Category Archives: Crime

Barnaby and the new Stephen Booth

It would have been Mother-of-witch’s 90th birthday today. It’s not something I go round thinking about, but I happened to notice the date and I realised it was an ‘even’ year. The neighbour downstairs from the temporary Bookwitch Towers celebrated his 99th yesterday and I stood in the window and looked at the cake from a distance.

I suppose it put me in a celebratory, cake-y kind of mood.

No time to bake right now, but there is nothing wrong with offering a photo of Stephen Booth’s cat Barnaby. Apparently fans object if Stephen doesn’t have a new picture of Barnaby in every newsletter. It’s understandable. What’s a new book, when you can look at a cat?

Barnaby

I admire Stephen for managing to get Barnaby to pose with the new book like this. (Between you and me I reckon Barnaby feels tricked. It wasn’t meant to happen like this.)

And as it’s a birthday, how about you try and win a book? Or something else?

“There are lots of prizes on offer this month, including several signed hardback 1st editions of the 13th Cooper & Fry novel ALREADY DEAD, signed copies of standalone TOP HARD, and a number of ALREADY DEAD mugs, notebooks and key rings, along with lots of Stephen Booth bookmarks and pens. Some of these could be winging your way, if you can answer the question below correctly:

What is the name of the stately home owned by Earl Manby in THE CORPSE BRIDGE?

Just send your answer in an email with the subject ‘Newsletter competition’ to newsletter@stephen-booth.com”

 

The actual book

So, we visited Son the other day. He wanted someone to cart his stuff away from his old office, and to be driven home from IKEA. (Not at the same time. Obviously.) He and Dodo also had free pizza they needed me and the Resident IT Consultant to eat for them. So we did.

What’s more, Son had just taken delivery of a box of books (that should have been me), and we were all pretty excited to see them. It was a first for all of us, in various ways.

Here it is, the fruit of months of backbreaking translating. (He could have used more finesse when ripping open the box, but other than that…)

Andreas Norman, Into A Raging Blaze

Andreas Norman, Into A Raging Blaze

Andreas Norman, Into A Raging Blaze(To win a copy of the book, try here.)

And there is an audiobook, read by Maggie Mash, being recorded by White House Sound Ltd.

 

Al Capone Does My Homework

Gennifer Choldenko covers a lot in the third outing for Al Capone, in her trilogy set on Alcatraz in the 1930s. To begin with, there’s a terrific children’s novel. Then there’s the autism aspect, which she handles so well, fitting it neatly into the plot. Also some American history, as well as showing us the community spirit of people living close together in such an unusual place, with a bit of crime and lots of excitement added.

Not that Mr Capone enters centre stage, or anything. He just hovers in the background, somehow colouring much of what goes on at Alcatraz prison.

The lovely Moose is 13 now, and his Dad has been made Assistant Warden. This causes lots of trouble, with jealousies among other prison guards, and difficulties with the cons. Then there is Moose’s sister Natalie, who is 16 and is autistic. Her family are trying to teach her to make eye contact with people.

Attacks on people, arson, gambling and counter-feiting fill this book on childhood in times gone by, and exciting though this is, what matters is the friendships, the solidarity and the hard work it means to have Natalie in your family. Moose does so much, and still feels he is failing. He’s also falling in love, which is both easy and hard in such a small place. ‘Being locked in a shed with a girl you once kissed and your best friend who happens to be a girl is not exactly relaxing.’

Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Homework

I know Gennifer has done a lot of research, because she says so in her notes. But it only shows in how natural the whole story feels. You end up thinking you’re there on Alcatraz, in 1930s America. I’m sorry the trilogy has come to an end, but I have enjoyed every minute of all three books. Credit to new publisher Hot Key Books for taking over, and for keeping the cover art – by Melvyn Evans – in the style we’d learned to love.

 

Meeting the next big thing?

You know when there is a train strike and you end up with two hours to kill in Malmö? That’s what happened to Daughter and me yesterday. And me being me I had emailed the next big name in Scandi thrillers to come and meet us to while away the time.* This is him.

Andreas Norman

Andreas Norman is far too diplomatic to say he couldn’t, so suggested we meet at Starbucks (did you know they have about three Starbucks in Sweden and that makes them special and unique? It was nice…) at the station. After all, he had to have lunch somewhere. Might as well be with us. (He wasn’t quite as much of an old fogey as Daughter had been visualising.)

We arrived early, after saying we’d be late, so had time to case the joint and to buy drinks. This dealt with the possible embarrassment of deciding who would pay for what. (They are very fair-minded in Sweden.) Andreas bought a difficult-to-eat-while-you-talk sandwich, but I have promised not to publish any photos of him stuffing himself.

Starbucks lunch

I’d asked for twenty minutes and kept him talking for an hour. Because it was so nice to sit there and chat. It will morph into a proper interview, given enough time. Wrong language, of course, so I will have to see about a translation. (That’s what got me into this in the first place.**)

Once he’d eaten and I’d stopped asking questions, Andreas politely inquired when our train was, so we picked up our suitcases and went to look for a way to cross That Bridge. (No dead bodies.)

*I didn’t really ask him to come and help pass the time. I had requested an interview in a reasonably normal way.

**I need to declare an interest here. Andreas Norman’s debut thriller – Into A Raging Blaze – which is published by Quercus next month, has been translated by Son of Bookwitch. That’s not why I like it. It’s purely the way I was introduced to the book, which makes for a marvellous read. After Monday’s interview, I also reckon I understand better why I like it. And I think you will, too. Like it, I mean.

Bloody Scotland 2014 programme

Am I allowed to have a favourite? OK, in that case I must admit I am really looking forward to hearing Sophie Hannah talk about ‘becoming’ Agatha Christie, writing the new Poirot.

The programme for this year’s Bloody Scotland – on my own home ground – is out and ready for your perusal, and for buying tickets. It’s another good one. Perhaps not filled with the best selling best sellers, but then that’s not what I feel Bloody Scotland should be about. It should be Scottish crime, and perhaps a little something else on the side. Like Sophie Hannah.

They are rolling out Ian Rankin again. Can’t have him every year – although, why not? – but I’m glad he’s back. My new ‘neighbour’ Craig Robertson is obviously doing his bit, and so is sheep farmer James Oswald, who debuted so well last year by pretending to be Eoin Colfer. He will have had his fourth McLean novel published by the time September arrives. (Slow down!) James will appear with Alexandra Sokoloff and Gordon Brown. Probably not that Gordon Brown, but the other one.

Well, you can read for yourself. You don’t need me to list the whole weekend. They have a new hotel venue in the Hotel Colessio, which isn’t even open yet (and I’d not heard of it). Otherwise they are mostly in the Albert Halls, and at the  Stirling Highland Hotel, when they’re not making crime writers play football against each other. I mean, honestly! (Scotland will win.)

There will be a surprise cinema event at the Old Town Jail (don’t go, whatever you do! They get up to funny stuff in that jail…), as well as the traditional dinner where you eat with people who live off crime.

Sounds like an OK kind of weekend, actually.

Food, glorious food

How can anyone not love the food in the Famous Five books? I just don’t get it.

I obviously liked the children and I liked their adventures, but I’m pretty sure I rated their food above everything else. Oh how they ate! Lots of it, all the time. And it sounded so tasty, too.

The food seems to be one of the things people have to point out as a negative aspect of Enid Blyton’s books. That, and the class distinctions between the children and the baddies. But the class stuff was lost in translation. We didn’t do class (I won’t say ‘at all’ but not like that, so it wasn’t noticeable). Hence we didn’t see it.

My best friend during the Blyton years kept saying ‘but they eat all the time.’ She enjoyed the books, but clearly felt the food got in the way slightly.

I thought the books were so truly wonderful it didn’t even occur to me to apply any literary analysis. Not that I could have, even if I’d known about such things.

They wake up in the morning and come down to (that phrase, ‘come down to,’ is so wow, in itself) a cooked breakfast, provided by the mother/aunt. And if they stayed in (hah) there was lunch and tea and dinner. Cake for tea, and puddings. What’s not to like?

There was food in the larder. You could help yourself.

If they went out on adventures they made sure to pack all sorts of goodies. Heaven for a fat little reader. It seemed to be allowed. I suppose they ran so fast chasing baddies that they used up the calories.

Ice cream. Sweets. Crisps, probably.

They led charmed lives. They really did.

(The only time I came anywhere close to this state, was when visiting my pen friend in Surrey for two weeks. We watched television in the afternoon – an impossibility in Sweden – and her mother brought us freshly made cake every day. It was probably a blessing it was for a fortnight only.)

Stealing and borrowing

Some people put it better than others. That’s why I am borrowing someone else’s words to talk about stealing. Simply because they said it so well.

First it was Nicola Morgan who discovered that ‘pirates’ were offering her ebooks online. She has worked hard to bring them out, so wasn’t terribly pleased to find that people were that keen to avoid paying the mere £2 she’s asking for her books.

Nicola reckons ‘pirate’ sounds much nicer than ‘scummy thief’ and that it’s time we stop thinking of these book thieves as rather loveable pirates. She’s right.

Then came Joanne Harris who discovered her fans tweeting happily about how and where to best steal her books. Except if you use the word download it sounds rather better to those who do it.

She wrote a great blog post about it, and she doesn’t just mention her own – lack of – income, but that of everyone else in the book business, who will not have the money to feed their families or pay the bills.

It’s worth noting, too, that this is the way to lose the publishing business, and anything else connected with it, like libraries. Which is just as well, really, as there will be no books written, that could be published, or that might be borrowed from your local library.

For free.