A Raven’s Eye View of CrimeFest 2015- with added hilarity…

bHaving posted an eminently sensible round-up of some of the highlights of CrimeFest 2015 at Crime Fiction Lover  including the terrific interview by Lee Child of Scandinavian crime legend Maj Sjowall, the announcement of a plethora of awards, and some fascinating debut novelists’ panels, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the more light-hearted moments to entertain you. I endeavoured to attend as many panels as possible to bring you some more highlights. Hope you enjoy…

#1. A large percentage of the Icelandic population believe in elves, and in precise statistical terms there are on average 1.5 murders a year. Yes, 1.5…. The elves are invariably convicted.

ONLINE REVIEWS: One panel was asked to bring along to their event, their favourite 1* review posted online. Inevitably “the book arrived late” or “the courier dumped it in my next door neighbour’s garden” featured, but my personal favourite was “I wouldn’t even give it to the charity shop”….

#2. One author revealed he has a ‘f**k radar’, to judge the potential response of the assembled throng to potential profanity….

GETTING PUBLISHED: There was a terrific selection of Fresh Blood panels, featuring debut authors, with an incredibly interesting collection of tales about the road to publication. Blood, sweat and tears (and more) featured heavily, but the general consensus was DON’T GIVE UP, the road may be difficult but the end result cannot be beaten, and you will not regret it. The fact that I’ve come back with a list of debut authors to read now is testament to this.

#3 It was possible during WW2 to steer a certain make of Russian tank with your feet resting them on another person’s shoulders. Bet not many of you knew that….but why would you?

THE MOST HILARIOUS PANEL: CFIwGa_WYAAjsMG Moderated by bon vivant crime and YA author Kevin Wignall, I had a feeling that this one would be full of laughs. Stepping bravely into the breach were A. K. Benedict, J. F. Penn, Oscar de Muriel Mark Roberts to talk about Things That Go Bump In The Night– the blending of crime with the supernatural. Peppered with probing questions such as ‘Do you have pets and what are their names?’ accrued from Wignall’s children’s events, and the left field responses particularly from the quirky Roberts, this panel quickly descended into comic chaos. Rest assured though, we did find out enough about the panellists’ passion for the supernatural to seek out their books, and a round of applause to them all for the entertainment!

#4. It is recommended to do one hour of yoga before your first CrimeFest appearance to calm your thoughts…(or even before attending one of Kevin Wignall’s panels- see above)

THE MOST CONTENTIOUS PANEL: There was an extremely feisty discussion at the Playing God With Your Characters panel comprising of Stav Sherez, Amanda Jennings, David Mark and Linda Regan, moderated by Christine Poulson. When discussing how your characters’ voices and actions dictate how they appear in the plot, we were taken on a strange flight of fancy about how the characters appeared to be real in one case with no control over them whatsoever, pitted against the more down to earth opinion that you control your characters, and use their characteristics to drive and inhabit the central plot. It got a little heated, until tactfully diffused by another member of the panel.  But we loved it. As did, I suspect, others on the panel too.

#4. You could be routinely called upon to hold the reins of a police horse while the officers nip into the venue to use the facilities…

FANGIRL MOMENTS: I’m sure that most attendees had a list of authors that they were bursting to meet, but equally to retain a certain decorum in the face of those that you particularly admire. No squealing. So, in this spirit, can I say a personal thank you to Anthony Quinn, Tom Callaghan, Grant Nicol, Thomas Mogford, Steve Cavanagh and William Shaw, amongst others, for their good-natured and friendly response at being cornered by me trying not to gush about how brilliant they all are. Thank you chaps! (Be sure to check out my reviews in the Reviews 2014/15 tabs).

#5. Crime authors drink..a lot…

HEARTWARMING MOMENTS: CFIdK0GWYAAG0jmIn the interview with Lee Child there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Maj Sjowall spoke so movingly about the loss of Per Wahloo, and how her writing could not continue without his presence in her life. Also the refreshing wide-eyed and humble response of Ragnar Jonasson at gaining the No. 1 spot in the Amazon book chart, during the festival, for his exceptional debut Snow Blind. It was a delight to witness, and congratulations. On a personal note, I would like to thank William Ryan (I tip my hat to you sir!) , David Mark, Quentin Bates (great curry!), Stav Sherez (have I met you?!), Simon Toyne, Steve Mosby and others for remembering me, and greeting me like an old friend, despite not having seen them all for a while. Likewise, the warm glow of meeting up with fellow bloggers old and new, made for an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable time. We rock! And finally, the hardiness of the Icelandic contingent in the face of a 4am flight from Bristol on Sunday morning, and lasting so long in the bar on Saturday night.

Lastly, a big thanks to the organizers, authors, publishers, bloggers and readers for one of the best CrimeFests to date. It was a blast, and if you’re a crime fiction fan and you’ve not been, you should. You’ll love it. Piqued your interest? Visit the CrimeFest website here

November Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

Seem to have taken my foot off the gas slightly in November with only half my average number of reviews *hangs head in shame*, but what I lacked in quantity this month is made up for by quality. Phew, think I got away with that- and I will endeavour to bring you as many reviews as possible in December which will be a busy month for me in my ‘proper job’!

Obviously November and December are extremely busy for those of us employed in bookshops, so on that note, I would send all my best wishes to all the dedicated bookstore employees around the world whose important job it is to put the perfect book, in the right hands, for the right person, which is so crucial to not only our customers, but to the long term survival of our beloved bookstores. Hope all you booksellers have an enjoyable and profitable run-up to the big day, and everyone else remember- there is no better present than a book…

Books reviewed on Raven Crime Reads

A globe-trotting selection this month from London, Liverpool and Manchester to Ireland via Washington, Los Angeles and Sicily. An incredibly different mix of styles and genres that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month…

Roger A. Price- By Their Rules

George Pelecanos– The Double (Spero Lucas 2)

Brian McGilloway- Hurt ( DS Lucy Black 2)

Andrea Camilleri- The Treasure Hunt (Inspector Montalbano 16)

Ed Chatterton– Down Among The Dead Men (DI Frank Keane 2)

Anthony Quinn– Border Angels

I also read:

Cold CouragePekka Hiltunen- Cold Courage-A young woman has been gruesomely killed, her body abandoned in a car boot in the middle of London as a warning to others. The police have no leads and no clues as to the identity of the victim.
It seems that Lia is the only one who refuses to let the murderer go unpunished.A chance encounter with the mysterious Mari gives Lia fresh hope. But just who is she? Can Lia trust her? Can Lia afford not to trust her?

A very engaging thriller as a young Finnish woman Lia, finds herself involved with a secret investigative organisation known as The Studio, spearheaded by the marvellously intriguing fellow Finn Mari. Mari, and her small band of seeming misfits, who all bring their special skills to investigating murder and corruption below the radar of the established forces of law and order, put me very much in mind of the protagonists in Arne Dahl’s Intercrime series, who all struggle with the accepted behaviours of normal life, but who are all extremely skilled in their professional lives and the seeking of justice. With its strong characterisation and gripping storyline, this is another welcome addition to the Scandinavian crime stable, and a great recommendation for fans of this genre. A good read.

And, I will mention this one, although not a crime book, as it’s more than worth bringing to everyone’s attention….

Product DetailsNick Cole- The Waste Land SagaForty years after the destruction of civilization…Man is reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. One man’s most prized possession is Hemingway’s classic ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ With the words of the novel echoing across the wasteland, a survivor of the Nuclear Holocaust journeys into the unknown to break a curse. What follows is an incredible tale of survival and endurance. One man must survive the desert wilderness and mankind gone savage to discover the truth of Hemingway’s classic tale of man versus nature.

I originally read the first of this trilogy, The Old Man and The Waste Land, as a Kindle debut, and with my love of the spare style of Cormac McCarthy and the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction generally, found that it ticked so many boxes for me. Delighted to see that all three books have been snapped up by a major publisher and published in this edition, which is well worth seeking out with its incredibly powerful characterisation and assured plotting. A vision of a desperate future, imbued with the strength found in the human spirit in the struggle for survival, and a quality of prose that I have seldom seen bettered in this particular genre. A remarkable trilogy.

Raven’s Book of the Month:

Anthony Quinn- Border Angels

Product DetailsThe border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a rugged place: cold, windswept, and dark. For the girls brought here from Eastern Europe, it may as well be a war zone. Put to work in a farmhouse brothel near Dunmore, the women are forced into a living hell. One night, a pimp takes one of them for a ride. She is just planning her escape when the car explodes. The next morning, there is nothing left but the pimp’s charred body and the woman’s footprints in the snow. As his forensics specialists turn their attention to the burned corpse, Police Inspector Celcius Daly obsesses over the footprints. Where exactly did the woman come from, and where did she go? It is the sort of question asked only in the borderlands—between North and South, between life and death.

Okay, I know you probably guessed that this would be the winner this month- my reputation as a lover of Irish crime fiction goes before me- but this was genuinely my favourite read of the month. A wonderfully understated detective as the main character, a plot that neatly encompassed all the pressing social and economic issues affecting Ireland today, and a perfectly paced storyline that kept my interest from first to last. What more does one need from a good crime read?

Anthony Quinn- Border Angels

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a rugged place: cold, windswept, and dark. For the girls brought here from Eastern Europe, it may as well be a war zone. Put to work in a farmhouse brothel near Dunmore, the women are forced into a living hell. One night, a pimp takes one of them for a ride. She is just planning her escape when the car explodes. The next morning, there is nothing left but the pimp’s charred body and the woman’s footprints in the snow.  As his forensics specialists turn their attention to the burned corpse, Police Inspector Celcius Daly obsesses over the footprints. Where exactly did the woman come from, and where did she go? It is the sort of question asked only in the borderlands—between North and South, between life and death.
Now, this was a great little find for me and another of those books that would have been a total travesty to escape Raven’s beady eye! With my undoubted passion for Irish crime fiction, I will swiftly add Anthony Quinn to a must-read list and a definite recommendation for fans of Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Declan Hughes et al and, when time allows, I will certainly be seeking out Quinn’s first in the Police Inspector Celcius Daly series, The Disappeared.
The plot of Border Angels revolves around the trafficking of young Eastern European women to work in the sex trade around the border areas of Ireland, and as the nefarious goings-on of one brothel is exposed by Daly and his team, one young woman is found to be involved in the suspicious death of a formerly successful Irish businessman. Quinn balances perfectly not only the setting and location of the initial investigation, drawing on the borderlands violent past in the heyday of The Troubles and its wild beauty, but also the very contemporary financial difficulties experienced by Ireland in the shadow of the collapse of certain sections of the economy. Add to this the burgeoning pressures and dangers of the less salubrious side of immigration prevalent in the country today, and the scene is set beautifully for not only an engrossing tale of murder and deceit, but for a very authentic picture of Ireland today.
Since reading Mark Sullivan’s Crocodile Tears earlier in the year, I was not expecting to encounter another new-to-me detective that would so strike a chord within this reader, but Police Inspector Celcius Daly fits the bill admirably. Daly, unlike many other fictional detectives, is defined by his ordinariness- a man of a certain age coming to terms with the break-up of his marriage, and setting the shortcomings of his personal life against his professionalism as a detective. I liked his character very much- not only his natural intuitive investigative skills, but the way that he was not immune to the temptations that this particular investigation throws into his path, making for a highly believable and appealing central protagonist.
It’s always a pleasure to discover a new author in your own preferred genre of crime fiction and so Anthony Quinn was to me. An engaging investigation,  good characterisation, and a seamless blending of the current face of Ireland’s social and economic make-up, enhanced the book even further. A good read.

Anthony Quinn was born in 1971 in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and after completing an English degree at Queen’s University followed various callings – social worker, counsellor, lecturer, organic market gardener, yoga teacher – before becoming a part-time journalist and full-time father. His short stories have been short-listed twice for a Hennessy/New Irish Writing Award. Disappeared, his first novel, has been nominated for a Strand Critics Award, as selected by book critics from the Washington Post, the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Guardian. He works as a reporter in the wilds of County Tyrone: http://anthonyquinnwriter.com/

Read an interview with Anthony Quinn on Border Angels at http://mysteriouspress.com/blog

(I downloaded Border Angels in Kindle format via www.netgalley.com)