Category Archives: Crime fiction

Mid-summer reading report back

Total ChaosAs has become my practice, it’s time for my annual mid-summer reading report back – short reviews of some of the books I have read so far over the summer holidays. Without further introduction, in no particular order they are as follows:

Total Chaos, Jean-Claude Izzo

I’d never heard of Jean-Claude Izzo, the founder of the ‘Mediterranean noir movement’, until a friend recommended him to me after the attacks in Paris last November. My friend claimed not only were his books good crime reads, they provided a unique insight into the Islamic community in France. I wasn’t disappointed. Total Chaos, the first of Izzo’s so-called ‘Marseilles trilogy’, combines crime fiction smarts with a fascinating examination of immigrant politics in the French port city.

Fabio Montale grew up on the streets of Marseilles with two close childhood friends, Ugo and Manu. Fabio become a cop whose career is going nowhere as a result of his unfashionable focus on preventing crime rather than just cracking heads. Ugo and Manu became criminals. When his two friends are killed in violent circumstances, Fabio investigates what led to their deaths. He discovers his friends where bound up in a complex web of criminal power plays that involve organised crime, the National Front and veterans of France’s various imperial entanglements abroad.… Read more

The comfort of crimes past? Why we love period crime procedurals

sherlock-holmes

You only have to take a quick look at the television guide or go to the crime section of your nearest bookstore to know that period crime procedurals – crime stories set in the past – are popular.

Showing or having recently aired on free-to-air television have been Foyle’s War, a police procedural show set during or immediately after the Second World War; Dr Blake Mysteries, set in Ballarat in the 1950s; Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on the successful books by Melbourne writer Kerry Greenwood set in late-1920s Melbourne; andAquarius, dealing with the murders committed by Charles Manson in 1960s California. These programs feed into a much wider canon of popular period shows – everything from Downton Abbey, to Mad Men and Wolf Hall, the adaption of Hilary Mantel’s 2009 bestselling Booker Prize-winning novel.

Our desire for period crime procedurals is just as big on the printed page. In Australia alone, there are Sulari Gentill’s books featuring the 1930s sleuth, Roland Sinclair, Robert Gott’s police procedurals set in the newly formed homicide squad in 1940s Melbourne, and Geoffrey McGeachin’s award winning Melbourne police detective Charlie Berlin, to name a few.

What is driving this? Is this a symptom of our refusal to come to grips with modern reality?… Read more

My top 10 books of 2015

Bad Penny BluesIt’s time for my annual top 10 reads for the year. In no particular order they are as follows: 

Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth

Bad Penny Blues kicks off in London in the early 1960s. A young police constable finds the body of a murdered prostitute. His subsequent investigation into the crime and similar murders, spanning the better part of a decade, propels him into the heart of the city’s Soho vice district. Interspersed with this is the story of a young and up and coming fashion designer, Stella, who is plagued by nightmares about dead women.

The fact I found this book a pinch too long didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Bad Penny Blues is a solid piece of noir fiction and a great evocation of sixties London, taking in everything from the occult, teddy boys, bent cops, radical bohemians and debauched upper class aristocrats.

TattooMurderThe Tattoo Murder Case, Akimitsu Takagi

First published, albeit in a slightly different form, in 1948, a young forensic medical student with post-traumatic stress after a stint as a medic in the Philippines begins a passionate affair with a beautiful woman who is covered with strange, sexually alluring traditional Japanese tattoos. Soon after the affair begins, she is murdered, dismembered and her tattooed torso stolen from the scene of the crime.… Read more

Gunshine State, my second novel, to be published in 2016

Been sitting on this news for a while and now I can finally make it public. My second novel, currently titled Gunshine State, has been picked by crime only publisher, 280 Steps. It will be released sometime in the second half of 2016.

Gunshine State is a dark, innovative heist story. The heist story is much neglected in Australian crime fiction and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing one that is hard boiled, intelligent and uniquely Australian. Gunshine State is my attempt to do this. The central character is Gary Chance, a former Australian army truck driver, who has featured in a number of my short stories.

If you want a better idea of what you are in for with Gunshine State, all I can say for now is think Richard Stark’s character Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Criss Stone in the books by New Jersey writer, Wallace Stroby. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a lengthy and very dangerous stop over in Asia.

I have heard a lot about 280 Steps from quite a few people and it has all been good. I’m really looking forward to working with them on Gunshine State.

Book review: Hard Rain Falling

HardWhile the argument can be made that Don Carpenter’s 1966 novel Hard Rain Falling is one of the best American crime fiction debuts of the late 1960s, no longer can it be said to be one of the least known. At least not since 2009, when New York Review Books released Hard Rain Falling as part of its classics series, with a forward by no less a crime fiction eminence than George Pelecanos, who stated the book “might be the most unheralded important American novel of the 1960s.” Since then, Hard Rain Fallingand Carpenter’s work more generally has undergone a wider critical reappraisal.

It was a very different situation in 1995, when the then 64-year-old author, beset by financial woes and facing multiple health problems, committed suicide. One of nine novels Carpenter wrote, Hard Rain Falling was lauded by critics and other writers upon its release, leading to the well-worn description of Carpenter as a writer’s writer, but the book never reached a mainstream audience.

There is some debate as to whether Hard Rain Falling is a crime novel. I’ll let others argue over the fine-grained literary questions. The book is about crime, criminals, and prison. That’s enough for me.

Hard Rain Failing opens in eastern Oregon in 1923, with a liaison between a cowboy and a 16-year-old female runaway.… Read more