Five Classic Crime Series That Need To Be Reimagined

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After my recent review of Stella Duffy’s Money in the Morgue, and in anticipation of Sophie Hannah’s next reimagining of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, I started thinking about all the other detective series that could do with a revamp. Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe have been done to death, but there are so many great series out there whose authors are gone, but could still be bought up to date by a modern fan with the panache to recreate the original writer’s passion and flare.

5. Father Brown: I’m not actually a mad fan of Chesterton’s original series of short stories about his ecclesiastical sleuth, but there is definitely scope for a revival. Some of the stories are pure genius, and I reckon with a bit of work an intrepid author could make a real good go of recreating the Father Brown series and giving it a new lease of life. The stories themselves were well-plotted, with excellent characterisation, and were only really let down by poor dialogue and bad pacing, and these issues could be addressed by a new writer as they created a new dastardly scheme for the cerebral Father Brown to uncover.

4. Tommy & Tuppence: Christie’s doesn’t really do justice to her intrepid sleuthing husband and wife duo in the four novels she penned which feature them, so it would be great to have a more modern take on them. After all, Poirot has been reinvented, but he, like Miss Marple, had a long run of excellent novels and stories created by Christie; she abandoned her Partners in Crime series after just four books, possibly due to its lack of popularity, and as such it would be great to see the pair bought back to life in a new novel.

3. Inspector Morse: I know I know, ITV have done Morse to death with their prequel and sequel TV shows, the lacklustre Lewis and the increasingly unrealistic and unlikely Endeavour. Despite this, I think there is real scope for a talented wordsmith to craft a new novel featuring our intrepid duo. Dexter’s short stories featuring Morse, as well as almost all of his novels, were unique portrayals of both academic and traditional life and the secrets that lurk within, and it would be awesome if someone could reinvent this with a new story for those of us who have re-read Dexter’s own works so many times we know them off by heart.

2. Inspector Maigret: Someone needs to write a new version of Simenon’s classic French detective and give him a new lease of life. A new case, or the portrayal of an old one, would give modern readers the chance to explore this often overlooked sleuth, who manages to be both cerebral and thuggish in equal measure. His Paris is a city of debauchery, deceit and desecration, and one in which only the toughest of cops stands a chance, and as such Simenon created a man of great strength and intellect who was able to rise to the challenge. A new Maigret novel is never a bad thing, and with a new generation introduced to the character thanks to Rowan Atkinson’s portrayal of the character, now is a great time for someone to take him on.

1. Inspector Kurt Wallander: As many of you may very well know, I am a huge fan of Henning Mankell’s dour Scandinavian sleuth, and following his death there is plenty of scope for a Nordic writer to reinvent. Although Mankell effectively ended the series with The Troubled Man, there is space for someone to revisit an old case, exploring some historical setting, event or time period and allowing Wallander the chance to intrigue, delight and surprise a new generation of readers.

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Why You Should Binge Read As Well As Binge Watch

Stack Of Books

Netflix recently advertised for someone to binge watch its shows, films and original content and give it ratings, which set everyone of as screen slaves, film enthusiasts and lazy twats alike all started vying for this coveted position.

However, whilst binge watching continues to be a popular pastime for many, few expostulate on the benefits of binge reading. After all, there is nothing so fun as setting aside a few hours to devote to making a dent in that stack of books that you’ve been meaning to check out for an absolute age.

Recently, someone asked me on Twitter if I chose to binge read or read one book at a time. However, to my mind these are not opposites. Whilst I understand what they were asking, that being whether I read one book at a time or have several on the go, I believe that binge reading is something completely difference. Binge reading is reading several books in quick succession, engrossing yourself completely in each then carrying straight on, the way many might choose to read a particularly engrossing series or the all the books by their favourite author.

I myself indulge in this practice on occasion, and I think it should become more popular. The Easter bank holiday gave me a chance to really get my teeth into a number of books that have been in my ‘must read’ stack on my bookshelf for a while now. With May, AKA ‘the month of two bank holidays’ coming up, what better time to stock your shelves and settle in a for a couple of days of binge reading?

After all, whilst binge watching is an easy, lazy pastime following a hectic day at work, people often forget that binge reading is just as good a way of relaxing and unwinding. Whilst people often think that reading is harder than watching, in reality the benefits outweigh the negatives, as reading may be slightly more laborious but it is more stimulating for the brain and many often remember things better when they read them rather than ingest them through a screen.

Also, I often find it is a great day to make myself check out new books, authors and genres that I would otherwise not bother with. Over a couple of recent long weekends I’ve had I have checked out a number of books that are not my typical reading material, including memoirs, non-fiction and even a comic novel.

In the end, with extra time on your hands in May and the Summer holidays rapidly approaching, I would thoroughly recommend grabbing a load of books, shutting yourself away from it all and indulging in a little binge reading. You never know, it might become a new favourite pastime!

Julie Reichwein Interview: “I hope that I can shine a light on how truly awful being a victim is”

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Fresh from the success of her latest book, I caught up with Julie Reichman to learn more about writing thrillers in the Me Too era.  

How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards psychological thrillers?

I like many authors am an avid reader. I would say that literary agent, Paula S. Munier, who wrote a few great books on writing a story that sells helped me more than anything. Paula Hawkin’s,The Girl on the Train, spoke to me as far as writing style. I loved how she broke the chapters down into first person for each individual character. I felt like you really got to know the characters and that’s what I wanted for my book. I also like psychological thrillers because I feel like I am good at assessing people. My background isn’t of police work, but I’ve watched enough shows and read enough books to pick up general points but not the truly technical end of it. I am however very good at creating fictional characters based on psychological research, and I enjoy studying criminal psychology.

Tell me about how your background and how you draw on it to create your books?

My background is one of being self-employed for most of my life. I’ve dealt with people for my entire career, so I’ve met many interesting types of people. I’m also an avid traveler and love to learn about people in different cultures, so I feel I have a large pool of entertaining characters to draw on.

Talk me through your novel Fire & Fury. How is it influenced by other works?

I didn’t set out for it to be referred to Tarantino style, but I will say that people are busy in their lives. They’re worn out when they get home, so they don’t want to read something that doesn’t draw them in quickly and hold their attention. I’m the same. My goal was to keep the story moving at a fast pace without sacrificing the story, the characterization, or the plot. Apparently, I hit the mark because all of the professional book reviews that have come in have said I wrote a gripping, compelling, full-bore, relentless story with strong characterization. This obviously makes me happy to read. The two authors who influenced me the most in the writing of this book were Paula Hawkins and Stephen King.

What is the novel’s relevance in the Me Too era and how do you believe that readers relate to it?

I chose this story to tell because I became interested in learning about sexual assailants and the criminology of it because of an incident that happened to me in college. I was stalked by the mailman and came within feet of being raped or killed, but I was saved by my dog and the fact I was on the line with 911. The stalker took off. In 1982, there were no stalking laws, so I had to move. A few years later, it happened again. Again I had to move. So sexual assault has always been something I’ve been interested in and I wanted to do a story about it. The murdered girl in my story was inspired by someone I know. While she wasn’t murdered, the reaction of her family destroyed her, and I wanted to understand more about it. As I read up on it, I learned that children who are sexually molested by a parent are often isolated because the mother turns against them and so do their siblings. The abused child is abandoned by her family. The wife sees her as a mistress and the siblings are jealous because of the attention the father pays to the molested daughter. The abused child then abuses substances and spirals out of control by getting into bad relationships. My story tries to bridge a modern day rape where a powerful man rapes women he feels he can intimidate with a cold case of a girl who was sexually abused by her father and enters into debasing relationships which culminates in her death. The Detective quickly learns both cases are connected. I live in Santa Fe, which is a multi- cultural town and so I wanted to bring race into it as a factor as well because women of color are more likely to be raped than Caucasian women.

What aspect of your books do you feel attracts your readers and makes your work so hard to put down?

I will let the reviewers answer this. “Author Julie Reichwein has put together a gripping, relentless, super fast psychological thriller and I wouldn’t expect less when it comes to… revenge! This novel is divided in 69 chapters and each one of them is allocated to a specific character at a time. I really enjoy this kind of organization as it strengthens characterization, we come to know each one of the characters really well – ie. their motives, thoughts, traumas, fears, backgrounds, etc.”

“And certainly she did a thorough research about the different characters, for instance, sexual assailants and their psychology. For the characters have very strong personalities and their souls are masterfully exposed in their sick, gritty, dirty and dark glory, sometimes their behaviors borders on the ridicule but I think it adds to their authenticity.

“Reichwein is very good also when it comes to describing scenes, she makes it look effortless as she uses the exact right amount of description – not wordy but also not lacking in detail, this will make the reader easily visualize the scene in his/her mind.”

Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Are there any specific exercises or tricks you use to get your creative juices flowing?

Every time I didn’t like a sentence or a paragraph or a page etc I would go back and reread, The Girl on the Train, or one of Stephen King’s books. I wanted it full- bore from start to finish, and I didn’t stop editing until I was 100% satisfied. I would also go back to Paula Munier’s book about the first 10 pages, and I would make sure I was keeping the story well-paced with strong characterization. When I was at the point that I was ready emotionally to kill some of the characters, I felt like my readers would be there, too.

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

Stephen King. I’m not a horror reader in general, but I am a Stephen King fan. He gets you into the story and the characters like no one else. He’s the true master.

What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?

I have two more books that I have final edits to finish. Kilos & Killer Heels and Killer Heels- 1/2way to Hell.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I just discovered Iris Yang’s Wings of a Flying Tiger. It’s a story about a wounded American pilot in China during WWII when Japan occupied the country. One cousin risked everything to help this pilot.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I tried to bring the true sordidness of sexual assault and the emotional devastation it causes to my story. Many crime writers address the issue from a clinical angle where I tried to address it from an emotional point of view. Not just from the abused but from the abuser as well. I hope that I can shine a light on how truly awful being a victim is, so that those fortunate enough to not have been victimized can understand the toll and emotional devastation of sexual assault.

Thanks Julie, it has been truly fascinating to here from you. You can find out more about Julie and her work HERE.

 

Check Out The Cover of Paul D. Brazill’s Latest Collection!

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Paul D. Brazill, who I interviewed previously, is launching a new collection of stories called Small Time Crimes through Near the Knuckle Press. The collection is due to be published in Summer of this year. The blurb is below:

‘Hit-men, con men, jewel thieves, career criminals, killers, crooks and cannibals. They all congregate between the pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Small Time Crimes- a brutal and blackly comic collection of short stories and flash fiction that views the world at its most askew.’
It promises to be a corker! You can check out more about the collection HERE.

Changing Christie: Heinous Or Harmless?

ordeal by innoncence 2

Following the recent furore around the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, I wondered why everyone was so upset. After all, when adapting TV shows and films Directors and Script Writers often change the plots to suit the audience.

However, many have been incredibly upset by the serious change in plotting that the writers have made. Instead of the perpetrator being the housemaid, at the instigation of the adopted son of the victim, her lover, who was falsely accused, she is in fact his mother, and neither were actually guilty. The murderer, in the show, turns out to be the victim’s husband, who is found out by his adopted children and maid, who capture him and hold him hostage in his late wife’s nuclear bunker whilst they get on with their lives.

This myriad of changes caused great consternation among die-hard Christie fans. The book had not been faithfully adapted, and as such the BBC has ruined it. These people do not seem to understand that what the BBC has, in fact done, is not created a Christie adaptation at all. It may have the same name as one of the Queen of Crime’s novels, but it does not have any of the classic traits or characterisation of her works.

After all, the book uses Arthur Calgary as a form of principal detective, rather than the blubbering mental patient that the show transforms him into. In the book the character, accompanied by others, doggedly explores the blasé secrets, petty scandals and sad affairs of the principal cast of suspects, all of whom are neatly contained within the family home, being either family themselves or servants. Like many of her novels, Christie crafted a unique ending for Ordeal By Innocence by having the innocent be a master manipulator who actually played a key role in the murder. Having his accomplice as the housemaid allows Christie to criticise both the class system and the treatment of women at the time.

Whilst the BBC adaptation might make minor observations about class and gender, as well as making a clear racial statement by casting a black actress in the role of one of the victim’s adopted children, none of these allusions are particularly impactful, and are muddied by the adaptation’s lack of sincerity and sheer lavishness- the costumes are better thought out than the plot throughout, and the dialogue has been woefully neglected in favour of stunning panoramic views of lakes and vast tree lined forests.

I can completely understand why Sarah Phelps chose to change the adaptation so drastically from the original: not only does this allow her to put her own stamp on the work, but it also makes for better TV. After all, the novel relies on the reader being completely transfixed by the notion that Jacko is innocent and the author’s copious red herrings to steer them towards a nail-biting conclusion, whereas, spread over three episodes, the TV series would struggle to build and maintain such tension. As such, Phelps not only intensifies the characters, making many much more bitter or shrill than they are in the novel, but also completely changes the plot in order to make it memorable. After all, the fact that I am writing this post about it proves that this divisive move has worked. All publicity is good publicity- right?

Overall, it is my firm belief that the BBC has effectively not made a Christie adaptation at all, and whilst I am not sure I would go so far as to say that this Easter’s Ordeal By Innocence is an outrage, it is certainly not fit to bear the Queen of Crime’s name.

The Last Straw Review: Another Strong Spy Thriller

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The second in the Pigeon Blood Red series, the first of which I recently reviewed, The Last Straw is another unique novel starring the first novel’s protagonist, Rico Sanders.

The book begins with a run-of-the-mill carjacking. An inner-city kid with no priors and no experience with a gun fumbled the ball, and the driver ended up dead.

A teenage girl witnessed the whole thing, and now a target has been placed on her back. The carjacker’s father, a notorious crime boss, is willing to move heaven and earth to prevent her from testifying, even if that means hiring a hit man to kill her.

Richard Sanders, better known as Rico, as the best in the business, was his first choice for the job; however, his scruples prevent him from carrying out the hit. As a result, the crime boss reluctantly turns to someone who has no such qualms, John D’Angelo. There was bad blood between him and Rico, so knowing that Rico had passed on the job, he eagerly accepted it.

Rico and the girl’s lawyer, Paul Elliott, form an uneasy alliance to try and protect her from the hit man. As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession, and old scores will be settled as the novel races through to its climactic conclusion.

Author Ed Duncan is a former lawyer, and as such his knowledge of the legal system is impeccable, and although at times the descriptions, particularly those of characters, are a little clunky, this is a fast paced novel that lends itself to easy reading. It is not a taxing novel, and as such it is perfect for summer, when you are reclining on the beach or bored waiting in an airport lounge.

Overall a great addition to the Pigeon Blood Red series, this is an exciting thriller that takes the reader on a round the world journey through to a climactic finale.