Ten things to get over you

We've all heard of PostSecret (a rather spooky blog that I find too creepy to visit), but via Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. I learn of Some of the Things I Have Done to Get Over You, a "blog cum theatre project". The blogger is in London, UK, and has this to say: "Some of the things… is a project gathering first-person testimony for a theatre installation. Do write to us about some of the things you have done to get over someone. We post a selection of contributions on the blog. Click on “profile" to find our email address. Your name and address will remain confidential."

Frank writes that he is not sure he has ever got over anyone, but that the evidence is overwhelming that they have managed to get over him. I find that hard to believe, but actually, now he comes to write that, I feel similarly. (Funny what can crystallise about your inner thoughts when you read a blog post that speaks to you.)

Anyway, as the wholly admirable Lynne Scanlon (whose blog I highly recommend) says in the comments to Frank's post, "WOW. Pretty rough stuff. Such howls of pain, join the chorus. I've just sent the link around to a few friends (male and female) to see if they'd like to contribute. Hey, it might be cathartic!"

Some examples:

"I stared at strangers on the tube and tried to guess whether they were happy or unhappy in love. It was hard to tell. I still wonder whether you know I used to love you."

"I sent you long long emails that I thought were sensible and calm but were filled with pain and anger. You never replied to those. I'm not surprised. What would you have said?"

"I sat in a launderette and wept until my socks were dry."

"I started to run, and have now completed a number of half marathons."

"I did the London Knowledge. It took three years and two months. You have to cram your head full of street names and routes. There wasn't room to remember the colour of her eyes or how it felt when she kissed me."

"I lived in my dressing gown for a week. The old lady next door took pity on me and brought me groceries."

Crime fiction for all tastes

I haven't posted many "round ups" of links here recently because I am mildly addicted to Friend Feed, so I post links there – in the crime and mystery fiction room if they are about my current kind of reading; in the book room if they are more general; in the science online room if they are about communication of science; at OWL if they arrive by OWL post; in the life scientists' room if they have a biological aspect, and to "my feed" if they are particularly pithy posts about the awful banks or other shifting interests. All these rooms are open to anyone to join by clicking on the links in this post, and you can subscribe to my Friend Feed if you want to find out more. (Is Friend Feed the grown-up Twitter?)

However, I've read a couple of blog posts recently that might be of more general interest than just us Friend Feed specialists, so here are some links.

Dorte of DJS Krimblog writes about the first adult crime novel she read: Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers. "One of the things I remember about "Clouds of Witness" is that I thought Wimsey and Parker were ´old men´, or at least middle-aged, so I was amazed when they had solved the mystery and celebrated by getting drunk. I thought that was out of character." Can you remember the first adult crime novel you read? (Or just the first adult novel?)

Norman of Crime Scraps has modified the categories in the Dartmoor Dozen in a superb post. This post is a beautifully clear and loving description of the crime-fiction universe; I especially love the wild card. I encourage you to read the post and undertake the challenge. I plan to do so, not least because it will give me the chance to choose 12 more books!

The ultimate Carnival of the Criminal Minds is here, with links to all the excellent and informative posts in the series. Please visit if you want to know why a range of people think crime fiction is fab. Great thanks are due to Barbara Fister for dreaming this one up and organising it. These things take a lot of work, so well done to her.

And Karen at Euro Crime brings us a preview of the latest buzz book – The Reunion by Simone van der Vlugt, translated by Michele Hutchison – which is due to be published in the UK in March. Five lucky Euro Crime readers can win a copy of the book in the site's current competition – so do check it out. (I've entered!)

Sunday Salon: Norman’s icy challenge

TSSbadge3 Norman at Crime Scraps wrote a post asking what books in the crime-fiction genre you would recommend to someone who has never read any before. Not so much "desert island books" as "snowed-in on Dartmoor books", he writes. Norman's challenge is to recommend one book from each of twelve sub-genres recommended by BookMarcs online blog (see discussion on Friend Feed - I think the link to BookMarcs was first posted by Mack, but I can't now find the evidence). Of course, one could argue late into the night about these sub-genres (see here for Dorte's preference), but for the purposes of this exercise,  I am going to take them as read and try to recommend one book from each. Any readers who wish to take up the challenge are very welcome to do so, and to drop a line in the comments so I can read your choices!


Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh

Locked room mystery:

The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Golden Age mystery:

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

Historical fiction:

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

Crime fiction:

Little Criminals by Gene Kerrigan

Detective fiction:

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Hardboiled detective fiction:

Flood by Andrew Vachss

Inverted detective fiction:

Sleeping Beauty by Philip Margolin

Thriller fiction:

Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

Spy and espionage fiction

In the Evil Day by Peter Temple

Caper fiction:

The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler

Psychological suspense fiction:

Losing You by Nicci French

And to make the dozen a baker's dozen,

Journalism crime fiction:

Paradise by Lisa Marklund

I could get into this – if you are interested in science-in-crime fiction:

Total Eclipse by Liz Rigbey

And chess-in-crime fiction:

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis.

OK, I'll stop there. I realise that I could repeat this process a dozen more times, listing a different set of recommendations in each list.

Here are Dorte's dozen recommendations. I haven't come across anyone else who has yet completed the Crime Scraps challenge.

True confessions of a blogger

For various reasons, I don't write much on this blog about myself – my feelings, major (and minor) life-events, etc. I think I did so a bit when I started blogging (I did what a lot of new bloggers do, and wrote about my feelings of liberation as a result of discovering the medium) but do it even less now. I have written a bit more in the past about my daughters, when they were both blogging also and gave permission, but since they stopped doing that a couple of years or more ago, I have said less about them – the odd bit of "news involving them as passing characters", perhaps, but not any direct information about matters such as what colour they dye their hair or how often they trash the house (not and never, incidentally). I also lack the imagination to construct a fantasy life and write about that as if it were real, as I know some bloggers do (I've been taken in more than once.) This may be dull and lead to my blog being characterised so in some of these automatic tests that others have run on it for me, but c'est la vie.

I also steer away from reading "human interest" blogs, being bored by the unrelieved minutiae of the blogger's life, feelings and thoughts (usually not original enough to be distinctive), being much more drawn to blogs that are about ideas – expressed from a personal perspective, of course, that is what gives blogs their charm, but none the less, about ideas and thoughts compared with domestic details. I'm not suggesting that I only read blogs that are like factual automata, often the blogs I like do feature posts about other things, which is fine by me, and nice, as one feels one "knows" the author, via a previous discussion of ideas.

So, I scan the new blog posts in my RSS reader most days, scrolling through a few hundred blog posts and stopping to read a few here and there. (Apart from those in the category "a daily read", which I read in full.) Even this activity, over time, results in some bloggers and blogs having quite a strong "personality" in my mind even if I only read the odd post they write, if it seems likely to be of direct interest from the RSS fragment.

This week, in the past few days, actually, I've experienced unexpected pain by this activity. One person wrote about bloggers that she feels a connection with and plans to meet, but what if they die? She went on to name several blogs she follows or knows about when the blogger has died. Another person wrote about failure to get jobs she had been applying for (having previously written about the career choice she had made), from the perspective of having returned to doing what she had been doing in an earlier stage of her life, because of her lack of success. A third person, writing on a publisher's blog, wrote about how the publisher had rejected her new novel, after publishing previous ones. A fourth, a very well-known author and journalist, has just written a one-sentence blog post (the entire post is the title, so it is very big font) – "What do you read when your husband has just left you for another woman?"

Reading about pain, and experiencing its sharp pangs, when you are not expecting it is unsettling and quite dramatically affecting. It comes at you out of left field. This has happened to me before when reading blogs – I've suddenly come across a post that raises old, buried wounds and have been unable to read on. But this cluster in the past few days has been unprecedented. Would I write on my blog if I'd been rejected in some way, or was suffering from some particular cause? Probably not. I suppose that makes me a repressed coward in some respects.

Northern lights of crime fiction

As everyone surely knows by now ;-), I was given a subscription to The Bookseller for Christmas, even though I am not of that trade. The magazine has a website, much of which seems to be free. Some content from the printed magazine is not on the website (visible to me), which I find surprising, given that the magazine I work for is less than half the price of The Bookseller, has about twice as many (or more) pages per week, and gives you not only full access to the magazine online, but also lots of additional online-only information. This preamble is to say that I finally got around to finishing an article in last week's (6 February) issue, pp 24-25,  "Northern Lights", introduced thus: "The latest surge of Scandinavian novels is leading a crime-in-translation boom from across the continent. Roger Tagholm puts the new trend under the microscope and looks at why murder from Europe is so appealing".

It is a good, solid article (despite the lazy if understandable choice of a big picture of Kenneth Branagh as Wallander), leading with Danish author Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow in 1993 (so good until the last quarter, in my view) and the critical role of Christopher MacLehose (interviewed for the feature), then of Harvill, now with his own imprint at Quercus (most famous for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but publishing many other excellent titles). The article touches on Henning Mankell, and other Swedish, Icelandic, Italian, Greek, German and Polish authors familiar to readers of Euro Crime.

Authors who get particular shout-outs include Simone van der Vlught, whose novel The Reunion is published in the UK in March, and who is compared with Ruth Rendell; Mari Jungstedt, Stieg Larsson, Yrsa Sigurdadottir (whose second novel My Soul to Take is coming out in April, and who will be at Crime Fest and Harrogate this year), and K. O. Dahl.  Other authors are mentioned, too. Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular, is said to dominate the UK's taste for European translated crime fiction, and the article addresses some reasons for this – the assassination of Olaf Palme and the "disappointed" society that emerged – epitomised by Hakan Nesser (another 2009 Crime Fest attendee). Pleasingly, Christopher MacLehose awards credit to Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo as "the mother and father of the Scandinavian crime resurgence……They had a detective who was the original melancholy, alcoholic, divorced, music-lover, just like Morse, just like Wallander."

Arcadia books, publisher of award-winning Dominique Manotti, are also covered in the feature, as is Andrea Camilleri, author of the much loved (by me and fellow-European crime fiction fans) Salvo Montalbano books. (The article does not dig a little deeper and discover the"father" of those Italian books, the Spanish author Manuel Vazquez Montalban, after whom Camilleri's main character was named.) The success of all these novels is attributed by MacLehose to "an increasingly globalised world due to the internet and the greater number of people travelling and working abroad". National bodies such as Norwegian Literature Abroad play a significant part. But, above all, these books are "wonderfully good stories", says MacLehose. "Do I think that books, or crime in particular, will defeat the recession and come out on top, more than fur coats and caviar, as it were? Yes I do."

If anyone is interested in reading the whole two-page article, please drop a line in the comments.

The Whisperers and digital lives

I am currently attending an excellent (and free) conference at the British Library on "Digital Lives". Lots of excellent things about it, but I did enjoy a talk today by Orlando Figes. From Wikipedia:

"Figes has made a significant contribution to the development of oral history in Russia. With the Memorial Society, he gathered several hundred private family archives from homes across Russia and interviewed thousands of survivors as well as perpetrators of the Stalinist repressions for his book The Whisperers. This represents one of the biggest collections of documents about private life in the Stalin era. Housed in the Memorial Society in Moscow, St Petersburg and Perm, many of these valuable research materials are available on line."

The website The Whisperers: private lives in Stalin's Russia, is an example of why archiving, and oral history, is so important to us all. Orlando Figes told us how, on 4 December 2008, the police raided the St Petersburg offices of the Memorial Society and not only removed the hard disc drives of the Stalin oral history project (also on the Figes website, so in actuality not lost) but all the other archives of this section of the Memorial society. One of these projects is the virtual Gulag. As things stand, the only way your average Russian can find out about the Gulags is the one museum on the topic, which is in the Urals, 150 miles from the nearest large town. The Memorial society was some way along a project to create a virtual Gulag museum, so that all Russians and those in former Soviet Union countries could know about this awful history. No longer, since the December police raid. Orlando Figes told us about the Putin regime's programme to rehabilitate Stalin as a national hero. Chilling. The oral history project in which he interviewed many families about their experiences in that era, however, was the opposite - one is just grateful that there are people around us who are doing this kind of thing.

The Whisperers at Google Books.

Guardian review of The Whisperers.

New York Times review of The Whisperers.

The Times review of The Whisperers.

Spread the word for Bad Traffic

Here is a nice message from Natania of Sort Of books:

"First of all THANK YOU for helping to vote Simon Lewis’ brilliant novel BAD TRAFFIC onto the shortlist of the Spread the Word, Books to Talk About promotion. His was the only crime book to get through. It would make a huge difference if he won it…especially if helped through by the crime writers and readers community (what IS the collective known? Cell, maybe? Or mob? Or list of suspects?). All your readers need to do is register and then vote  via the website. Also, if they post a comment on that website and send it to me at nat [at] sortof.co.uk along with their home address they could win a free book (available for the first 10 entries)." You have until 27 February to vote.

Bad Traffic, by Simon Lewis, is an edgy, racy and highly recommended read.

See here for my review at Euro Crime.

Laura Root reviews the book at Euro Crime.

And so does Terry Halligan!

Read another review at It's a Crime! (or a mystery…).

Publisher's website review and information.

Sunday Salon: The Herring Seller at Euro Crime

TSSbadge3 This week, or thereabouts, is the UK paperback debut of The Herring Seller's Apprentice, by L. C. Tyler. I was given the hardback edition as a gift some while ago, by my esteemed colleague James Long. I also had the honour of meeting the extremely pleasant, friendly, frighteningly well-educated and intelligent, multi-talented author, "Len", at CrimeFest last year, and enjoy his occasional posts on the Macmillan New Writers' blog. Unfortunately, I did not make the time until recently to read the book itself. Now I have, and I am very glad indeed to have done so. My review is up today at Herring Euro Crime: please read it, and then, the book. It is a very short novel with a striking cover, and you will not regret spending time in its funny, perceptive and bitter-sweet world. From my review:

"THE HERRING SELLER'S APPRENTICE is a wonderful book. It is one of those books that transcends the genre of crime fiction and speaks to all readers. I was completely absorbed in it, totally enjoying my sojourn in its multilayered, trippingly written, disciplined, and astutely observed world. Bravissimo!" Read on here. And thank you, James!

Karen Meek's Euro Crime review of the book.

Review of the book at It's a Crime! (or a mystery..).

Highly readable Q and A with L. C. Tyler at Crime Always Pays.

More about the covers of L. C. Tyler's books – and about his next book – at It's a Crime! (or a mystery…).

L. C. Tyler's website.

Publisher's website.

The rest of this week's new reviews at Euro Crime – and much more.

Times of terror, things of darkness

I know that this pairing is not as good as recent offerings, but  was struck by the similarity of the covers of Time of Terror, Seth Hunter's latest Nathan Peake novel of the British navy in the times of the French revolution, and This Thing of Darkness, Harry Thomspon's novel of Captain Fitzroy and the voyage of the Beagle:

Hunter  Thing darkness 

UK crime-fiction paperback releases

This is a total laundry-list post, courtesy of The Bookseller, for crime-fiction addicts only. (Other readers may scroll back one and read my review of the film Jar City!) To plan your reading, paperbacks due out in May in the UK include The Likeness, by Tana French (don't be put off by my review, my slightly lukewarm reaction to this book was unusual, all the reviews I read were very positive); The Pyramid, by Henning Mankell; The Darker Side, by Cody McFadyen; Phantom Prey by John Sandford; Final Theory, by Mark Alpert; and Deadly Intent, by Lynda La Plante. As well as these established authors, we have a debut thriller to look forward to: Soul Murder, by David Blake. Apparently this is Harper's major launch for the summer, featuring "flawed FBI hero Francesco Patrese" (though the author is British).

Other titles due for paperback release in May are Bravo Jubilee, by Charlie Owen; Viper, by Michael Morley; Exposed, by Alex Kava; Singing to the Dead, by Caro Ramsey; Anarchy and Old Dogs, by Colin Cotterill; The Mind's Eye, by Hakan Nessar; The Taint of Madness, by Anne Zoudoudi; Stratton's War, by Laura Wilson; and The Bellini Card, by Jason Goodwin. Another debut is Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, by Shamani Flint, the first in a series where a "Morse-like detective from Singapore travels throughout Asia busting crimes", starting with Kuala Lumpur. Diane Wei Long's Paper Butterfly is also due a paperback outing in May. The character here is a female P.I. who previously appeared in The Eye of Jade, "a lady who shows us a China visitors never see, as she examines the country as it was and as it is now. A dangerous business."

W. H. Smith has a crime-fiction promotion during February, in which you can get a free book for every one you buy. You need to sign up for their 'privilege programme' and print a voucher downloaded from their website.