Old protagonists, old and new books

Some book-related posts that have caught my interest over the past few days have been stacking up uncaptured.

Grumpy Old Bookman reviews an early John Baker, Poet in the Gutter, the first in the Sam Turner series. I have so far managed to read only one John Baker book, White Skin Man, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. GOB’s post is not only an excellent read and review, but epitomises why I love blogging and the internet. You would not get an "old" (1995) book reviewed in the newspapers. But if you come across an author who is well on in a series, you want to read the first book first.

Karen at Eurocrime features a non-crime book, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society by Christine Coleman, an author who visited Karen’s library to give a talk. The protagonist of the book is 75 years old. The publisher, Transita, only publishes books where the protagonist is over 45. How wonderful! Of course, people only begin to become interesting when they are over 45 😉 . Karen relates Christine’s interesting point about how few books are told from the point of view of an older person and not told in flashback, and challenges readers to come up with examples. I have read all of Mary Wesley’s books, an author who was only published after she was 70 I believe, but being an "over 45 person" myself, of course I can’t remember if any of them were not told in flashback — I do remember they tended to feature older protagonists and their concerns, eg "Jumping the Queue".

Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders praises Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xialong, again — the book has been ranked as "one of the best five political novels" by the Wall Street Journal, together with Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister, Charles McCarry’s Shelley’s Heart, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men.

Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction reviews Henning Mankell’s The Man Who Smiled. I agree with his take: see here for my review of the same book. If you like Wallender novels, this is for you. If you haven’t read any yet, you have the opportunity to read them in sequence, unlike me and Glenn Harper and lots of other people who have been reading them in translation order rather than sequential order. (Same goes for the brilliant Lisa Marklund — at last she has caught up with herself with respect to her translations — all we have to do now for the next two is to wait or learn Swedish.)

Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus novel, The Naming of the Dead, was reviewed in the Times on Saturday (the link doesn’t work but I’ve left it in because they might fix it — it goes to where it should go to, the problem is at the Times’ end). According to that review, this is the penultimate Rebus book, because there are only two years to go before Rebus hits the compulsory Scottish retirement age of 60. The Rap Sheet carries more fascinating speculation on this topic. The book sounds great. I hope that this isn’t really the penultimate Rebus. John Harvey planned to write only ten Resnick novels and did. He then switched to a new series, about a retired policeman. But I’ve noticed that Resnick has begun sneaking into the new series. You can’t keep a good character down, it seems.

1 thought on “Old protagonists, old and new books

  1. I identify thoroughly with the comment about old books, as you might guess from my blog. Blogging about crime fiction reflects more closely the way we read than do newspaper reviews. We want to talk about old books, compare characters, see how older books hold up today. And there’s no pressure to be novel, to rush to judgment, to predict the next big thing, or to make foolish comparisons to Ian Rankin.
    Re old protagonists, the American writer Joseph Hansen (I hope I didn’t get his first name wrong) has his protagonist Dave Brandstetter age throughout the series. I think the last even has “old men” in the title. (I’ve read none of the books, but the one Brandstetter short story I read is superb.)
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    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

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