Thursday, April 23, 2015

Google celebrates Dame Ngaio

A nice surprise when I did a Google search this afternoon, while travelling. A very crime writing-centric 'doodle' appeared... quite cool. Even cooler when I discovered that it was in fact a 'Google Doodle' celebrating our own Dame Ngaio Marsh, who would have turned 120 years old today. On Google itself the image is a .gif, so the hatted-detective character moves about in the scene (investigating) and the lady writer types away, plotting what is going on with the crime...

EDIT: I later found out that this Google Doodle was especially done for New Zealand, and would appear only on New Zealand Google searches. Still, very cool to see Google celebrate Dame Ngaio in this way. You can read a little more at Fairfax's technology news site here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who Killed Alix Bosco?

Four years ago, the New Zealand literary world was abuzz with rumours of who was behind the crime writing pseudonym 'Alix Bosco'. According to the author bio on CUT & RUN, which has been published to great acclaim and went on to win the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award in 2010, and the follow-up SLAUGHTER FALLS, Alix Bosco was "a successful writer in other media". 

Speculation was rife - was it a famed literary author who'd chosen to use a different name while delving into the crime genre? Or a well-known journalist or broadcaster dipping into fiction? 

Having read both books, my best guess was that it was a screenwriter, and my money at the time was on Rachel Lang - one half of the team behind Outrageous Fortune. Not just for the style and polish of the writing, and the strong female protagonist, but that Robyn Malcolm, star of Outrageous Fortune, had provided a book blurb and then later was tabbed to play Anna Markunas in a planned TV adaptation. Val McDermid was also sure it was a female writer, having been enthralled by the strong female narrator in CUT & RUN. So I was in good company at least... 

It turns out I was wrong. In August 2014, junior All Black turned playwright and screenwriter Greg McGee 'came out' as Alix Bosco in a large feature in the Sunday Star-Times. He was one of the people that was rumoured to be Bosco (one anonymous commentator vociferously pushed him as the man behind the pseudonym on this very blog), but it still came as a surprise to many. Kim Knight of the Sunday Star-Times wrote a very fine feature, and it was great to see the splash local crime writing made - noted on the cover of the entire edition, taking the cover of the Culture supplement, then a large spread too. 

Back in New Zealand for a visit, I came across this article in my storage locker. I also caught up with McGee for the first time in three years on Thursday evening. He's gone on to other successes since, including  writing All Blacks captain Richie McCaw's phenomenal biography, and has a sweeping epic drama novel coming out later this year. Hopefully though, one day soon, he will turn his talents back to another story starring Anna Markunas. She was a terrific character that many people would like to see again. 

You can read the Sunday Star-Times feature on the reveal of Alix Bosco, which includes intriguing insights into McGee's very valid reasons for the pseudonym, here

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson

SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson (Orenda Books, 2015)

Reviewed by Grant Nicol

Ari Thór has had a little trouble nailing down exactly what it is he wants to do with his life up until now. He has dropped out of theological studies and trained to become a police officer instead. When he’s offered a job as the new copper on the beat in Siglufjörður in the lonely north of the country, a place once known for its vast herring stocks but little else, he jumps at the opportunity without discussing it first with his girlfriend Kristín even though he will be forced to leave her behind in Reykjavík. She is none too pleased with his lack of consultation but has little choice but to accept his decision.

Upon arriving in Siglufjörður Ari Thór finds that he likes his new boss Tómas well enough but struggles to fit in with the rest of the small isolated community and is worried that nothing of any interest will ever happen in such a tiny place. Has he made the wrong decision to leave Reykjavík behind and will it cost him his relationship with Kristín? Only time will tell. To add to his confusion he meets Ugla, a pretty girl from the west who also knows the difficulties of being an outsider in such a close-knit town. The two of them quickly become close and his guilty conscious plays havoc with his already confused mind.

When Ugla first moved to Siglufjörður she befriended retired author Hrólfur Kristjánsson and when Hrólfur dies in what appears to be a drunken accident at the local theatre Ari Thór finds that there might just be more to this sleepy little hamlet than he thought. Add to the mix a late night intruder at Ari Thór’s new house and a snow angel found in a pool of her own blood and there could even be too much action for him to deal with altogether.

Ragnar Jónasson has translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic and is an obvious devotee of the classic mystery structure. Snowblind’s twists and turns will keep the reader captivated until the final reveal and the setting of his hometown of Siglufjörður gives the story the feeling of a locked room mystery especially when an avalanche blocks the only road in or out of town.

Ari Thór is a likeable guy with his heart in the right place and with enough impulsive decisions in him to make him thoroughly believable and Ragnar’s descriptions of the local weather and wilderness are as beautiful and engaging as any Icelandic author I have come across yet.

It is surely only a matter of time before Snowblind (translated quite brilliantly by UK crime author Quentin Bates) and the rest of Ragnar’s Dark Iceland series go on to take the Nordic Noir genre by storm. The rest of the world has been patiently waiting for a new author to emerge from Iceland and join the ranks of Indriðason and Sigurðardóttir and it appears that he is now here.

Snowblind is available in the UK through Orenda Books from the 20 April and as a paperback from the 15 June. 


Grant Nicol is a New Zealand crime writer who lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. You can follow him on Twitter @GrantNicol1. 


Thursday, April 16, 2015

NZ Crime Writing Event: Murder in the Library

The Ngaio Marsh Award, in association with the New Zealand Book Council, invites booklovers to a thrilling event featuring three talented local writers.

Crime fiction has evolved from puzzling whodunits to the modern social novel. But how do writers balance insights into issues – like the corruption that speckles human history – with delivering page-turning entertainment?

Ben Atkins, Dinah Holman, and Ben Sanders discuss how they explore real-life themes via fictional tales, the life of an author, and why they love crime fiction. Craig Sisterson directs traffic and provides spoiler warnings.

WHEN:         Wednesday, 6 May 2015
WHERE:       Takapuna Library, 9 The Strand
WHEN:         6pm for light refreshments, 6.30pm panel discussion

Entry:           $5 public, $3 for Friends of the Library
RSVP:            Helen Woodhouse, (09) 890 4903 or 

Ben Atkins’ DROWNING CITY has been hailed as an “extraordinary debut” (North & South) and “thoughtful, evocative, unsettling” (The Dominion Post).

Dinah Holman’s A HISTORY OF CRIME: THE SOUTHERN DOUBLE-CROSS is an “ingenious first novel” delving into Victorian-era New Zealand (Radio NZ)

Ben Sanders is a #1 New Zealand fiction bestseller whose upcoming thriller, AMERICAN BLOOD, has been optioned for film adaptation by Warner Bros. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Save the date: Murder in the Library

Do you like crime fiction and live near Auckland? Well then keep the evening of Wednesday 6 May free as there will be a great event happening at Takapuna Library, featuring three terrific local authors.

Ben Atkins (DROWNING CITY) and Dinah Holman (A HISTORY OF CRIME: THE SOUTHERN DOUBLE CROSS) have both been longlisted for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award. Ben, an Auckland University student, and Dinah, a heritage planning consultant, will be joined on a panel by #1 bestselling New Zealand crime writer Ben Sanders, whose upcoming thriller, AMERICAN BLOOD, has been optioned by Warner Bros to be made into a film starring Oscar-nominated Bradley Cooper.

These three North Shore writers will be talking about their books, crime writing and social commentary, delving into history, what it's like being an author in New Zealand, and much more.

More details will follow soon, including about other Murder in the Library events elsewhere around the country (and even in Europe). But for now, if you're near Auckland, save the date for this one!

Questions and comments welcome.