International Crime Month

Coming June 2014

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For International Crime Month 2014, Melville House is proud to bring you two noir classics from across the pond.

NAZIS IN THE METRO by Didier Daeninckx is a French cult favorite, the story of one detective’s plunge into the thick political shadows of Paris.

A 78-year-old man is attacked in the basement of an apartment building in the south of Paris, brutally beaten and left for dead. Reading the story in the newspaper the next morning, Gabriel Lecouvreur—AKA private detective Le Poulpe—recognizes the victim’s name as that of a once-gifted and controversial author, Andre Sloga, who had slipped into obscurity. It looks like Sloga went looking into the wrong corners, and now Le Poulpe has no choice but to follow.

We’re also releasing TRAITORS TO ALL by Giorgio Scerbanenco, the author rightfully known as The Godfather of Italian Noir. Set in 1960’s Milan, this is swinging, glamorous noir—Chandler meets Armani. Disbarred doctor Lamberti runs afoul of the city’s underbelly as he digs up secrets about fascist collaboration better left buried.

Pre-order these books from your favorite bookseller now, or find these and other International Crime Month books everywhere this spring.

Filed under international crime month noir mystery giorgio scerbanenco dider daeninckx nazis in the netro traitors to all

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Ian Rankin explains why crime fiction flourishes in less troubled times

Recently, the UK Crime Writers’ Association polled its members, asking among other things for their favourite authors and favourite crime novels. I chose Bleak House in the latter category, and the Swedish husband and wife authors Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall in the former. So, though I’m not normally prone to stage fright, I was a bag of nerves one day in August when I arrived at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to interview Sjowall. She and Wahloo all but invented a type of crime novel that we now take for granted.

Over the course of 10 books, we watch their careful dissection of modern, urban society as they use their taciturn detective Martin Beck to investigate not just a series of ingenious crimes, but the changes taking place in Swedish life. While the first of the books, Roseanna, was published in 1965, like the rest of the series it feels very modern, in part because the authors do not shy away from describing a brutal murder, but also due to the precise, stripped-back prose. As the crime writer Henning Mankell has said, Sjowall and Wahloo “build up a trust in their readers by presenting meticulous and credible descriptions of various institutions and structures within Swedish society”, their novels forming “the framework for stories containing social criticism”.

Mankell is, of course, one of Sjowall and Wahloo’s most eminent legatees. The first of his Kurt Wallander novels, Faceless Killers, published in Sweden in 1991, deals with immigration and xenophobia, subjects close to the thematic hearts of his literary predecessors. Wahloo was a left-wing journalist who had been deported from Franco’s Spain in 1957, while the young Mankell took part in protests against apartheid and the Vietnam War — and would later be deported from Israel after his arrest for trying to break that country’s blockade of Gaza.

In Edinburgh, in front of a sellout audience of 600, I asked Sjowall about the apparent ubiquity of Scandinavian crime fiction. Go into any good bookshop and you will find Mankell and Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. Maybe even Hakan Nesser, Arnaldur Indridason, Karin Fossum, Anne Holt and Liza Marklund. Sjowall felt the game was almost up, and readers and publishers would soon look elsewhere for the next big thing. She seemed, to me, to be suggesting that quantity was fast outstripping quality.

What the best Nordic crime fiction still does, however, is show the outside world that the notion of these countries and cultures as liberalised, forward-thinking idylls is a myth. The crime novel in general rubs away at the veneer of polite society to show that our baser nature is only ever just below the surface — something authors have always known, be they the Robert Louis Stevenson of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or the Charles Dickens of Bleak House.

It was as a fan of her work that I was nervous about meeting Sjowall, but she was engaging, charming and particularly self-effacing when it came to the impact of the Martin Beck novels, both on readers around the world and on generations of authors. She was also candid when I asked why the name Marx (as in Karl) had been chosen as the closing word in the series. Wahloo, a Marxist, had wanted to make serious political points with the Beck novels. There is great empathy when husband and wife are writing about police officers, but also strong and sustained criticism regarding the way policing shifted in Sweden throughout the period, becoming more militaristic and subjective.

This same sense of justice and injustice (and the unjustness of some forms of justice) informs Bleak House. Dickens seems to be saying that society inherits the crime it merits. As the cogs of the Jarndyce legal case grind inexorably on, their teeth snag more and more victims, while the lawyer Tulkinghorn preys upon the fear of his wealthy clients that their hidden desires and sins will come to light. Dickens depicts a society rotting from the top down, one in which those not insulated by wealth, patronage and privilege will suffer the most.

Though the book is not always thought of as a crime novel, it patently is one, and even features one of the earliest fictional police detectives, the redoubtable Inspector Bucket. Dickens knew that a police officer offers something almost unique as a fictional character, having the ability to glide between the different strata of society, showing both how crime affects those strata but also how the layers themselves are all connected.

Crime fiction remains popular because it offers a certain comfort to its readers: a form of justice is usually seen to be done. The guilty are (mostly) punished, in one way or another. Yet between the first and last pages of the crime novel, we have been entertained, thrilled and made to think, because the central question of crime fiction remains both simple and complex: why do human beings continue to do bad things to each other? It is a theme explored in Stevenson and Dickens, and it continues to be asked by today’s practitioners.

The current crop of Scandinavian authors marries the societal concerns of Sjowall and Wahloo to the narrative tropes of the Hollywood thriller, producing tense widescreen tales that scare us with recurring versions of the bogeyman while telling us something of contemporary urban life. Yet if Sjowall is right, and there are diminishing returns from Scandinavian crime now, where will readers look next?

A month after that Edinburgh meeting I found myself at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, discussing crime fiction and thrillers with the South African authors Deon Meyer, Margie Orford, Lauren Beukes and Angela Makholwa, and the Kenyan author Mukoma Wa Ngugi. It has been evident for some time that there is a real buzz about African writing in general, and, with the end of apartheid, South African crimewriting has begun to flourish.

Meyer’s cop Benny Griessel works in a country in which old enmities play out on a modern stage populated by very modern problems. Likewise, Orford’s criminal profiler Clare Hart allows the author to investigate corruption and organised crime in and around Cape Town. The novelist Mike Nicol, meantime, explores a murky world of corrupt ex-cops and politicians in his novel Of Cops & Robbers. As far back as 1971, the South African-born crime writer James McClure was writing books set in the apartheid era, but only after leaving the country of his birth to live in Britain.

When a society is in chaos, or when its rulers are feared, crime fiction cannot flourish, but it comes into its own once democracy is restored or the ballot box begins to replace the bullet and the bomb. Mukoma Wa Ngugi probably knows this better than most. He is the son of the renowned author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, who was arrested in 1977 following publication of a novel critical of the authorities and who subsequently was forced into exile after learning of a plot to execute him. Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s own crime novels — Black Star Nairobi and Nairobi Heat — explore ethnic tensions in contemporary Kenya, and include domestic terrorism, genocide and government corruption, themes also dealt with in Richard Crompton’s Nairobi-based political thriller The Honey Guide.

There are interesting parallels here with Ireland. During the Troubles, crime fiction seemed thin on the ground. There was Ken Bruen in the south, with his tales of sin and redemption, and Colin Bateman in the north, casting a beady satirical eye over both sides in the conflict. The situation has now changed, and it seems that almost every week another exciting voice emerges: Declan Burke, Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville, Tana French, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway and Julie Parsons, to name a few.

Not all these authors use the Troubles as the background to their books — French’s terrific Broken Harbour, for example, uses the recent financial crash in Ireland to subtle but telling effect, while Neville’s Ratlines digs back further in looking at Ireland’s ties to Nazi “asylum seekers” in the aftermath of the Second World War. But Neville’s The Twelve had a guilt-ridden IRA assassin at its centre, and McKinty’s creation, Sean Duffy, is a Catholic RUC officer patrolling the divided and bitter Belfast of the 1980s.

In the book Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century, edited by Declan Burke, the novelist John Connolly speculates that one reason for the rise of Irish crime fiction is the public’s appetite for stories that reflect the society most of them see themselves as living in. With a measure of political stability in place, Irish writing is free to speculate about where north and south may be headed, and how things came to happen as they did — not at all unlike the role of crime fiction in some modern African countries.

My trip to Cape Town meant I missed Bloody Scotland, an annual festival of Scottish and international crime fiction. The audiences and range of participants in Stirling were again proof of the vibrancy and popularity of home-grown writing. The statistics tell us rates of serious crime are falling in Britain, yet our appetite for crime fiction seems greater than ever, and it’s going global, as a new generation of authors in widely dispersed continents and cultures finds that the genre allows them to explore and discuss the world around them. The health of crime fiction is a sign of the return to some kind of normality in these regions and also allows commentary on past wrongdoings (often at an executive level) as well as current concerns.

It may be, of course, that some other country or culture, at present unknown to me or underrepresented on the international bestseller lists, is about to produce the Next Big Thing mooted by Sjowall. India or China? Crime fiction, after all, is famous for its shock reveals — and almost always there is a twist in the tail.

*Originally published by The Sunday Times on October 27th, 2013
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/culture/books/fiction/article1330606.ece

Filed under crime fiction noir ian rankin international crime

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Grove Atlantic, Inc. is pleased to announce its featured titles for International Crime Month 2014: The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham (June 2014) and Bred in the Bone by Christohper Brookmyre (May 2014). A #1-bestselling author in the UK, Billingham has been called “one of the most consistently entertaining, insightful crime writers working today” by Gillian Flynn. The Bones Beneath is the latest novel in his celebrated Tom Thorne series. Bred in the Bone, the third installment in Brookmyre’s gritty Glasgow-based series, starts off with the murder of a big-time Scottish gangster, leading to unexpected consequences for the series’ leading ladies: P.I. Jasmine Sharp and Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod.

Filed under International Crime Month Mark Billingham Christopher Brookmyre Grove Atlantic Mystery

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 Europa Editions is excited to announce the focus titles for International Crime Month 2014: Laidlaw by William McIlvanney and Three Card Monte by Marco Malvaldi!  McIlvanney is credited with being the founder the Tartan Noir movement that includes authors such as Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, & Val McDermid, all of whom cite him as an influence and inspiration to their work. Three Card Monte is the second in the Bar Lume Series which follows Massimo the Barman and the four elderly amateur sleuths that inhabit his bar. The first in the series, Game for Five, will be released on November 5th 2013!

 Europa Editions is excited to announce the focus titles for International Crime Month 2014: Laidlaw by William McIlvanney and Three Card Monte by Marco Malvaldi!  McIlvanney is credited with being the founder the Tartan Noir movement that includes authors such as Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, & Val McDermid, all of whom cite him as an influence and inspiration to their work. Three Card Monte is the second in the Bar Lume Series which follows Massimo the Barman and the four elderly amateur sleuths that inhabit his bar. The first in the series, Game for Five, will be released on November 5th 2013!

Filed under International Crime Month Noir Mystery Books ICM Detective Tartan Europa

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International Crime Month 2013 is over but ICM14 is coming soon! Stay here for all updates on everything crime related from Europa Editions, Akashic Books, and Melville House!

(Pictured: Editor-in-Chief Michael Reynolds takes a much needed break as ICM13 wraps up)

International Crime Month 2013 is over but ICM14 is coming soon! Stay here for all updates on everything crime related from Europa Editions, Akashic Books, and Melville House!

(Pictured: Editor-in-Chief Michael Reynolds takes a much needed break as ICM13 wraps up)

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Grab the latest in international crime fiction from Melville House Books now! Brother Kemal by Jakob Arjounri is available today!

Grab the latest in international crime fiction from Melville House Books now! Brother Kemal by Jakob Arjounri is available today!

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Mondays Are Murder: “Lazy Gangsters” by Jen Kitses

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after the award-winning Noir Series by Akashic Books. Each story is an original one, and each allows them to offer a glimpse of cities not yet seen, neighborhoods or hidden corners not yet explored in previous volumes. Contributions to the Akashic Noir Series are bound by mood: the authors are challenged to capture the sometimes intangible moods of “noir” and of “place”. The stories run the gamut from darkly-toned literary glimpses to straight-up crime fiction, while similarly capturing the unique aura of the story’s location.

The model for the series has one further dimension: A 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Jen Kitses tells a tale of one new father’s miserable dinner hour. Read all about it here. Next week, Charles Parness brings us a story about the kid and the cat.