9 Aug 2015

Craig Sisterson - Kiwi Crime Writing

From Sunday Morning, 8:40 am on 9 August 2015

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel

The founder of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Craig Sisterson, reflects on this year’s crop of finalists and the state of Kiwi crime writing.

Craig regularly reviews crime novels and interviews authors for his blog Kiwi Crime.

On Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman we asked for listener's favourite crime novels after interviewing founder and current judge of The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, Craig Sisterson. And they responded enthusiastically.

Eamonn emailed in to say:

"My favourite crime novel is The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins.  Also enjoy almost anything by Elmore Leonard. Badly missing both (sadly RIP). Any suggestions?"

We certainly do.

Kath texted in to say that she loves "Graham Hurley's Faraday crime series set in Portsmouth".

A novel called The Black Dahlia is based on a dark true story, and has its fans:

"The best crime novel is The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. No contest." - Anonymous

"I remember the night I began my first James Ellroy novel, The Black Dahlia. It felt like I'd been picked up and slammed against the wall and held there until I finished the damn thing. A night without sleep. Some of his other novelistic noir can get annoyingly baroque but the best just can't be beat." - Peter Thomson

"Did anyone mention Chad Taylor? Departure Lounge is sublime." - Te Ariki WiNeera

"The Broken Shore by Peter Temple. Brilliant!" - Anonymous

"Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca is a great classic crime novel, hard to beat for atmosphere, character and sense of place." -  Pam, Wellington,

"Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express set in the 30's on the Istanbul- Paris Express is a great classic thriller." - Robin, Lower Hutt

Most listeners just couldn't narrow it down to just one book or one author, in part because favourite detectives straddle long series.

From Mary Hart: "I find it hard to decide which is my favourite crime novel. I love reading Americana and British crime novelists such as Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series) and Ian Rankin (Rebus series). I also love the Scandinavian crime novels by authors such as Camilla Lackberg, Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Hanning Mankell. All have good characterisation and lots of interesting local colour. The ones that appeal to me most have a lead character with integrity and a passion for bringing the criminal to justice but does not always follow the book and has private demons to battle. Another series in this genre that comes to mind are the Inspector Ikman novels by Barbara Nadel which are set in Turkey.

"I am nearly at the end of Scottish Crime writer Ian Rankin's Rebus crime series. Set almost entirely in Edinburgh. Was there two weeks ago and visited a few of the actual places he writes about - notably The Oxford Bar. Wonderful. - Hamish.

"Ian Rankin every time. I love Inspector Rebus." Jenni

Norwegian author Jo Nesbo has a fan in Michelle Ingill: "Anything by Jo Nesbo. Great writer."

"Val McDermid is a great crime novel writer. Also Arnaldur Indriðason - Icelandic author. Good luck pronouncing that. :-)" - Barbara

"Patricia Highsmith, the Ripley novels and Iceland's Arnaldur Indriðason [are] unputdownable" -David

"Anything by Mo Hayder" - Garry

"Paul Cleave [2015 Ngaio Marsh Award nominee] is at the top of my list. Christchurch is one of his great characters. Always riveting." - Anonymous

"Fav crime novelist. Absolutely anything by Christchurch writer Paul Ceave [is] unputdownable." - Alice

"Big ups for the NZ novelist Edmund Bohan (the ex-opera singer) who wrote a cracking historical detective series [set] in late 1800s NZ. Starts with The Opawa Affair. Hard to find, but utterly worth it" - Lydia Gunn

"All C.J.Box stories keep me there until the end. I like the characters and the corporate corruption plots." - Janice

"The best crime writer I feel is French author Fred Vargas. She is an undersea & medieval specialist so her writing is always enthralling with these themes. You have to wait ages to get her books in our Auckland libraries. - Andy

"Barbara Nadel's novels. Just wonderful, either the Cetin Ikmen Series or the Francis Hancock ones." - Wendi Wicks

"Minette Walters has such psychological depth in her characters." - Anonymous

"No one has mentioned Jackson Brodie, Kate Atkinson's character. So I will. Yes, he's up there with other writers' crime solvers." - Diane Holmes, Pauanui

"Has anyone mentioned Cynthia Harrod-Eagles? She writes delightfully humorous novels featuring Detective Bill Slider. She presents a variety of well rounded characters and believable situations. Particularly engaging are her chapter headings which sometimes are laugh-out-loud plays on words. That there is a crime to solve just seems a bonus to a good story about people." - Anne Ferguson, New Plymouth

"My view of the genre was completely transformed when my friend Jeff introduced me to the Red Riding Quartet by David Peace, each novel is a year: 1974,1977,1980, and 1983 the final novel. The novels still haunt me [they] create a totally absorbing world - the characters are all pawns and victims of the terrible world that straddles the Yorkshire moors." - Matthew

"The historical crime series with Matthew Shardlake as the inquisitive solicitor on the edges of Henry VIII's court by C.J. Sansom is wonderful. Wish more had been written!!!" - Evelyn Skinner, Clyde

"Favourite crime writer is Tana French: Broken Harbour and The Likeness. Also Sophie Hannah from Little Face onwards. Her heroes are just as messed up as her villains." - Tony, Nelson

"Has anyone mentioned Terry Hayes' brilliant recent novel I Am Pilgrim. Spy,murder thriller par excellante! I am also a John Le Carre fan. A Smiley's People remake would be great." - Graeme, Whangarei

"Love anything by Liza Marklund." - Anonymous

"Raymond Chandler created the only detective I would want working for me in the crumbling granite of Phillip Marlow." - Mark Manson, Takaka.

"Ross MacDonald was a great crime writer from the 1950's in the vein of the hardboiled detective novels of Chandler and Hammett. Library of America recently re-published 4 of his novels in one beautiful volume. Sparse intelligent writing." - Kate

Robert B. Parker's Spencer series; in tradition of Raymond Chandler - Anonymous

"The Guido Brunetti novels by Donna Leon. Set in Venice. Wonderful!!" - Helen Holdem

"I don't think anyone has mentioned Reginald Hill and his Dalziel and Pascoe novels - he is my favorite crime writer. Good development of the characters as they age, and the stories are good too." - Beth

"Cop Town, Pretty Girls or anything else by Karen Slaughter" - Lynette Tuohey

"Jussi-Adler Olsen is the best Scandinavian - start with Mercy".  Julie S.

"Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, and Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books." - Liz

"Ed McBain - he was good. Sort of explored social issues but had a sense of humour." - Dave

"Kathy Reichs (professor) is a fine 'been there done that' writer. The TV series Bones is based on her novels also [her] scientific background adds credibility." - John Elliot, Christchurch

"Ben Aaronovitch['s] Rivers of London crime series - Kevin and Kath

"I have been reading Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. Brings a whole new dimension to London policing." - Disletza, Palmerston North

'Margery Allingham's Traitor's Purse is my favourite ever mystery novel, written in 1940 during WWII in Britain and hidden in a biscuit tin during the bombings. It has everything: suspense, romance, planes -- and a valet who was a former crim." - Julie

"Robert Wilson's quartet set in Seville, protagonist Inspector Javier Falcon. Deep, complex stories, atmospheric evocative descriptions of Seville" - Anonymous

Some other stray related notes Sunday Morning received:

"It was only when I first read NZ crime that it occurred to me that things like that happen in here too. Until then I felt bad things happened somewhere else." - Anonymous

"Nicky Hager. Dirty politics. Best crime story!" - P.O.

Sunday Morning also recommends for those delving into the genre they check out The Listener's monthly Crime and Thrillers column written by Bernard Carpinter, and a fascinating series previously run on Radio New Zealand National produced by BBC Radio 4 called Foreign Bodies that looks at the Crime Fiction culture of individual countries and what it says about their cultures.