We have a rule where I work that if you attend a conference or visit a lab, you have to write up a report afterwards. Earlier this week I went to not just one, but two social events with a crime-fiction theme, yet I am spared the ordeal of "writing up" by Karen of Euro Crime (my delightful companion to both events), who has encapsulated the evenings beautifully in this post.
Briefly, the first event was the launch party for MacLehose press, the new imprint of Quercus. The first book to be published is Stieg Larsson’s haunting The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I reviewed here. Today, the Times ran a review of the book, and enthusiastic accounts have appeared in several other publications, not least Ali Karim’s rave at The Rap Sheet. Ali was very much in evidence at the MacLehose launch, which he has written about in characteristically lively fashion, taking lots of photographs — including the one above, of Karen (Euro Crime, on the left) and me (on the right). It’s quite a nice picture but omits two unusual sightings, one of my lovely green silk skirt by Phase Eight, and the other of my "proper" black shoes with a heel (only an inch, but a heel nonetheless). I put them on just before going into the building, and took them off again on the way out, but for the party, they were definitely on my feet.
The second event, again as described at Euro Crime by Karen, was to celebrate the launch of Crimini, a book of short stories signifying the modern coming-of-age of Italian crime, collected by author Giancarlo De Cataldo (a short paragraph about the book is at the Times link above). De Cataldo had asked all his friends to contribute a chapter, he said, but none of them is a woman and none of them is the masterly Gianrico Carofiglio. Never mind, the book sounds good. I was there as the representative of Crime Scraps, as Norman (Italophile supremo) could not attend and so very kindly passed on to me his invitation. It was a most interesting and instructive evening, as Karen so well describes. As well as writing the short stories, Crimini’s authors also worked with Italian TV to present a series based on the book, which looked great from the clip we were shown — unfortunately it does not seem that there is much chance of seeing the whole thing in the UK.
A sad theme of both evenings concerned the publishing economics leading to very little translation of European crime fiction into English. Both Christopher MacLehose and Giancarlo De Cataldo spoke eloquently on this topic at the two events. The arts councils of some European countries do fund translations into English, but I understand that the just-announced cutbacks to the UK Arts Council will particularly affect translations. This is such a pity, as the books I am currently reading that are translated from their original Italian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish and so on are just superb. Many of these books have not been translated for about 10 years since original publication, while they have gained a reputation, and perhaps prizes or awards, in their native countries. One example of a book for which there is no sign of a translation deal because of its 600-page length, is De Cataldo’s own novel Romanzo Criminali – a best seller in Italy and made into a film there, but unknown outside unless you can read the language. We were treated to clip of this film as well, which (although without subtitles) looks fantastic.