Crime, Thriller and Mystery – Highs and Lows.
My books of the year are already out there (apologies to some very good books published in December that missed the deadline). You can catch them here.
But the year wasn’t just about the best books so here’s a few thoughts, not in any particular order, on some of the things that impacted on my year of reading:
1. RIP: Sadly, if naturally, every year we lose some of the writers who shape our reading. There are many writers I will miss but none more so than Andrea Camilleri. His death earlier this year was a blow to all international crime fans. Two greats of the spy fiction world, Anthony Price and Charles McCarry, also died this year. Although none of the following are crime writers they thoroughly deserve to be remembered: Toni Morrison, Andrea Newman, Ernest J Gaines, A. Alvarez, Clive James, Jonathan Miller, Herman Wouk, and Diane Athill.
2. For the first time this year I went to a writing festival, two actually, CrimeFest in Bristol in May and the inaugural Capital Crime Festival in London in September. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I can tell you I had a lot of fun, learned a lot and met some great people. I would recommend both to any crime fiction fan who wants to get a chance not only to hear from their favourite authors in conversation with other writers but to chat to them as well. I also went to the London Book Fair in March, which in truth is more of an insider event, but I got a chance to meet several publishers and interview one of my favourite crime writers German author Simone Buchholz, my first face-to-face interview.
3. This was a good year for interviews: Sam Eastland, Joe Thomas, Leye Adenle, and Shona MacLean, and, of course, Simone Buchholz. By the time this piece is published I will have interviewed Adam Hamdy about his new high-octane thriller Black 13, and early next year I will interview Lars Iyer about his comic novel Nietzsche and the Burbs, Steph Cha about her much anticipated novel Your House Will Pay, reporter turned novelist Will Schindler about his debut The Burning Men, and Larry Loftis about his book on Odette Sansom, Codename: Lise.
4. I discovered several publishers, not new, but unfamiliar to me until this year this year. Two deserving a mention are Brash Books, who introduced me to some forgotten classics, novels by Ralph Dennis and Jimmy Sangster, and Rat’s Tales, who brought out three novels by new author Rod Humphris.
5. Publishers I already have working relationships with came through big time, plenty of great titles (not all crime): Gallic Books – Little by Edward Carey, Bitter Lemon Press – Grab a Snake by the Tail by Leonardo Padura, Pushkin Press – Red Dog by Willem Anker, Fitzcarraldo Editions – It Gets Me Home by Ian Penman, MacLehose (Quercus) – The Capital by Robert Menasse, Stark House Press – The Living End by Frank Kane, Melville House – The Great Eastern by Howard Rodman, Orenda – The Home by Sarah Stovell, Europa Editions – The Measure of a Man by Marco Malvaldi, and Faber and Faber – The Elegant Lie by Sam Eastland. Congratulations to No Exit Press who won the CWA Dagger Best Crime and Mystery Publisher 2019.
6. Three stunning reprints that are just as relevant, powerful and important today: In The Cut by Susanne Moore (W&N), The Paris Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe (Pushkin Press), and The Bishop’s Bedroom Piero Chiara (New Vessel Press), review to be published soon.
7. Some cracking reads just too late to make the best of the year list: Nothing Important Happened Today Will Carver (Orenda), Silver Chris Hammer (Wildfire), and Mister Wolf Chris Petit (Simon & Schuster). Reviews to come.
8. Disappointment of the year: Cari Mora by Thomas Harris (William Heinemann, Penguin) after the Hannibal Lecter series this was a massive let down – a bit ordinary, a bit dated.
9. Favourite prize winners: Hallie Rubenhold won the Ballie Gifford Prize last month for her history of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper, focusing on the women’s story not the killer’s, while Olga Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature 2018 awarded 2019.
10. Crime Day 11/7: In July a number of spectacularly good crime thrillers came out at the same time, I reviewed eight novels that day for NB Magazine. It was a mammoth effort but all of these books are worth reading. The Heart Keeper Alex Dahl (Head of Zeus), The Most Difficult Thing Charlotte Philby (Borough Press), The Sleepwalker Joseph Knox (Doubleday), The Dance of Death Oliver Bottini and Sanctuary Luca D’Andrea (MacLehose), The Bear Pit SG MacLean (Quercus), The Last Stage Louise Voss and The Closer I Get Paul Burston (Orenda).