Liking, not liking; dogs, angels and misery memoirs

Crime fiction has featured in the "loving/not loving" readers' column of the Bookseller in the past couple of weeks. In the 20 Nov issue, David Headley of Goldsboro books is loving Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn (Macmillan New Writing). He writes: "This is one of the best literary thrillers I have read in 2009……From the very first page this is a shocking and gripping novel and a cinematic tour de force, a terrifying crime novel. I read it in one sitting." It's on my shelf to read. The book he's not loving isn't on my shelf, though: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell (Little, Brown). "I used to enjoy Cornwell's strong and unique style but I am no longer excited by what is going to happen next." I quite agree.

This week's (27 Nov) column is by bookseller Celia Leary of Victoria Park Books. She's loving Gone by Michael Grant (Egmont): "A cross between TV's 'Heroes' and Lord of the Flies". One of my daughters enjoyed this novel very much. She is not loving Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (Gollancz): "The characters are very two dimensional, the plot was pretty obvious, and for a book set in the south of America it had a real lack of diversity". (I don't quite get that particular point? Isn't there diversity everywhere not just in "the south of America"?)

I was amused by another piece in this week's issue claiming that "women readers are turning to angel books as the appetite for misery memoirs declines". Yes, apparently there are hordes of people that liked reading about people's awful childhoods, but because of the current state of the world they are now all reading books about angels instead. Believe that if you will (I don't think I've ever read a book about either) but I did love this quote from Asda book-buying manager Steph Bateson: "We are still seeing misery working but there are fewer mis-mem titles and more angels books. Dogs is [sic] another crossover – a book that combines mis-mem, angels and dogs is our perfect paperback." (Words fail me! I'd be too busy running away.) The article concludes that angels are "being tipped" to follow vampires as "the next big thing in paranormal romance", a genre that is said to be "mutating". Crime sounds a lot safer to me!

The most reviewed books in the UK press this week were The Passport by Herta Muller and The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell. Here are a couple of review snippets. The Passport: "attains the epic ponderousness that defines recent Laureates" (Daily Mail); "elegant simplicity in the great tradition of German storytelling" (Times). The Scarpetta Factor: "The series has picked up a lot….it's not so much the cases being worked I like but rather the relationship dynamics" (Daily Mail); "All the worst aspects of the series' recent instalments: jerky prose; relentless acronyms and brand names; the baffling, repetitive dialogue" (Guardian).

7 thoughts on “Liking, not liking; dogs, angels and misery memoirs

  1. So if I tell you I have just finished a book called “Fallen Angels” by Gunnar Staalesen, you will run away screaming? 😉
    Well, I know what you mean. I read one by Susan Moody called “Falling Angel” a year or two ago, and that one was certainly an odd hybrid. Unfortunately the angel won over the crime plot.

  2. Metaphorical angels are fine by me, Dorte! (I’m a bit jealous as I think that GS novel isn’t translated….)
    That Susan Moody book sounds interesting (?)- I think I may have read one by her once about Bridge. Must check the angel one out 😉

  3. Maxine – I couldn’t help but laugh at your reaction to books that are selling a lot of copies – mis/mem and angel books. I know exactly what you mean, too! I have to say that that’s why I often like to poke around in indie bookstores and used bookstores. Many fewer copies of that sort of book there.

  4. Well, no, I wouldn´t recommend Moody´s book – unless you are ready to accept that a supernatural angel matters more to the story than a proper crime plot. I liked the first half but was disappointed by the ending.
    Staalesen is a reliable crime fiction writer who includes some religious characters but doesn´t let any angel interfere with Varg Veum´s detection.

  5. “a book that combines mis-mem, angels and dogs is our perfect paperback”
    This just sounds so bizarre, if you made up a quote like that people just wouldn’t believe it.

  6. The ‘misery memoir’ is the reason that last year I quit my face to face bookclub that I’d been a member of for nearly 20 years. I must find out if they’ve switched to angels (although I wouldn’t be tempted to return).
    As for a book that combines all of those best selling themes I am imagining MARLEY AND ME with the addition of an owner who (barely) survives child abuse and …. some kind of rare cancer but who is saved by the intervention of Della Reece. UGH.

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