Blacklands by Belinda Bauer in the Bookseller

One advantage of the various local postal strikes in London is that the Bookseller is arriving late, so I am reading it in a less rushed fashion and focusing on bits of it I might usually skim over in my weekday haste. (OK, this is a stretch of a good reason for a postal strike or two, but I am trying to be positive.)

One such article in last week's (9 October, p. 23) issue is a profile of an author of a book that looks intriguing. Belinda Bauer, author of Blacklands (hmm, lots of Bs there – why didn't I think of that for my last crime-fiction alphabet post?), was highly commended by the CWA in the debut dagger category this year. Ms Bauer says that she did not set out to write a crime novel: "to me a crime novel is Val McDermid or Sue Grafton or Michael Connelly, where there is a crime. And in my book the crime had taken place many years before, and it was the aftermath of the crime that I was dealing with….."

The book, published in the UK by Transworld (Bantam Press) in January of this year according to the Bookseller, 2010 according to everyone else, is the story of a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother and nan. His uncle had disappeared when aged 11 – believed to have been murdered and buried on Exmoor. The boy is searching for his uncle's body to "heal his fractured family"……It's the first of a trilogy, apparently.

Ms Bauer trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter for a news agency – good training for novel writing. She wrote a screenplay in the evenings, and fortuitously entered, and won, the Carl Foreman Award. The prize was to study screenwriting at California State University, where she found it empowering to be "in a town where when you said you wanted to be a screenwriter nobody laughed in your face". (What a sad comment on English life.) Returning to Cardiff having written a screenplay "Happy Now", made into a film starring Ioan Gruffudd but never released, she eventually wrote Blacklands in just 4 months.

7 thoughts on “Blacklands by Belinda Bauer in the Bookseller

  1. Sounds like an interesting author and a good story. Sometimes those “aftermath” stories are really very compelling. I’ll have to look for it. Thanks for the profile.

  2. I thought it very good but spending time in the head of a murderous pedophile I could do without. A testament to her skill that I liked it anyway. And hope if there are more, there is less of creepy deviants.

  3. Thanks, Margot and Barbara – I’m a bit less keen on reading it now that I know it’s one of those “in the minds of a killer” style of books….not obvious from the profile!

  4. I wonder if she hadn’t read any of those and was working it out in a cliche-free mode but accidentally using a cliche. It’s really quite a good book. Just – I am not squeamish at all, but I really wanted to skip over the parts with the old lag fantasizing about his deeds. I suppose they were necessary.
    The interesting part is the way the boy works out how to get information – but all the while the man is scheming to escape the prison and go after him, so it is as much suspense as aftermath.

  5. Hello – Hope you don’t mind me butting in! I’m only commenting to point out to Maxine that Blacklands is not not really one of those ‘in the mind of the killer’ books. It is chiefly in the mind of its young hero, but certainly I have explored several other points of view in the book – including the killer’s. I do this simply because I am interested in the way people think about things – be they heroes or villains! Enjoy.

  6. I found this book fascinating, disturbing, and gripping, but was left a bit confused by the ending … (SPOILER ALERT):
    In the end, was Avery killed by Nan (presumably bashing him over the head with her trolley), or by Lewis’ dad (presumbably bashing him over the head with either the shovel or Nan’s trolley)?
    (Interestingly enough, I found myself wondering, based on Lewis’ dad’s own rather enigmatic character and behavior at the book’s end, just how (presumably his acquaintance, if not his friend’s) Billy’s death had affected *him*. )
    And — was poor Billy ever found and laid to rest?
    Awesome debut from an author I will definitely read again!

Comments are closed.