Wednesday, February 6, 2013
In a huge coup for the organisers of the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which just seems to go from strength to strength each year, the 2013 slate will see a rare appearance from the man Ian Rankin and many others credit as an inspiration for the rise and rise of contemporary 'Tartan Noir': acclaimed Scottish poet and novelist William McIlvanney.
McIlvanney has scooped several of the most prestigious awards in British writing over a long career, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for his debut, REMEDY IS NONE, the Whitbread Novel Award (now known as the Costa Book Awards), the Saltire Scottish Society Book of the Year Award, and a BAFTA for a screen adaptation of a short story.
Of particular note for crime fiction fans, McIlvanney also scooped two CWA Silver Daggers, for his novels starring unconventional Glaswegian detective Jack Laidlaw. The first in the short series, LAIDLAW (1977) is widely regarded as the first Tartan Noir novel, and involved the detective immersing himself in the darker side of his city in order to catch a brutal sex attacker. Ian Rankin is often praised for his evocation of the changing nature of Edinburgh in his Rebus novels, and McIlvanney lead the way on that front, delving into the seamy side of 1970-1980s Glasgow in his Laidlaw novels.
Several prominent Scottish authors, from Rankin to Val McDermid and Denise Mina to Irvine Welsh, all list McIlvanney as an influence. Down here in New Zealand we also have a link to McIlvanney, with his son Liam, himself the author of a terrific, layered and literary thriller, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN, teaching at the University of Otago (incidentally, keep an eye out for Liam McIlvanney's second thriller, which I understand is on the near horizon - watch this space).
William McIlvanney may not be quite as well-known amongst broader crime fiction audiences worldwide as other 'big names' that have attended Harrogate over the past decade, but he is a true icon of the genre, and the unique opportunity to see him in conversation with Ian Rankin "to talk about his life, work and influence on crime fiction" at this year's festival will be quite a treat for festival-goers.
In associated good news, LAIDLAW (1977), THE PAPERS OF TONY VEITCH (1983), and STRANGE LOYALTIES (1991) will be republished this year, giving new readers a chance "to catch up on the novels that inspired a genre". For more information on this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, including this event and other authors already confirmed for the 2013 line-up, see here.
Have you read any of the Laidlaw novels? Do you like (re)discovering older authors from the 1970s-1980s?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
From a crime fiction perspective, for a relatively small store, Unity Books (Auckland) has a very good selection of international crime fiction. They don’t overwhelm their crime fiction section, which is in a prime position right near the entranceway and the cash registers, with stacks and stacks of the big name bestsellers; instead they have a pretty wide selection, especially given their space. On their shelves you will find everything from hardcover reprints of classic Raymond Chandler novels, to a plentiful selection of lesser-seen translated fiction (i.e. not just the Swedes, but many books from the likes of Camilleri, Boris Akunin, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, etc).
Especially for their size, they are a great, great store when it comes to getting your hands on some interesting crime fiction. Unfortunately, as I noted when I conducted a bookstore review late last year, this high standard and wide selection didn’t extend as much to New Zealand crime and thriller writers, which was a real shame.
Today at lunch I found myself browsing Unity Book’s shelves once again – looking to see whether something caught my eye for Dorte’s 2010 Global Reading Challenge. I was really only in need of South American crime fiction, but was, as always, looking wider anyway. It’s not like I need more books – my TBR pile is ridiculously large already, both in terms of recent/upcoming releases for review, and older titles and authors from New Zealand and overseas that I’d like to get around to at some point. But I always like the vibe of good bookstores, and you never know when you might find a gem or two. Incidentally, Unity Books is also in the middle of a fairly large sale of some of their older or excess stock – I picked up a handful of crime fiction titles a couple of weeks ago at very, very good prices, and then when I went in today noticed they had increased the discounts even further – they now have a 50 % off sale (that’s 50% off the already heavily reduced sale price), so some excellent books can be had for as little as NZ$4-6. So, along with the excellent crime section, I found myself browsing the sale tables. You never know what you may find.
And as is often the case with book-lovers like myself, even when you wander into a store with no set motivation to buy a book, or the thought you’ll ‘just maybe get one’, with a big sale on, things can quickly change. I ended up walking out of the store with eight books in tow. Oops.
In my defence, most of my purchases were translated crime fiction which I haven’t seen readily available elsewhere (that’s no slight on other very good NZ bookstores – remember, I haven’t visited you all), so I could at least partially justify it as helping with Dorte’s challenge, or at least improving the diversity of my personal collection (since I’d already finished off some of those continents) – which is a good thing. After all, since I want others overseas to try more New Zealand crime fiction, I should of course return the favour too. So, what did I get? Here’s the line-up:
- SOUTHWESTERLY WIND by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (Brazil);
- THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT by Tarquin Hall;
- STRANGE LOYALTIES and THE PAPERS OF TONY VEITCH by William McIlvanney (Two classic ‘Laidlaw’ novels from the Scottish literary master, and father of Liam);
- PLAYING FOR THRILLS by Wang Shuo (China);
- THE PROPHET MURDERS by Mehmet Murat Somer (Turkey);
- CINNAMON KISS by Walter Mosley (USA – has been on my ‘classic author - I need to read some of his books’ list for a while); and
- CONAN DOYLE by Andrew Lycett
And all for less than what it would normally cost two buy two books (or less than the cost of the latter book, a nice big hardcover biography, by itself), making my little spending spree even more bearable.
As a side note, when I was in the store a couple of weeks ago (I then picked up a copy of Neil Cross’s NATURAL HISTORY, amongst other books), I noticed that Unity Books seemed to have far more NZ crime fiction than when I’d reviewed them late last year. All four Paul Cleave books were available (THE KILLING HOUR was on the sale table, and the other three in the crime section), as were two of Vanda Symon’s books, Alix Bosco’s CUT & RUN, Liam McIlvanney’s ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN, multiple copies of Lindy Kelly’s BOLD BLOOD, three Neil Cross titles, plenty of Ngaio Marsh (including her autobiography BLACK BEECH AND HONEYDEW), and some other Kiwi crime. I may have to re-review them.
As I was paying that time, I said to the lady behind the counter that they had a great crime section, and that it was also nice to see plenty of Kiwi crime books there too. And you know what she said? “Yeah, I saw a while ago that we’d got a mention on some obscure blog, and they’d come in and done this undercover review and said we hardly had any New Zealand crime writers, so I got some more in.”
It was a strange moment. Not wanting to bust my ‘cover’ (haha), I just thanked her for the books, and walked out, with a smile on my face.