Monday, July 28, 2014

I Can't Wait to Read: FIVE MINUTES ALONE

Anticipation can be quite delicious. The feeling of looking forward to something we hope will be great, looming on the horizon.

While it is great to stay present and 'in the moment' as much as possible in our lives, it's also nice to glance down the road now and then too, particularly at things that put a smile on our faces. Upcoming book releases, whether from authors we love or a promising newcomer, can certainly do that, creating a hopeful mix of expectation and uncertainty.

As part of a revamp of Crime Watch, I'm looking at launching a new semi-regular series, "I Can't Wait To Read", not just listing or noting upcoming titles that might be of interest, but delving a little deeper into why I, or any guest bloggers, are interested in or excited about that book. We'll look at the book itself, the author, why we can't wait to read it, and when it will be available. As this is something new, feedback would be welcome, on the concept, and what you'd like to see or not see moving forward.

To kickstart things, I'm taking a closer look the next release from 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award winner Paul Cleave, an international bestseller who has become the dark prince of antipodean crime writing.


The book blurb:
In the latest thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, someone is helping rape victims exact revenge on their attackers, prompting an edge-of-your-seat, cat-and-mouse chase between old friends, detectives Theodore Tate and Carl Schroder.

Carl Schroder and Theodore Tate, labeled “The Coma Cops” by the media, are finally getting their lives back into shape. Tate has returned to the police force and is grateful to be back at home with his wife, Bridget. For Schroder, things are neither good nor bad. The bullet lodged in his head from a shooting six months ago hasn’t killed him, but - almost as deadly - it’s switched off his emotions.

When the body of a convicted rapist is found, obliterated by an oncoming train, Tate works the case, trying to determine if this is murder or suicide. The following night, the bodies of two more rapists surface. It’s hard to investigate when everyone on the police force seems to be rooting for the killer.

There’s a common plea detectives get from the loved ones of victims: When you find the man who did this, give me five minutes alone with him. And that’s exactly what someone is doing. Someone is helping these victims get their five minutes alone. But when innocent people start to die, Tate and Schroder find themselves with different objectives, and soon they’re battling something they never would’ve expected—each other.

The author:
Paul Cleave has become the dark prince of antipodean crime writing. He shot to international fame with the publication of THE CLEANER, which was a smash-hit in Germany, topping's annual sales charts alongside Lee Child and Stieg Larsson. The rest of the world took a wee while to catch up, but now as his eighth book looms, Cleave is a critically acclaimed international bestseller published in a dozen languages, around 20 countries, and has won or been a finalist for awards in Europe, Australasia, and the United States. He won the Ngaio Marsh Award in 2011, and was a finalist for the Edgar Award this year for JOE VICTIM, the sequel to the THE CLEANER. You can read more about Paul Cleave at his website.

Why I can't wait:
Every since I read CEMETERY LAKE, my first taste of Cleave back in October 2008, I've really enjoyed Cleave's writing, and particularly his character of Theo Tate. While "Joe" of THE CLEANER and JOE VICTIM fascinates many readers around the world, and it was Cleave's excellent standalone BLOOD MEN that won the Ngaio Marsh Award, for me it's always been Cleave's Tate tales that I've most enjoyed, and looked forward to. As I said in a review, Tate is "a truly fascinating protagonist whose resume includes cop, private eye, and prison inmate... There's a bleak nobility to Tate's smudged shades of grey and stumble towards redemption." I found Tate really fascinating back in 2008, and was very pleased when Cleave brought the character back in COLLECTING COOPER then THE LAUGHTERHOUSE.

Another particularly cool aspect about Cleave's crime writing is he has built this world, a fictionalised version of Christchurch, in which his characters operate. Major characters in some novels turn up as minor characters in others, even the standalone stories have some links in time and space. Along with Tate, the most growth and evolution over all the books is seen in Detective Carl Schroder, who begins as the straight-arrow, but becomes more and more affected by the things he sees and experiences. The relationship between Tate and Schroder, and how it has changed over the books, veering between allies, rivals, enemies and frenemies, adds even more layers to intriguing storylines written in cracking prose.

From talking to Cleave last year about Joe Victim, I know he is quite excited about FIVE MINUTES ALONE, the premise behind the novel and the ongoing relationships between and evolution of his characters. So there is much to look forward to, and I can't wait to read it.

When it's available:
21 October 2014 in the United States and on


You can read more about Cleave and his novels here:


Are you looking forward to FIVE MINUTES ALONE? What are some of the books or authors that you eagerly look forward to? What do you think of this new series? Feedback and comments appreciated.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kiwi crime: THE RED ROOM by Warren Olson

One of my favourite things is to come across new-to-me New Zealand authors who've chosen to write tales of crime, mystery, and suspense. It's great to see creative types from our part of the world choosing to write crime fiction stories, as I think it's a terrific genre that can provide thrills, excitement, entertainment, but also thoughtfulness, and wonderful writing. While 'detective fiction' as it's thought of nowadays has been around for less than two centuries, tales of crime and intrigue date back to our earliest storytellers, and are found in cultures across the globe throughout history.

This week I stumbled upon Cambridge-based author Warren Olson, who seems to have lead a very interesting life prior to picking up the authorial pen. Prior to returning to New Zealand for Masters studies, and now lecturing in strategic studies and cross-cultural interviewing as well as maintaining sporting, voluntary, and other interests, Olson worked as a private investigator in Thailand for many years. The picture above right is of All Blacks captain Ritchie McCaw alongside Olson and his daughter. McCaw has a copy of Olson's book THAI PRIVATE EYE, which was a non-fiction account of some of Olson's most shocking true stories from his investigations.

Olson now also writes detective fiction set in his old stomping ground of Thailand, and this year has released THE RED ROOM, his latest thriller starring private eye Kenny Jones. Here's the blurb:
In downtown Bangkok there is a Red Room where bad things happen; sometimes consensual, sometimes not. All of it is captured and sold for viewing pleasure.  
An elegant Thai woman in her final year as a law student disappears after meeting a handsome DEA agent. Fearing the worst, her wealthy Russian boyfriend pleads with Kenny Jones, Private Detective, to find her. Amidst a backdrop of voyeurism, violence and illicit sex, Kenny wades through the dark undercurrent of the Bangkok night to uncover much more than is openly on show in the red light zone. 
The Red Room is based on a real life case file from Thailand’s most famous Private Detective, Warren Olson, and is the third novel in the acclaimed Kenny Jones series. 

I have really enjoyed the Thailand set crime novels of John Burdett, Timothy Hallinan, and New Zealander Andrew Grant, so I'm curious about THE RED ROOM and Olson's Kenny Jones series. There is something intoxicating and fascinating about that part of the world. It's a great setting for thrillers.

You can read more about Warren Olson and his books at his Good Reads page here, and in a recent interview with The Phuket Times here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Upcoming Events: Karin Slaughter to visit in August

One of the world's most popular crime writers is visiting New Zealand shores in August, with Atlanta-based author Karin Slaughter scheduled to appear at library events in Auckland and Wellington. It's a great opportunity for keen crime readers to meet the author of the Grant County and Will Trent series of thrillers. Those books, along with her other stories, have sold more than 30 million copies around the world, topped bestseller lists in several countries, and been translated into more than 30 languages.

Slaughter (her real name) kickstarted her career with BLINDSIGHTED, a superb debut that introduced paediatrician and part-time coroner Dr Sara Linton. That book was nominated for several prestigious prizes: a CWA Dagger, the Barry, and the Macavity awards.

I understand that this will be Slaughter's first visit to New Zealand. You can meet her at the following events:

Monday 11 August 2014 at 5.30pm
Auckland Central Library, Level 2
Lorne Street, Auckland
free entry

Tuesday 12 August 2014 at
Wellington City Library, Ground Floor
65 Victoria Street, Wellington
free entry

What a terrific opportunity to meet a fabulous author. Hope plenty of readers head along.

Friday, July 25, 2014

9mm: An interview with the Godfather of Kiwi crime

As we continue on the 9mm journey, for the 75th instalment in our ongoing series I thought I would feature a world class author who is renowned as the Godfather of contemporary New Zealand crime writing, Paul Thomas.

As I wrote in a large feature for the New Zealand Listener in early 2012, "In the 1990s, Thomas exploded onto the local fiction scene with a series of fast-paced crime thrillers packed with mayhem, spiralling subplots, humour and his very own maverick cop. Detective Sergeant Tito Ihaka, a hulking investigator who, like his literary antecedents, stood slightly apart from society and was somewhat untroubled by expected scruples, first appeared in Old School Tie, Thomas’s groundbreaking 1994 debut that one critic described as 'Elmore Leonard on acid'."

Thomas paved the way for the darker, funnier, modern thrillers being penned by some great New Zealand crime writers nowadays, tearing us from the cosy confines of the British-style village murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie and our own Dame Ngaio Marsh. He returned, after a 15-year absence from the crime writing page, with DEATH ON DEMAND in early 2012, a book that went on to win the 2013 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel last December. Fortunately, we won't have to wait that long for the next instalment: Thomas and Ihaka will both be returning later this year in FALLOUT, which centres on a confrontation between New Zealand and the USA over our country's long-held anti-nuclear stance.

But in the meantime, Paul Thomas stares down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Paul Thomas

1) Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Well I think if I had to nominate someone it would be Phillip Marlowe. I think if I hadn’t read Chandler I doubt if I ever would have written a crime novel. So, yeah, I mean I still keep going back to Chandler as the greatest crime writer, and I think that Marlowe created a template for the protagonist or heroes of crime fiction that still applies really. Everyone puts their own stamp on it and adds their own little idiosyncrasies and oddities and what-not, but the basic template I don’t think has changed a great deal at all.

And I think it’s the vulnerability I think which was the really revolutionary thing that Chandler introduced – you had a hero character who gave you an insight into his own psychological make-up, and his own depressions and concerns, and self-loathing. And I think that opened up a whole psychological area for crime writing that really revolutionised it in my view.

2) What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I can remember very clearly that at primary school we had access to a series of novels written by a guy called Ronald Welch, who wrote sort of historical novels that traced members of the same family over several hundred years. They were kind of minor nobility and a military family – so in each generation a member of the family was involved in the major military action of the time, whether it was Agincourt right through to the Battle of Quebec and so forth. And I was very, very taken with those, and I can remember devouring all of those, and going back to them.

And it’s interesting that a writer whose work I very much admired later was the George MacDonald Fraser flash series, who did a similar thing with one person – he took him through all the major military engagements of the Victorian era, using the same kind of idea that you inserted this character into the very heart of the action. But those Welsh books, and I can’t even remember the name of the characters now, were certainly the first books I can really remember being riveted by.

3) Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
The first book I ever did was a book called CHRISTMAS IN RAROTONGA, with the cricketer John Wright. Then I did a book with John Kirwan, the rugby player, RUNNING ON INSTINCT, and then the first book with John Hart, STRAIGHT FROM THE HART. So all those had come out before... I’d written those three before I wrote OLD SCHOOL TIE. I’d also worked as a journalist, I worked in Auckland for the Auckland Star, then went to the UK and was a travel writer in London and worked in France for a couple of years. Then I came back to New Zealand.

4) Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I have family, and obviously that’s been a huge part of my life for the last 13, 14 years anyway. So a lot of my time is involved around them, revolves around them. I love sport, so obviously watch a bit of sport on TV like most New Zealand males, and I walk the dog.

I still play cricket, social cricket, half a dozen times a summer or so. But it’s not exactly Lords. I played cricket right through school and played reasonably seriously for a few years after I left school, and I played in England a lot, so I’ve played over the years.

5) What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't a really famous thing in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I would suggest they go and take a walk through the Otari-Wilton's Bush, the last surviving native forest, native bush, in Wellington. It’s great; it’s well worth having a wander through. I would recommend it, it’s very restful.

6) If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
[laughing] I think you’d have trouble getting any well-known actor to play the part of Paul Thomas, because my life hasn’t really been the stuff of big-budget movies. The only way I could answer that question is to say I’ve often been told I look like James Woods... he was a charming sleazebag in Casino, I think that’s the last time I can remember seeing him in a movie.

7) Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Um, yeah, that’s tricky. I guess your first book is always a big event in your life, but of the others... I would probably say WORK IN PROGRESS because that’s the book I most enjoy picking up and reading a few pages of – and thinking that I achieved what I was trying to do with that. That’s probably the one I would pick. Sorry it’s not one of the crime books.

8) What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Well, the thing with CHRISTMAS IN RAROTONGA, the genesis of the sports books is slightly different, because what happens is generally speaking the publisher goes to the subject, and says ‘we’d like you to do a book’, and then they go about finding a writer, and so it’s not like you’re pitching your own work, so to speak... But obviously the first time you see your name on a book it’s a bit of a thrill. My name was obviously a bit bigger on the cover of OLD SCHOOL TIE than it was on any of the sports books, for obvious reasons – because the athlete is the selling point, not the writer... I can’t imagine I let the occasion pass without opening a good bottle of wine.

9) What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I always remember on a Words on Wheels tour, somewhere down in Central Otago, there was a guy sitting in the front row with what was obviously a gigantic manuscript in a clear plastic folder, and the thrust of his questioning was resentment at his failure to get published, and an obvious belief – which he made no attempt whatsoever to conceal – that he could write the pants off the whole bunch of us who were sitting on stage. And there was just this palpable sense of burning resentment against anybody who’d ever been published. I often wondered what sort of manuscript, what his novel was about. UFOs seemed a popular choice when we discussed it afterwards. But yeah, that was something I remember.

With this guy, you felt he was a volcano waiting to explode, that the resentment had been building for some time... you do get a lot of questions from people, the implication there’s a magic formula, that there’s one step, they’re not sure what it is, but could you please tell them, because that’s the only thing between them and bestseller-dom. And they’re probably right – the trouble is the step is ‘luck’. And you can’t help them really with that.

Thank you Paul. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


Have you read any of the Ihaka novels? Or Paul Thomas's sports biographies? What do you think of Detective Ihaka as a character? Comments welcome.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Connelly reveals: Harry Bosch as an 11-year-old

When I interviewed Michael Connelly for a feature in the New Zealand Herald back in 2010, he said that THE LAST COYOTE, his fourth novel, was his favourite amongst his own books, for a number of reasons:

"One is that in my life it was the first book I wrote as a full-time novelist, I was able in the months before I started writing it to retire from journalism, and so the year I was writing THE LAST COYOTE I was just amazed that I was a full-time novelist, and I kind of revelled in that. And I also saw, I could quite clearly see, that the writing had improved because it was my only focus, and I wasn't writing at night and then going to the newspaper during the day. It had my undivided attention and I could see improvements almost every day. That was very exciting to me. And the last part was that it’s the case of Harry’s life, it’s about his mother, and so it’s very meaningful on a character level to write that story. Obviously it was my fourth book and I had no idea that Harry Bosch would be around for at least another 15 years, but I was getting the idea that he had some longevity, and that I was going to be writing more about him. And to write more about him I had to kind of … this is a kind of foundation story of what he’s about."

I remembered that final reason, about the book being the case of Harry's life, when I saw today that Connelly has now shared an 'unpublished chapter' from the novel, which explains even more about one of contemporary crime fictions most intriguing and layered characters, Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch.

The lost chapter takes us back to 1961 when Harry is 11 years old. Says Connelly on his website, "It was originally written as the prologue to the book. It takes place at the youth hall where an 11-year-old Harry was placed after he was removed from his mother’s custody because she was deemed an unfit mother."

The scene, as Connelly explains, was the last time Harry ever saw his mother, and this fuelled things about him, and the emotion about the case in THE LAST COYOTE. Later this was cut from the published version so readers could jump straight into the present day action, with mentions of the past woven into the book.

So Bosch fans, here is a chance to get more of an insight into LA's finest detective.

You can read the lost chapter here.