Friday, 7 March 2008

The not so small world of murder

I spoke recently about the rise in popularity in the UK of translated Scandinavian crime fiction. In the last few years, a couple of trends have been quite marked. First, there has been an increasing number of British writers setting their books overseas (examples include Donna Leon and the sadly now deceased Michael Dibdin and Magdalen Nabb.) Second, more and more writers from overseas have been published with success in this country.

These are not brand new developments – Christie wrote several books set in the Middle East, and there are other examples even pre-dating the Golden Age, while a number of foreign writers, such as Leblanc and Simenon, appeared in English translation many years ago – but nevertheless, the scale of the change seems to me to be undeniable.

I’ve just received two new books written by a Welsh-born journalist and crime novelist, Matt Rees. He has produced non-fiction about the Middle East in the past, but now he has begun a series featuring ‘crime-fighting Palestinian history teacher Omar Yussef’. The Bethlehem Murders appears in a paperback edition, while The Saladin Murders is a brand new hardback. I see that the first book earned very good reviews, and has sold in 16 countries, quite an achievement.

We hear a lot (too much?) about ‘globalisation’. Some of its effects are good, some not so good. But as far as crime fiction is concerned, I think the change is for the better, since the effect has been to enrich our literature. Incidentally, for up to date news on ‘Eurocrime’, and much more, you can’t do better than take a look at Karen Meek’s excellent blog and website of that name. Because they were set up by someone with a passion for the subject, they exemplify internet resources at their best, with commentary that is both insightful and highly informative.

3 comments:

maxine said...

Hear hear on the Euro Crime website: my best resource I've found since starting blogging.

I agree with you about the trends -- Michael Walters' novels in Mongolia and Colin Cotterill's in Laos are two examples - although Cotterill does live in Thailand, at least the same continent if not the same country! I have also read several of Alexander McCall Smith's "ladies' detective agency" series set in Botswana, which largely consist of charming if poignant accounts of daily life in that challenged country. And maybe this does not count as detective fiction, but the thriller writer Lee Child (Jack Reacher books) is English, although now lives in the USA I believe he began the series while still living in Leeds (or somewhere in the UK anyway!).

Turning to the older fiction, though, there are the excellent Mamur Zapt series set in Cairo, by Michael Pearce.

Peter said...

You'll know that I welcome this trend. With respect to globalization and what we read about, you might be interested in Matt Rees' reasons for giving up journalism and taking up novel writing. He likes to say he did this because crime novels were a better way to tell the stories he could not tell as a reporter. He touches on this in an interview on my blog and also elsewhere and at readings.

By coincidence, I've just been flipping through my first Mamur Zapt book. I've found at least one subject for a possible post.
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Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting interview, Peter.

I've not read much Michael Pearce for a long time. Maybe I ought to give him another try.