WIth 750 events at the EIBF to choose from, it’s possible to have many festivals in one. I might one day go to the Harrogate Crime Festival but then, why travel, when there is plenty of opportunity to indulge in the not-so-respectable side of life right in the heart of Edinburgh’s very respectable New Town. During the second week, things got a little shadier !
I had been looking forward to a mini German literary festival but Julia Franck and Daniel Kehlmann both cancelled. So I was all the more delighted when the crime-writing queen of German literature, Andrea Maria Schenkel, did arrive and read from her chilling novel Ice Cold, in which a prisoner is executed at the end of the second chapter. As the punishment is exacted by the Nazi regime, the auto response is that this is an innocent man. The novel answers the questions that this raises. Schenkel also discussed her first novel The Murder Farm and explained the conflicts that arose as she wrote it and discovered that all her sympathies lay with the murderer! Mine too! I reviewed both novels here.
Schenkel was accompanied by new-to-me Gunnar Staalesen from Norway, who has been writing detective fiction for 25 years. Consorts of Death is his fifth to be translated into English. Not released until 24th September, it was there and available to purchase right after Staalesen had convinced me that I needed to read it right away! (Lizzy 8: Bookshops 9)
It was the same story the following day. This time Swedish Hakan Nesser used his powers of persuasion regarding Woman with Birthmark. Nesser writes literary fiction as well as stand-alone crime novels. It is his Inspector van Veeteren series which is available to English readers. I particularly liked his arguments that crime fiction need not be less literary than literary fiction and I sincerely hope that the proof of that is in the reading. (Lizzy 8 : Bookshops 10)
The Salati Case is the first published novel of Tobias Jones, author of the non-fiction work The Dark Heart of Italy. I had just finished reading this prior to the event and a full review will follow tomorrow.
With crime on the agenda, it was time for a second attempt at tracking down Ian Rankin’s fictional detective. Let’s start from where we went wrong. Walk another 116 steps down Young Street and we arrive at the Oxford Bar. Inspector Rebus’s watering-hole. Entering inside, turn right at the bar and come to the wee snug. And who should we find there ….
Peter Guttridge, Crime Editor at the Observer, and chairman at most of the Edinburgh International Crime Festival. Tucked away quietly enjoying a cider and a book, preparing for his next event. Or he was until Lizzy accosted his solitude and do you know, not once did he say “leave me alone, can’t you see I’m reading!” Before you know it, we were debating crime fiction set in Italy, why Michael Dibdin was so brilliant (at least until Blood Rain), Donna Leon is too cozy, and why Tobias Jones is one to watch ….
The final course on the criminal menu was dished up by someone who didn’t even want to discuss his novel. Richard Price, author of Lush Life, said he is now bored with it and that he’s still trying to write the ultimate New York novel. Under duress he read a section, at the end of which, he literally threw the book away. He was far more interested in his new work – not that he knows what the story is at the moment. He moved to Harlem 12 months ago and is currently observing and trying to capture the essence of life there. He read a couple of “spot-writing” pieces from his laptop. Pieces that were not yet publishable but still had a very distinctive voice – that of a prophetess.
Price said that his laconic was natural but he slaves over it. The easier something reads, the more blood has been spilled into it. He echoed Hakan Nesser by not accepting that crime writing is a genre inferior to literary fiction, acknowledging only that a detective story gives the book an automatic structure. Nothing else. It’s an interesting thought. Do you agree? And do you have any examples of literary crime fiction that you particular recommend?