Talk about cultural convergence.
Oh goody, someone went to Harrogate and came back with a hatchet job. Now, there's no reason not to be critical of crime fiction and point out its flaws, but you think Paul Vallely could have been just a little bit biased going in? The whiff of snobbery, I tell you.
For more enjoyable Harrogate fun, BBC's Front Row is still playing Harrogate highlights until tomorrow. Click on "listen again" for the Wednesday edition to check it out.
The Independent talks to Chelsea Cain on the eve of publication of her debut thriller, HEARTSICK.
The Boston Globe's Sam Allis welcomes Charles McCarry's new espionage novel while wondering how much life is left in Paul Christopher.
William Landay gives a sneak preview of his next novel to Esquire. If it's half as good as MISSION FLATS and the STRANGLER, I am so there.
Also at the Globe, Vanessa Jones examines the growing number of black science fiction writers.
Patrick Anderson is very much entertained by SILENCE, Thomas Perry's new chase thriller.
Yvonne Zipp at the Christian Science Monitor is swept away by Stef Penney's THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES.
The New York Times wonders how Robert Ludlum can write so many books even though he's dead. If it was good enough for V.C. Andrews, it's good enough for the spy thriller king...
Tod Goldberg wishes Warren Ellis had taken more chances in his debut prose novel, CROOKED LITTLE VEIN.
Clayton Moore, on the other hand, digs the book, which he reviews alongside new SF-tinged thrillers by Richard Morgan, William Gibson, Kevin Anderson and Jesse Ball.
Along with Jerome Weeks' essay on Gail Pool's new book that I linked to yesterday, the Boston Globe ran a piece by Sven Birkerts on the beyond-exhausted print vs. blog debate. There are good points - especially when Birkerts brings up Cynthia Ozick's Harper's essay (which, had it been posted in full online, would have had far greater play in the overall discussion) but in setting up a dichotomy that really doesn't exist - as a blogger and print reviewer, am I my own worst enemy? - Birkerts, though honest in his thinking, misses the larger point.
And so it occurred to me, with so much real and virtual ink spilled, that no one has made the necessary leap to thinking about a true-blue "print is dead" (or at least, resting in comatose, dead parrot fashion) scenario. So here is my challenge to my fellow NBCC members, other reviewers and critics, authors, whomever: tomorrow morning, we wake up and newspapers are dead. No more outlets for book reviews of a certain stripe.* What are you going to do? Will you blog, for pleasure or for money? Will you spend too much time hanging out at literary social networking sites? Will you up your critical game to crack more esteemed publications such as the New York Review of Books, Bookforum or the TLS? Will you even review books anymore? Will you even write anymore?
Instead of bitching and moaning about a worst case scenario, envision it. Embrace it. Challenge it. Accept it. Because then, and only then, can we really understand both what is potentially lost and also potentially gained.
My answer to the above question is easy: I'd adapt, just like I have for the nearly four years since I opened up my blog shingle and changed direction from a would-be forensic scientist into a freelance writer.
*Of course, if newspapers ceased to exist, there would be greater issues than the state of book reviewing, but it's my VR game and I'm sticking to it.
The Kansas City Star ran a thoughtful piece on Karen Spengler, the 55-year-old proprietor of I Love a Mystery in Mission, Kansas. Diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 1996, she was given about three years to live. But she's managed to outpace predictions:
A skeleton hovers in the air, not far from Karen Spengler’s head. Skulls grin from shelves. Tombstones loom. A door that leads from the bookstore into the staff kitchen reads, “Samuel Spade, Private Investigator.”
“We call it ‘Victorian library with a twist,’ ” Spengler says.
Spengler, 55, owns I Love a Mystery, 6114 Johnson Drive in Mission. On the awning are the words “Books to Die For.” It’s one of the few independent booksellers left in the area. I Love a Mystery sells only suspense — thrillers — or at least that’s the focus. It has some true crime, some kids’ books — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. Spengler’s presence in the store today is an event; her cancer doesn’t allow her to be here much. Today, though, the sharp aromas of coffee and tea scent the air, and she sits at a table where browsers are encouraged to relax and read.
Her customers sometimes bring her “ghoulish things” that fit the macabre decor. And mystery books, by definition, must have a dead body. This could weigh on a person who battles a disease that almost surely will kill her. Spengler smiles. “I never thought about the connection till you brought it up.”
And that, say those who know her, is Karen Spengler.
Ah, New York in August, or almost. When air conditioners, even at triple overtime, never quite accomplish what they need to in cooling down those too poor to escape to outer island or generally cooler climes. When eating ice cream daily seems like a viable (and certainly tasty) option. But no matter. Here is your Weekend Update served fresh and cold:
NYTBR: Samantha Power has a lengthy essay on the War on Terror as written about in recent books; David Orr examines Zbigniew Herbert translations; and Rachel Donadio meets the literary mover and shaker you've never heard of.
The Anthony Award nominations have been announced:
ALL MORTAL FLESH, Julia Spencer-Fleming, St. Martins
THE DEAD HOUR, Denise Mina, Little Brown
KIDNAPPED, Jan Burke, Simon & Schuster
NO GOOD DEEDS, Laura Lippman, Harper
THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS, Nancy Pickard, Ballantine
BEST FIRST NOVEL
A FIELD OF DARKNESS, Cornelia Read, Mysterious Press
THE HARROWING, Alexandra Sokoloff, St. Martin
HOLMES ON THE RANGE, Steve Hockensmith, St. Martins
THE KING OF LIES, John Hart, St. Martin
STILL LIFE, Louise Penny, St. Martin
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
ASHES AND BONES, Dana Cameron, Avon
BABY SHARK, Robert Fate, Capital Crime Press
THE CLEANUP, Sean Doolittle, Dell
A DANGEROUS MAN, Charlie Huston, Ballantine
47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS, Troy Cook, Capital Crime Press
SHOTGUN OPERA, Victor Gischler, Dell
SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, Naomi Hirahara, Bantam Dell - Delta
BEST SHORT STORY
“After the Fall,” Elaine Viets, Alfred Hitchcock Mag
“Cranked”Bill Crider, DAMN NEAR DEAD, Busted Flush Press
“The Lords of Misrule,” Dana Cameron, SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL, Avon
“My Father’s Secret,”Simon Wood, Crime Spree Magazine, Bcon Spec Issue
“Policy,”Megan Abbott, DAMN NEAR DEAD, Busted Flush Press
“Sleeping with the Plush,” Toni Kelner, Alfred Hitchcock Mag
BEST CRITICAL NONFICTION
THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL, Daniel Stashower, Dutton
DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY, Chris Roerden, Bella Rosa Books
MYSTERY MUSES, Jim Huang/Austin Lugar, Editors, Crum Creek Press
READ ‘EM THEIR WRITES, Gary Warren Niebuhr, Libraries Unlimited
THE SCIENCE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, E.J. Wagoner, John Wiley & Sons
SPECIAL SERVICES AWARD
Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime
George Easter, Deadly Pleasures
Barbara Franchi & Sharon Wheeler, reviewingtheevidence.com
Jim Huang, Crum Creek Press and The Mystery Company
Jon & Ruth Jordan, CrimeSpree Magazine
Ali Karim, Shots Magazine
Lynn Kaczmarek & Chris Aldrich, Mystery News
Maddy Van Hertbruggen, 4 Mystery Addicts
Congrats to all. The winners will be announced at Bouchercon in Anchorage.
A few comments: when was the last time the Best Novel category was all-female? More recently than I believe, but still very noteworthy - especially since all of the noms were really good books. Best First is as strong as the Edgar, Macavity and Barry shortlists, though I echo George Easter in thinking that THE HARROWING is more of a horror novel than a crime novel. PBO must have been so strong the committee couldn't whittle it down to five. And as for Special Services, hell, all of them win in my book. How can you possibly choose, really?
Speaking of the installment plan, read Duane Swierczynski's serialized short story "Sidewalk Tiger," the last installment just posted at the City Paper.
Karin Slaughter talks with Creative Loafing Atlanta about the Grant County series, "her" South, and what's next.
Speaking of Slaughter, she's teaming up with Oni Press to launch a new graphic novel imprint, Slaughter House Graphic Novels.
The Springfield News-Sun looks at Angela Henry's mystery-themed battle with Hollywood racism.
Biographers duke it out over the truth of Jim Morrison's death.
The WSJ compares and contrasts two poetry magazines: Poetry and Parnassus.
Steve Weinberg has a great piece on why a freelance book critic had better learn to be flexible in the face of editor changes, budget cuts and section axings.
My review of Ruth Rendell's THE WATER'S LOVELY ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday. And after this, I think I shall stop reading her work because I'll just end up saying the same things about her in reviews in the future. Unless she decides to incorporate zombies. That would be some kind of awesome.
Rendell also figures prominently in Ed Siegel's take on psychological thrillers by women, though counting Zoe Heller as a crime novelist isn't completely true.
And jumping ahead to Rendell's new Wexford novel, Natasha Cooper calls for the inspector's retirement.
I couldn't make it to Harrogate this year (someday I shall return!) But Chris Wiegand has been blogging about it for the Guardian, and reports are coming in from Steve Mosby, Ben Hunt, and Donna Moore, with many more to come.
The Times follows Martin Cruz Smith to Moscow and interviews him about Arkady Renko's latest tale, STALIN'S GHOST.
And is the spy thriller well and truly coming back? Joan Smith seems to think so.
I was going to read Gail Pool's treatise on book reviewing, but Steve Weinberg's critique pretty much has me sold.
Patrick Anderson applauds James Lee Burke for tackling the Katrina aftermath, but rightfully complains "that Burke's crime story isn't equal to the larger horror that surrounds it." Janet Maslin, however, feels more favorably towards THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN.
Regis Behe chats with Lee Vance, author of the finance thriller RESTITUTION.
Tom Maxwell meets Lin Anderson, whose latest Rhona Macleod crime novel is DARK FLIGHT.
Ed Champion invokes William Gass and Virginia Woolf in a piece about confessional writing for the Los Angeles Times.
Also in the Times, Richard Rayner has a fascinating piece on how repackaging backlist can make a literary writer like Philip Roth a brand name.
Another "Joe Hill is Stephen King's son" profile, this courtesy the Sydney Morning Herald.
Publishers find out, yet again, that books for boys should be an easy sell but is not.