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Monday, 29 June 2009

Linda Fairstein

I was delighted to have it drawn to my attention recently that Linda Fairstein, best-selling author of the Alex Cooper novels had mentioned in an interview that The Maze of Cadiz was the last book she had read:

Apart from her lovely comment, this article makes fascinating reading for all those interested in this writer and her books. Particularly interesting is her advice on how writers can take an active role and use the web for spreading awareness of their work.

Linda’s own website is well worth a look. You can see a video of her in the New York Public Library, which provides the setting for her latest book, Lethal Legacy She also blogs regularly and generously on different writers she’s enjoyed.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ratiocination and Other Horrors or The Art of Playing Ball.

At the recent Crimefest, I was surprised to hear an attack on Edgar Allan Poe for using a word like ‘ratiocination’. I was surprised, first because Poe died 160 years ago in 1849, and second because the poor man pioneered a genre without knowing it would come to be called ‘detective fiction’.

Undoubtedly Poe’s ‘Tales of Ratiocination’ would now be re-named by the marketing department. This is partly because the word is difficult to pronounce – “rashio-sin-ayshun” – and partly because its meaning – rational deduction – is not immediately and confidently recognized outside certain philosophy and literature departments.

Another example, just in time for Wimbledon, of a word that did not become popular is Sphairistike, the first name given to the sport by Major Walter Wingfield in 1874 when he drew up the rules of Lawn Tennis. I am not aware that the Major has been attacked for his desire to trace the game back to the Ancient Greek ‘art of playing ball’.

As it happens Poe rapidly lost interest in the genre. “These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious – but people think they are more ingenious than they are on account of their method and air of method.”

It turns out that 'ratiocination' was indeed good marketing in the 1840’s. In effect, Poe was playing up that air of method by choosing a problematic word precisely to impress the reader with apparent science and the detective’s almost ‘inhuman’ powers of deduction.

Not our word choice today? Probably not. But just consider the sheer number of ‘human thinking machines’ that followed Poe, from Sherlock Holmes all the way to the current tv series that begins with a word and a definition – The Mentalist.

They were one reason we were all at Crimefest.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Post CrimeFest

I’ve been busy editing recently, but I’m delighted to say that Washington Shadow, the second in the Peter Cotton series has now gone off to the copy editor. It is due out on November 5th this year. More information about this and the Peter Cotton series will be gradually added to the website over the next few weeks, so keep a look out for the new additions.

I got back from CrimeFest four weeks ago now. It was the first time I had taken part in one of these events and I found it very interesting. The Fest part means that there was a mix of writers, agents, editors, reviewers, bloggers and keen readers.

It was constantly repeated to me while I was there that crime writers (unlike romantic novelists, apparently, though I am in no position to corroborate this) are a very friendly lot, and from my experience in Bristol, this is certainly true.

A number of the writers I met (including some on my panels) had been initially surprised to be included in a festival for crime writers. But CrimeFest covers a wide variety of authors and books and, for me, this is definitely one of its strengths and attractions.

I met so many people over the weekend that it’s difficult to mention everyone here. In addition to my co-panellists, some of those I enjoyed speaking to included Dave Headley of Goldsboro Books, CrimeFest organiser Adrian Muller, Bill and Toby Gottfried from the US, Amanda Brown, Maxine (aka Petrona) Clarke and Karen Meek(Eurocrime); authors Suzette Hill, Chris Ewan, Donna Moore (who has just started a new blog featuring Scottish authors) and Ewan from Glasgow, and - what I was especially pleased about - a lot of keen and curious readers, including Sarah Williams, who was on the same table at the Gala Dinner.

On Friday evening I had dinner at a nearby restaurant called the Lido with Alison Bruce, Steven Hague, Eve Seymore and their agent Broo Doherty, Jane Grigson and Ruth Dudley Ellis. Good Mediterranean food and very enjoyable company.

I was speaking on two panels. The first, on Friday afternoon, was called SUSPICION: BUILDING THE SUSPENSE. Also on the panel were Ann Cleeves, Brian McGilloway and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Our moderator was Margaret Murphy, who recently took over as chair of the Crime Writers Association.

The second, on Sunday morning, was the Debut Authors panel: PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET moderated by Peter Guttridge. The other speakers on this panel were Alison Bruce, Steven Hague, M.R. Hall, Jenni Mills and Matt Hilton.

In each case we were fortunate to have an excellent moderator who had prepared well and really contributed to making the sessions relaxed, lively and interesting.

Thanks to everyone on these panels for making this so enjoyable. It was good to meet you all.