Monday, 7 January 2008

Deadly Pleasures

I’ve been reading the latest issue – number 52, it’s been running a long time - of George Easter’s crime fiction magazine ‘Deadly Pleasures’. As usual, it’s packed with interesting information, including some fascinating articles from immensely knowledgeable contributors such as Philip Scowcroft, who is always a mine of information, and Marv Lachman, author of that definitive study of crime fandom The Heirs of Anthony Boucher.

Marv’s book discusses Bouchercon crime conventions at length, and I first met George at one of them – in Toronto, back in 1992. He’d recently read All the Lonely People and it was immediately apparent that he had a real love of British crime fiction. Needless to say, I warmed to him instantly. My vague recollection is that he’d originally planned to write a book under the title Deadly Pleasures, but his plans changed and the magazine was the happy result.

It’s proved highly successful over the years and has spawned the ‘Barry’ awards, named after crime fan and former contributor, the late Barry Gardner; in 2007 George Pelecanos and Ken Bruen respectively won the prizes for best novel and best British novel.

The main emphasis of the magazine is on reviews; I contribute one or two myself, but the leading commentators include George himself, Larry Gandle, Bev de Weese, Ted Hertel jr., Britain’s own Ali Karim, and Maggie Mason. Ali is someone else I met at a Bouchercon – at the vast Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, in this case. A strange place for a first encounter, considering that at the time we lived not too far away from each other on the other side of the Atlantic, in Cheshire.

It’s fascinating to compare Larry Gandle’s shrewd and occasionally acerbic assessment of books nominated for CWA awards with the judges’ verdicts. On the whole, I concentrate on reviewing books I like rather than those I don’t, and (though I haven’t discussed it with him) I suspect that Ali has a broadly similar approach. However, the world would be a poorer, and less well-informed, place if all critics went about their work in the same way. I don’t always agree with Gandle’s opinions (although I had a lot of sympathy for his assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of those of this year’s crop that I've read), but they are invariably insightful, well-argued and worth reading. And they are among the highlights of a consistently good publication.


Ali Karim said...

Great Post Martin -

It was indeed surreal to meet up for the panel at B'con Vegas in 2003 and to discover we live so close in the NW of England! Especially as I'd read amny of your Devlin books.

Reviewing - interesting, you see I only review books I finish, and these are books I enjoy. The problem is that I get so many books to review and I am also a compulsive book buyer that my time is squeezed, hence if a book does not engage - by around 60 pages or so, I just have to put it down.

Struggling with a book I'm not enjoying slows my reading down; basically it puts me off grabbing the book - hence very rarely do you see negative reviews of mine, as normally I've not finished it.

I have reviewed for DP for many years now, and find George, Larry, Maggie, Ted, Bev, as well as youself, Cath S and the DP crew's views most interesting.

The only downside of DP is that I end up buying many US books that are not available in the UK - When DP arrives, I curl up on the sofa with a flask of coffee and find myself in sheer bliss -

Great Blog / & BTW I have done my sections on the Harcourt book and looking at the list of contributors, etc it will be a fine read -

Best for 2008


Martin Edwards said...

Ali, my approach is similar to yours. Years ago, I used to finish every book I started. Now, though, I find that if I don't really care for a book, I either skip through it or give up. As you say, it's all about time, and the lack of it.