Knowing me, I’ve probably read about this on the litblogosphere somewhere and forgotten all about it, but I did enjoy reading "How to start a crime list" in the Bookseller (13 April issue). A slight aside, my reading of Booksellers and Publishers Weeklies is like a nerve impulse: in quantal packets. We subscribe at work, but distribution through the office is erratic. Therefore you don’t see a copy of either for weeks, then get six at once. Hence I am only just reading the 13 April issue on 15 May.
The above-mentioned article is an interview of Anthony Cheetham by Liz Bury. Mr Cheetham, who had helped to build up the very good Orion crime list, turns out to be the driving force behind the relatively new Quercus imprint, which has just won the Plus "new business of the year" award and is perhaps better known to you as publisher of The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, the overall Costa (formerly Whitbread) book prize winner this year.
The first book published by Quercus was Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook, which I reviewed the other day. Quercus are presumably smart at marketing as I bought that book when it was first published because it was Amazon’s then "deal of the week". Soon after publishing that, Mr Cheetham read the manuscript of Bad Debts by Peter Temple, which he snapped up cheap as it had been turned down in the past. With these two books, he felt he had the makings of a list. He likes crime fiction not only because 11 of the 50 current UK bestsellers are crime fiction titles, but because "It’s a method of armchair travel, where you get a real sense of the place they’re set in".
Other books published or to be published by Quercus, by 21 new and established writers, include The Shadow
Maker Walker by Michael Waters (featuring Mr Negrui, the head of the serious crime squad in Ulan Bator), The Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry, Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland (set in the Outback with a half-Aboriginal hero), and The Coroner’s Lunch (about the "charming" 72-year-old chief coroner of 1970s Laos). Maybe Peter of Detectives Beyond Borders should consider recommending his latest, as-yet untranslated Croatian discoveries to Mr Cheetham.
What Anthony Cheetham looks for in a manuscript: sophisticated prose, with excitement and colour; an interesting setting, graphically portrayed; a central character with charm and appeal; a gripping mystery or crime; forensic stories for readers with a crime-lab fascination; and detailed procedural work that reveals life in a cop shop. That’s all, sounds easy enough.
If you want to read the whole interview you need a subscription to the Bookseller: here is their website.