence of the grave

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason is the last translated book that will win the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) gold dagger award. Since losing BCA sponsorship, the organisation is changing the rules so that from this year only books written originally in English can win. On this occasion, the translator from the Icelandic, who has done a brilliant job, is Bernard Scudder.

I’ve been wanting to read Indridason’s book since it won in 2005, but have waited until its UK paperback publication. In the meantime, I read an earlier book by the same author, Jar City (also called Tainted Blood), which I enjoyed very much, although the denouement was unconvincing. There is something about Scandinavian detective fiction to which I (and many others, clearly) strongly relate: Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum and, yet to be read by me but in the queue, Liza Marklund.

Back to Silence of the Grave. Some old bones are discovered at a child’s birthday party, and Erlendur and team are bought in to investigate. At the same time, Erlendur’s daughter Eva Lind half-reaches out to him in final desperation. The police investigation of the people who lived on the hillside at the time the body was buried, together with Erlendur’s attempts to help his tragic daughter, are told with remarkable depth, illuminating the effects of despair — despair leading to spousal abuse, to emotional detachment and abandonment of a marriage and children, — all told from every perspective (child, parent, abuser, abusee, child within parent, etc) with enormous empathy for (most of) those concerned. Eventually, the mystery is solved, and despite plenty of sadness in the stories told here, in the end there is hope. Not too much, just enough.

See here for a summary of the various CWA awards and tables of past winners in all categories.

See here for an article in the Bookseller about the new "no translation" CWA rules.


Jo the Bibliophile over at Another 52 Books has a lovely Bibliowords glossary for (mainly) crime fiction. Here’s an example: "Nested-doll story: A riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma, or in other words: a story so full of mysteries framing other mysteries that frame yet more mysteries that they resemble a matrushka doll in their layered complexity."

Mind you, the reason for the glossary is because Jo received a complaint. I think it is a nerve for someone to complain on a blog about the blogger’s use of language. If one can’t do what one wants on one’s blog, what has the world come to (as I said to Minx when someone complained about her blog being black)?  And second, it is great fun reading alien terminologies and deducing meaning and idiosyncrasies of language. I love the US idiom I have picked up over the years as a crime fiction fan. And only the other day I used the phrase "giving a bollocking" in a comment on Crossword Be-Bop blog, and noted that Douglas has picked up on it and is asking if this is commonly used vernacular. (Answer, yes.) I think us bloggers from different countries who are commenting on each other’s blogs have a lot to offer each other in this regard 😉 Mind you, Jo could have the last laugh — she is in Iceland.

Creative and evolving use of language is something to be enjoyed and savoured, or learned from (free-spiritedly or seriously), definitely not complained about. And I think it is bad manners to complain about someone’s use of language on their blog, or to comment adversely about how the blog is designed.

Useless advice

The excellent Richard Morrison has a great article in the Times today that lightened my journey at approximately Loughborough Junction. "I am staggering through the black mist that descends when a chap with more than half his life over realises that, had he never been born, the world would be exactly the same as it is now." Yes, he graduated from university 30 years ago this week. (Which puts him in my ballpark.)

The piece is about the uselessness of giving advice to your children: "No wonder that my children look irritated or bewildered when I offer them advice. My past is a foreign country to them, and my recollections of what worked or did’t work for me at 21 might as well be in a foreign language, so irrelevant is it to their world."

I highly recommend reading the whole article, it is lovely, full of witty, self-deprecating Morrisonisms. If it is behind a subscription wall by the time you click on the link, let me know via email or in the comments and I will email you a copy. In the meantime, I will share with you the last two paragraphs:

"But one piece of advice is surely always pertinent. It is Horace’s fine old exhortation: carpe Diem — seize the day. If I could reclaim every minute that I wasted in my youth, I could probably have half my life again. The trouble is that when you are 21 you don’t truly grasp the fact that such moments are not infinitely available. And by the time you have grasped it, the moments have flown. As Trotsky observed, old age is the most unexpected thing that happens to a man (apart from being hacked to death with an ice-axe, presumably). Tell me about it, Leon.

Still, if any of the people who were at university with me 30 years ago happen to be reading, could I just say this? If we haven’t seen each other since 1976, please don’t get in touch. Observing how old we all look will only depress me further." Quite, Richard.

Polygon 20 June

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of three or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 13 words, average; 17, good; 21, very good; 26, excellent.

Source: the Times

Answers in the comments

Surfing and butterflies

Butterfly_stone Cathy_surf

Jenny has not uploaded her pictures from her French trip yet, but here are some new pictures. Cathy has just had her first surfing lesson; and Jenny (with Cathy’s help) made a paving stone for the garden — a mosaic butterfly. ("Create a paving stone" is one of the craft projects you can buy at our local "fun learning" store, bought for Jenny’s birthday last August. I wonder what they will have come up with when we go to buy her a birthday presents for this year?)

Myspace goes book

While on the subject of Richard and Science Library Pad, I wanted to mention a posting of his about My Space and Technorati books. It is a good post, so do read it. I checked out My Space books and find that a top book recommendation is "Hairstyles of the Damned", closely followed by "Smashed: the Story of a Drunken Girlhood". Sounds awesome. However, the bestselling list is distressingly more boring, headed up by the dreaded DVC. There are also featured reading groups, including an Oscar Wilde group (1,112 members). There are 4,546 members of a book group called "the fiction files", 1,135 members of another one called "choke on words". Maybe MySpace is on to something.

Incidentally, for the geeks among us, Richard has a clever post about his visitor stats on his (Typepad) blog; he has activated a feature that allows him to track almost 200 subscribers he didn’t know he had. Links provided at the post.

Picasa and photo software

I noticed last week that Google has announced an upgrade or relaunch of Picasa, their online picture service. I was wondering whether to try it rather than Flickr. Flickr is very good, in fact brilliant, but you have to have a Yahoo! account to register which I don’t like (as I already have a Google account and a work account and I can’t cope with too many), and also Jenny (i.e. me) has to pay a monthly fee to Flickr to upload her pictures as her digital camera she bought with her pocket money is too good — the resolution of her pictures is such that she could post only half a dozen a month on the free account so she has upgraded to "Pro".

Back to Picasa — the message is, don’t bother. Richard Akerman of Science Library Pad checked it out, as he wondered what Picasa offered that other picture sites (well, Flickr) don’t. Here is his answer.

"Another mysterious unasked-for bit of functionality from Google, perhaps emerging from their now-a-public-company beancounter mentality. For this, they hired a zillion PhDs?

Anyway, Picasa is a great photo organizer for Windows.
Some wonderful features would be:
– make it available on Mac and Linux
– direct upload to Flickr
integration with Google Earth, Google Maps and GPS data for geocoding (UPDATE 2006-06-18: I was wrong – there is a new Tools->Geotag menu that lets you manually geotag using Google Earth.)
– IPTC tags

We got… none of those.
Instead, they have come up with Picasa Web Albums.
Which are web photo albums… 1999 style."

However, after a bit more research, Richard discovered that Picasa does have some integration with Google Earth , albeit manual, as noted in the correction above; he shows an example of a photo from Mackenzie King’s formal garden at Moorside in Gatineau Park. (Susan and Amy, if you are reading this, Richard is a fellow-Canadian).

To return to Flickr vs Picasa, I love the Flickr tagging options. But I get those with the photo album that comes with this Typepad blog, so why Picasa can’t offer tags I don’t know. Richard, in response to my bemused comment on his blog, recommends two other photo sites, PBase and Kodak Gallery, and provides links. Thanks, Richard. All I need to do now is to buy a camera;-)  I have already suggested to Cathy that I might buy her "old" one (it is about 4 years old), as she feels it does not have enough functionality for her. I must stop hankering for the old days of SLR (though I do hear that it is coming back in some kind of digital copy version). As I think I mentioned, my old SLR camera was stolen years ago, so I’ve got by on scrounging family members’ cameras since then.

PS apologies if this posting is a bit staccato — it has been interspersed with about 50 googletalk messages with Jenny, as only one of her friends is currently on msn (which she tells me is much cooler than googletalk).

Polygon 19 June

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of three or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.
You can make two words using all the letters.
How you rate: 12 words, average; 16, good; 20, very good; 25, excellent.
Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon Source: The Times
Answers in the comments.

Book blog tour

Many blogs are currently featuring summer reading lists (several of them linking to a recent Guardian article). If you don’t have a queue of books, it is easiest to go to one list: I recommend this one by Amy of Books, Words, and Writing (which she found via Rebecca’s Pocket — Rebecca being Rebecca Blood who wrote the excellent "Weblog Handbook"). The link is to an aggregate of "articles containing book recommendations", and is regularly updated.

If you prefer the alternative approach, in which someone recommends one book to read, Jenny D on Light Reading thinks she has a favourite book of 2006. But it is only June! The vast amount  and speed of Jenny’s reading surely means there is an evens chance another contender will emerge — it is always worth visiting Jenny’s blog for eclectic recommendations that you wouldn’t have thought to buy otherwise.

On Buy a Friend a Book blog, which as we know is leading up to the July contest, Debra Hamel links to a post on Original Content, in which Gail Gauthier is collecting up recommendations for children’s books. So if the friend for whom you buy a book is a child or young adult (or teen as we used to call them!), keep an eye on Gail’s post, which is also being regularly updated. While on the subject, Kathryn Judson of Suitable for Mixed Company has a post about a project to list "cool girls from children’s literature" , currently up to 200.

In the spirit of extreme altruism, I mention a posting by David Montgomery at his blog Crime Fiction Dossier in which he announces a contest in which the prize is the latest book by Joseph Finder (signed, if you are into that sort of thing). All you have to do is to send David an email. Finder is the author of the excellent Paranoia. David is editor of Mystery Ink (among other things).

Galleycat has a cynical posting about how Amazon sales rankings work. The explanation about how the rankings work is here, but you’d better read the Galleycat posting first.

On It’s a Crime is an important posting about an upcoming talk by Debi Alper, author of Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana. If you can get to Dulwich in London on 29 June, be there (further details at the link).

In all the hot air that’s been doing the rounds about John Updike since the incident at Books Expo and his views on blogging (can you believe that someone called David Baddiel likened Updike’s writing  to Shakespeare’s in the Times yesterday, in a nauseatingly sycophantic piece which I can only hope was satire?), this posting on Miss Snark, "Can I call John Updike the Nitwit of the Day?", is pretty apt. People who don’t blog should not pronounce on it as they can’t, by definition, know what they are talking about. A bit off-topic for this post, but Miss S also has a characteristically laconic post on "Building Blog Traffic". People who advise bloggers to have a comments facility if they want to attract traffic, and don’t have a comments facility on their own blogs, are sitting ducks for the likes of Miss S.

Here is a fun posting from Paperback Writer about where authors of genre fiction can go to promote their books.

I have recently started reading Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridasun, which so far is excellent. Reading Matters blog (Kimbofo) links to an interview with the author in the Guardian.

A couple of bloggers have just posted on procrastination, giving very sane advice. If you want to write, don’t watch TV! Read Sharon J and Barry Eisner on the topic.

I’ll finish off this round up with a link to a post by Marie of Deep Thinker, "Getting the Voice Right for Historical Fiction". Do read it.

Goals of blogging

Darren Rowse at Problogger (he of the "how to make money out of your blog")  has been posting some useful items over the past couple of weeks.

First, what is the goal of your blog? (Don’t ask me that!). Darren initiated a group writing project in which he asked his readers (other bloggers) to write a post on their blogging goals. "Be as creative as you’d like – take it in any direction you want from writing a long list of your own blogging goals, through to sharing just one or two of them. You can write it in any form you like (last time we had poems, rants, humorous posts etc)."  He has collected together links to all the results (I noted Minx’s and Pundy’s friend Tillerman among them) in three posts: post 1; post 2; and post 3. I haven’t read them yet (probably never will as it would take an age), but they could provide a psychological snapshot of the range of motivations that cause people to start up a blog. The post titles range from the businesslike to the bizarre.

Ever thought about an email newsletter as well as a blog? Darren has two posts on this topic. One, "How many emails get through?"  is a comparison of various service providers for sending bulk emails, with statistics about how many emails get through and how many rejected as spam by the recipient. Well my perspective (as a victim) is "I hope 100 per cent":  wrong mindset for "making money out of my blog", obviously. However, Darren’s next post is a bit more subtle, "Email newsletters more emotionally engaging than websites". As the study on which he reports discussed only emails and websites, and not blogs, I am not surprised at the conclusion. As well as discussing the study, Darren’s post contains "how to" information for email newsletters, including news feeds (rss) for those interested in exploring the medium.

Had enough of blogging? Want to kill your blog and get your life back? Well there is a good way and a bad way to do it, apparently. "How to kill your blog successfully: factors to consider" is worth a read before pulling the plug. If you’re still determined to do it after reading that, then go to "How to kill your blog successfully: the methods."

Assuming you are carrying on blogging ;-), does frequency of posting matter? This is a very good posting, listing 10 or so pros or cons to frequent posting. There are some very good points in here.

Two final posts on Problogger for today. One is called "Why bloggers blog", a topic of perennial interest in the blogosphere. Stimulated by articles in the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Darren links to a number of his articles about getting started on blogging, what a blog is, how to make money from your blog, etc. And second, No-one links to the linkers. If your blog simply links to posts on other people’s without "adding value", you won’t get an audience, is the basic message. Self-evident, maybe, but I enjoyed reading the post.