The Top Five Best Martin Beck Novels To Give You A Glimpse Of The Founding-Father of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

martin beck

As I explore the upcoming novels of 2019 and the treats in store for the coming year I cannot help but noticing the changing trends in the literary market. A few years ago Scandinavian Crime Fiction was all the rage: today, British and American authors dominate the genre, with a number of Scandinavian authors among the few to be published in English and noted by the UK’s bookselling community.

This seems a shame, but I was heartened to see that some fondness for Scandinavian Crime Fiction remains, with fabled writers such as Jo Nesbo continuing to make their mark. As the New Year begins and the weather is freezing I have been re-reading some Scandinavian Crime Fiction classics, which bought me back to some of my old favourites.

Among these is the founding father of Scandinavian Crime Fiction, a Stockholm based detective named Martin Beck, the creation of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Their works spanned ten novels, each of which forms a chapter of his life. Dialogue plays a large part in each book, with whole chapters often dedicated to discussions between either Beck and his colleagues or his suspects. The way in which Beck interacts with the world around him and tries to find order in the chaos of the horrific crimes he investigates is similar to that of Maigret, Georges Simenon’s renowned Parisian inspector, and as such he’d make a great read for anyone who’s a fan of Simenon’s pipe-smoking, dour detective.

Additionally, for those who made it a New Years Resolution to check out a new series or revisit the beginnings of a genre, Martin Beck will be perfect. Whilst I appreciate that the ten novels are meant to be read in sequence, I personally very rarely follow this, and as such I feel some are simply better than others and worth reading first. If you like them you could always buy all ten and read them in sequence later!

5. Murder at the Savoy: The direct translation for this novel’s title is actually Police, Police, Mashed Potatoes!, which is part of the reason why I like it so much. It was also one of the first Martin Beck novels I ever read, and I am rather fond of it as a result. It is one of the more adventurous books in the series, following the investigation into the murder of a powerful businessman and ruthless arms dealer who is shot in a packed restaurant. With many enemies to sift through in order to find his killer Beck and his team have their work cut out, but the culprit turns out to be one of the least vicious and dastardly of all of the victim’s numerous unscrupulous associates, making for a great twist.

4. The Abominable Man: When a brutal and spiteful policeman is murdered in hospital Beck and his colleagues must explore the man’s past in order to understand how he came to be killed in such a violent and messy way. The ending is a great example of the authors’ chillingly brutal violent scenes, which are few and far between but are brilliantly choreographed to have the reader on tenterhooks throughout.

3. The Laughing Policeman: A classic case of a set of murders used to conceal one true killing, the novel centres around Beck’s hunt for the person who killed a colleague as part of a mass shooting. Having been shot on a bus Detective Åke Stenström’s death is treated as part of a mass shooting until Beck uncovers that he was in fact unofficially investigating a cold case in his spare time. An award-winning novel, this is one of the most renowned in the series and was even adapted into a comic book a few years ago.

2. Cop Killer: The return of a killer he previously convicted brings Martin Beck face-to-face with his past as he seeks to look beyond the obvious and find the true killer, whose identity is intrinsically linked to the murder of a policeman in an incident which is initially believed to be unrelated. A complicated yet less plodding mystery than others in the series, this is a great one to start with despite being 9th in the series.

1. Rosanna: The first book in the series is a great place to start, and in the Martin Beck series this has never been more true. Rosanna tells the story of a body pulled from a river and a desperate search, which ends up taking more than a year, for the perverted killer of a young American tourist who was taking a pleasure cruise through Sweden.

James Hayman Interview: “Writing was the one thing that came naturally to me”

james hayman

James Hayman, former advert writer turned bestselling author talks me through his books and how he draws on his previous role when writing them.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?

Before starting to write fiction I spent over thirty years writing advertising copy, mostly for television, for one of the world’s largest ad agencies. Writing TV advertising trains one to write fiction in a couple of ways. First, you have to write tightly. You can’t waste a word. After all, you can’t cram more than 120 words into a 60 second TV commercial but very often those words have to tell a complete story.

I’ve brought that discipline into my fiction. I try very hard never to use any words that don’t move the story ahead. Writing advertising is also a wonderful training ground for writing dialogue. Anyone who’s read any of my McCabe/Savage thrillers know that they I use a lot of dialogue to tell the tale. Finally, writing for television trains you to think cinematically. Capturing a scene as a camera would allows readers to actually “see” in their minds the scenes I am describing.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

Writing was the one thing that came naturally to me back when I was in school. After leaving university I looked for some job, any job that would pay me a living wage to do what I do best. As I said before, that turned out to be advertising. However, the whole time I worked in the ad business I had an itch to write fiction. After 30 years I finally got a chance to scratch that itch. My first thriller The Cutting quickly attracted one of New York’s top literary agents and she quickly sold it to one of the major publishing houses. The Cutting subsequently became a bestseller both in the US and the UK as well as several other countries. It is currently being translated by an Israeli publishing house into Hebrew.

Now, nine years after The Cutting there are six books in the McCabe/Savage series.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

All six of my McCabe/Savage thrillers weave topics of social importance seamlessly into the story. For example, in my latest, A Fatal Obsession, I introduce readers to a villain who kidnaps a young actress who he brings to a remote house. Same old, same old? Not exactly. Turns out the so-called villain suffered multiple concussions as a teenager at the hands of an abusive father and his criminal actions are the result of an advanced case of CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As you probably know CTE is a disease that afflicts the brains of many men ranging from professional football players who have suffered multiple concussions to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan whose brains were damaged by proximity to explosions. When the disease is not driving his actions, the villain turns out to be a loving and caring young man. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Kind of but not quite.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

There’s no way I could ever collaborate successfully with any other writer no matter how talented. My books grow organically out of my brain and out of my unique relationship with my characters. It’s no exaggeration to say Michael McCabe and Maggie Savage are the closest friends I have and I’m happy I get to spend a lot of time with them. I suppose in one sense you could say McCabe and Maggie are my best collaborators.

What do you like reading yourself and how does this influence your work?

I have pretty broad tastes in reading. Naturally I read a lot of both thrillers and what they call literary fiction. Among the Brits I particularly like are Kate Atkinson and Ian McEwen. I also read a fair amount of non-fiction. Most recently a fascinating biography of war correspondent Marie Colvin who worked for the Sunday Times in London. The title is In Extremis for those who’d like to dip into it.

What’s next for your writing? Are there any new releases or projects your doing in the future that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently working on my first stand alone novel which is about a woman who is convinced her husband is planning to kill her. When that’s finished I may come back to McCabe and Savage. Or maybe I won’t

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’m currently reading a John Grisham book called The Reckoning. After that I’m not sure.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just to say thank you for liking my work enough to want to interview me.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a pleasure.

 

 

We Need To Talk About Marie Kondo

marie kondo

If you haven’t heard of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo then please get out of your cave and roam among the real people for a while. You’ll quickly find out that this lovely lady has made it her mission to help scours of people find meaning in their possessions and generally de-clutter.

I’ve never actually watched her show, but I know enough about it, and, as someone who frequents many book blogs, social media sites and generally doesn’t live in a cave, to know that many are outraged by one of Marie’s principals: that a person should only own 30 books at one time.

Many object to this because they love their books and cannot handle the idea that they should get rid of any of them. Some people also feel that it might limit reading, however, I think Marie’s got a point. Not a whole one, but at least the start of one.

After all, many people hoard a load of crap, and it’s great to de-clutter after all. As someone who was born after 1960 and without a trust fund, I rent a room in a shared house as opposed to a mansion with a library. As such I have to be careful of what I keep and what I get rid of.

Additionally, as someone who blogs for fun and reads regularly as a hobby, I happen to acquire a vast number of books; far vaster than the amount of space I have in my room, or indeed on my small bookshelf (it’s mine, not part of my landlord’s furniture: I love it because it spins). As such, I often have to make a run to the charity shop with some books once the piles get too high and the shelves start to heave under the strain.

This does not limit me in my reading: far from it, as I get to read books and then give them away for someone else to love. I keep a few books that will never leave me, such as my Sherlock Holmes compendium, my Agatha Christie short story books and my Complete Winnie The Pooh Collection, but the majority come and go on a regular basis.

Mostly the reason for this is I simply don’t re-read a lot of books. Often, when I want to come back to them I couldn’t find them in my piles before I started giving them away on a regular basis. If I want to re-read something I don’t have anymore then I go charity shop foraging- one of my favourite pastimes. I see no point in keeping endless books ‘just because’. I’d rather someone else got joy and knowledge from them than that they sat and collected dust at my place. Plus, they take up valuable space for books I haven’t read yet!

So, in the end I think it’s fair to say that Marie has a point; if you’re going to keep books, only keep the ones you truly love. I’m not saying limit your number to 30 specifically, or chuck your books out all at once, but don’t hoard too much stuff just because you can. After all, if you’re not even going to re-read it, what’s the point?

 

 

Carol Wyer Interview: “My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum”

carol wyer - fence

Another awesome interview for you as I speak to Carol Wyer about her dark comedy and crime fiction novels.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I started my writing career back in my thirties when I penned a series of educational books for children that taught French through cute, funny stories. They were highly illustrated and had titles such as Noir and Blanc -Two Naughty Cats. The books ended up being used in schools and were a stepping-stone to what happened later, when I decided I wanted to write for the adult market.

My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum and laughing at the ageing process. My humorous non-fiction book, Grumpy Old Menopause was a chart-topping success and I found myself on radio shows in the UK and USA and New Zealand, writing articles for national magazines and on BBC Breakfast sitting on the red sofa discussing my writing with Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull. The book went on to win The Peoples’ Book Prize Award. I was finally making a name for myself.

In 2016, Bookouture (part of the Hachette group) took on my madcap comedy called Life Swap and I was signed to write further comedies. It was about that time, I realised each book was becoming darker and the genre wasn’t suitable for my developing style. I wanted to add twists (which I’d managed to do brilliantly in Life Swap, but romantic comedy didn’t allow me to surprise the reader as I wished. I also yearned to write about human nature in more depth and although I love making people laugh or feel good about life and themselves, I also wanted to chill them and surprise them.

I sent in a pitch for a psychological thriller that had been bubbling about in my brain for a couple of years and my editor loved it. I wrote the book and no sooner had I submitted it than my editor suggested I write more. She saw potential not as a stand-alone but a crime series, and so the DI Robyn Carter series came to be. Little Girl Lost shot up the charts and earned me acclaim as a crime writer.

What is your background and how did you get into writing?

It’s too long a story to tell here but as an only child and a lonely one at that, reading was my escape. Following a second prolonged period in hospital where I underwent major spinal surgery in my twenties, I communicated with my friends and family through a series of lengthy letters that charted the daily crazy events in a hospital ward. Using stories that nurses recounted to me and my observational skills, I put a humorous slant on events. Everyone loved the letters and asked for more. After my recovery and while working in Casablanca as a teacher, I began writing stories for children – purely for fun. Writing became my release just as reading had been before that and I wanted to provide the same escapism, raise spirits through humour and basically entertain people.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

My parents were both avid readers and we’d all troop down to the library on a Friday to select books for the coming week. While my father enjoyed light-hearted reads such as the Don Camillo series by Giovannino Guareschi or Dennis Wheatley novels, my mother would read absolutely everything and anything. If she enjoyed it, she’d insist I read it after her. So, one week I’d read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, about the Italian artist Michaelangelo, the next, an historical romance from Georgette Heyer novel or something very different like Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest

At the age of seventeen, I had a major health setback that saw me bedbound in hospital for several months followed by more months at home. I read and read and read. I think I probably read almost every book available our local library during that period along with a whole bunch of Mills and Boon books my friends brought along to keep me occupied.

My literary diet was varied to say the least but my penchant was always for thrillers and crime, especially Agatha Christie’s works. I couldn’t get enough of them.

I studied both English and French Literature at university and it was there I picked up a penchant for humour. Chaucer’s works amused me enormously as did Voltaire, especially Candide.

Once I completed my studies, I began to read contemporary, ‘lighter’ reads and that was when I got heavily into thrillers. I am a speed-reader so I’ll get through a book in a few hours, much to the chagrin of my husband who insists I read any book I receive as a gift more slowly.

I absolutely adore thrillers – the darker, the better. The complexity of the human mind fascinates me and although I only studied psychology as a first-year module at university I often wish I’d delved further. I suppose, in a way I do nowadays. I spend a lot of time researching murderers and reports on those who’ve committed heinous crimes. I try to give my readers the experience of being inside the mind of my fictitious killer in most of my books. I don’t want them to feel sorry for the murderer or applaud their actions but sometimes life and unfortunate circumstances can make people behave in dreadful ways and that’s what I try to exploit.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author to help them succeed in today’s publishing industry?

My husband gave me the best advice ever when I told him I wanted to be a writer. He said if I was serious and really wanted a career out of it, I’d have to work hard and never give up. He was right. I have worked – day and night, almost every single day for the last 10 years. I have written books while on holiday, stayed awake night after night to meet deadlines and taken every knockback, bad review or disappointment on the chin. Success doesn’t always come with the first book or even the second, or the third. You might have to plug away at it for a few years before you find a publisher willing to take you on but I think that’s fine. You are honing your craft all the while and building a presence online and gradually making a name for yourself. You are improving all the time. In brief my advice is: be patient, stay positive and never give up.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

This is so tough! I’d love to collaborate with Janet Evanovich. She inspired my early writing and when I sent her an email to tell her, she answered it. She also congratulated me on Twitter when Last Lullaby came out in December – I had a complete fangirl moment and ran about the house screeching. I’d also like to work with the queen of crime, Angie Marsons, who is a fellow Bookouture author. Not only is she an incredible writer but an absolutely hilarious person. She keeps all our spirts up when we are flagging as a team with her funny posts.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to discuss?

This year is a busy one. Not only do I have two romantic comedies coming out but three more crime novels all in the DI Natalie Ward series. The first of those will be released in April, so expect news about it soon. I’m working on Book 4 at the moment and it is a really exciting book to write. I keep holding my breath writing some of the scenes and have to remind myself to release it. I have one last DI Robyn Carter book to pen. My fans keep emailing or messaging to ask if The Chosen Ones is the last book. Book 6 is waiting to be written, so hang on folks- I’ll get there. I’m also considering a stand-alone thriller for next year but I have a mountain of work to do before I can work on that.

 Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I just let out the biggest groan. You’ve reminded me that my TBR pile is a veritable mountain of books and I am so behind with my reading I need a year off to catch up. I am desperate to read all of them. Really desperate. I have a backlog of Jeffery Deaver and Jo Nesbo novels, a large number of Scandinavian Noir books, Lars Kepler’s entire series to read and a Kindle stuffed full of Bookouture authors’ works. However, there are far too many great books that I definitely want to get my hands on: Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Belinda Bauer’s Snap and CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man, Steve Cavanagh’s Th1rt3en: Aargh, too many, stop me!

Thanks for taking the time- its been a pleasure hearing from you!

 

The Top Five Crime Fiction/ Thriller Long Reads To Get You Through The Cold Weather

winter reading

With winter now firmly settled in and the nights much longer, readers are in their element as they snuggle up warm and dig in to a good book. However, constantly changing books can get tiresome, so it’s good to have a few long reads up your sleeve to keep you going.

Thrillers and crime fiction books are also a great shout in the cold weather, when the cold and dark really helps ramp up the tension you already feel reading them. With this in mind, I showcase five of my top long reads from the genres and explain why I think they’re a good choice for your winter reading. I’ve also picked a load of classics mixed in with some new novels so you’ll have plenty to choose from!

5. Lethal White: As you may know if you read my review, I find J.K. Rowling’s crime series a little bland, with a number of characterisation and plotting issues. Despite this, the latest outing for dour private detective Cormoran Strike is the best of the bunch, and, although it’s a little over-long, it’s a good read to devour during a long trip away.

4. Merlin At War: I am a huge fan of Martin Ellis’ cerebral detective, and as such I’d urge readers to check out the third in the series, Merlin At War. It might help if you’ve read the two previous novels but you’ll still enjoy this gripping police procedural even if you haven’t. The story focuses on Merlin’s quest to find his friend’s killer, whilst all the while working on the case of a murdered French abortionist which quickly links to a large financial institution. All three case coincide and Merlin struggles to work out both the connection and the culprits in this extraordinary novel which is guaranteed to keep you hooked.

3. The Little Drummer Girl: My latest spy novel obsession, John Le Carre’s thrilling tale of a young actress recruited by Mossad to infiltrate the inner circle of a terrorist with a long-held vendetta against Jews. As she becomes increasingly involved in the ‘Theatre Of The Real’ she discovers just how conflicting politics and morals can be. Having loved the BBC adaptation of the book I sought it out and devoured it over Christmas, and I would recommend it for long train journeys, as it is both long and intense enough to made the time fly.

2. Dracula: Bram Stoker’s dark and twisted tale of a vampire overlord who rapes, pillages and murders with impunity is a good size for those looking to some to really get their teeth into (excuse the pun). Written from the point of view of a guest at Dracula’s own home, it follows a quest to rid the world of this monster once and for all.

1. The Troubled Man: Henning Mankell’s Swedish Inspector Wallander takes his final outing in this exceptional novel, which is long enough to keep anyone busy. It’s also got an engaging plot centred around the disappearance of Wallander’s daughter’s father-in-law, a former Swedish Navel Officer who suddenly disappears not long after his lavish birthday party. As clues begin to surface which link back to the cold war, Wallander is drawn into a case with vast political ramifications.

New Year, New Yuck: Resolutions Are Bollocks, If You Must Make One Make It About Books

new year reading

New Year, same old nonsense. My social media feeds are now overflowing with friends and family making ‘resolutions’ they’ll forget in a fortnight. Losing weight’s a popular one, as well as getting a new job. Some are wholesome and lovely, like my friends who vow to take up a new hobby, or give their kids more attention, or listen to their loved ones more often.

Most, however, are downright attention seeking, and I cannot stand them. However, I was surprised that I haven’t noticed many book themed resolutions this year or, now I actually think about, ever.

One of my friends at work is doing one, which is what made me actively think about. She’s doing a book a week challenge, and although she’s so far a little behind, she’s doing all right on it. It’s a pretty cool idea really; she’d been buying a lot of books and not reading them, so decided that reading a book every week was a good way to finally get round to them and have some fun at the same time.

This sort of thing seems like a great idea, as reading is a pastime often forgotten in today’s technological era, where many are engrossed in TV, films and games. Personally, owing to my blog and the fact that I have so many books if I didn’t read them and then give them to the charity shop I would be overrun, already read around a book every week, but this is a great way to encourage others to read more.

Another great New Years Resolution idea that isn’t complete cobblers is to read more widely, which is my own personal resolution. Traditionally, as a crime fiction and thriller fan I usually end up reading books by cisgender, straight white guys. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, widening your reading is great for broadening your horizons. I do read some postcolonial fiction as a hangover from my university days, when that was my favourite module, but that’s not enough, so this year, alongside my usual reads by my favourite authors, I will be branching out, both in terms of writers and their books themselves. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, so it’ll be great to find some memoirs, biographies and discussion books to expand my knowledge.

Don’t worry though- The Dorset Book Detective will still be a crime fiction and thriller focused blog! I’m lucky enough to work with loads of great authors and publicists who are always helping me discover great new talent in the genre, and for my own personal reading I was lucky enough to receive Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming for Christmas, so that will keep me going alongside Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure. 

So, if you’re still on the fence about making a New Years Resolution, why not make it book based? From a book a week, two weeks or month challenge through to broadening your horizons, reading everything by a particular author or revisiting old favourites, there are lots to choose from and they don’t involve buying expensive, funny smelling diet tea or going through gruelling exercise based challenges, which is always a bonus!

The Man With No Face Review: Getting 2019 Off To A Thrilling Start

the man with no face peter may

Last year Peter May published the intense and gripping I’ll Keep You Safe, so I was incredibly excited to check out his latest novel, The Man With No Face, due to be released on the 10th of January. I was expecting May’s typical strong characterisation, eventful plotlines and a spectacular finale to round it all off. I was not disappointed.

Less of a domestic drama than May’s previous book and far more of an international thriller, this latest novel travels the world, focusing on jaded Edinburgh journalist Neil Bannerman, who travels to Brussels in search of a scoop. During his stay two men are murdered, with a young girl being the only witness.

Desperate for answers and to protect the child, Bannerman begins a potentially fatal race against time to uncover the truth in a very tangled web of lies. Trying to both find out what happened and protect the girl, who is the sole witness to the tragedy that killed her father and changed her life. Autistic and vulnerable, her only method of communication is drawing, but she is unable to finish her portrait of the killers face due to her own fear and the dark, terrifying surroundings in which she saw it.

As Bannerman gets closer to the truth he has to combine protecting the girl with finding the culprits and bringing them to justice, but the work brings him nothing but trouble.

Set in the late 1970s, the novel evokes an era in turmoil, both politically and socially, and shows this through the tense narrative and tightly wound plot. May’s real skill is in characterisation and dialogue, and he shows this in The Man With No Face, with every character expertly crafted.

At the end of the day, May’s books are always dependable for their excellence of characterisation and deft plotting, and The Man With No Face is no exception. Any fans of May, or of gripping international thrillers in general, will enjoy this novel no end, and it makes a great read to get the New Year off to an excellent start.