Category Archives: Megan Abbott

My top crime reads of 2012

What’s the end of a year without a best of post?

Recently, I was asked by UK site Crime Fiction Lover to list my top crime reads for 2012. They would only let me pick five, but obviously I’ve read a lot more books worthy of mention than that. Here’s the long list.

He Died with his Eyes Open, Derek Raymond

A police procedural like no other, it starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory police station. There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes in the dead man’s property that contain the deeply unhappy ramblings of a deeply unhappy man. Most police procedurals deal with crime from the point of view of the police. What’s unusual about this book is that the cop concerned is more like his victim.

Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robert William Arthur Cook, who eschewed his upper middle class family for a life of odd jobs, bohemian travel and frequent brushes with the law. Although he wrote for years, success eluded until with the publication of He Died with His Eyes Open in 1984, the first of five Factory books.… Read more

Noir Con or bust

As if I don’t have enough going on crime fiction-wise at the moment, with my debut novel Ghost Money and the upcoming launch of Crime Factory’s all Australian crime antho, Hard Labour, I’ll be attending Noir Con in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, in early November.

Noir Con is a biennial three day festival of noir crime writing and culture. Philadelphia is a fitting host city, being the birth place of the influential noir writer David Goodis, author of Dark Passage, Street of No Return and Shoot the Piano Player, amongst many other novels.

The best way to get a feel for Noir Con is to check out the program, which you can find here along with an interview with the mastermind behind the event, Lou Boxer.

Among the writers attending I’m keen to see are Megan Abbott, Vicki Hendricks, Lawrence Block and Wallace Stroby. I’m also looking forward to checking out the authors I haven’t heard of, as well as meeting some of the people I’ve been communicating with for a while now on social media.

In the lead up to Noir Con I’ll be spending a week and a half in New York, a city I have never been too but always wanted to see.… Read more

Book review: Dare Me

Dare Me“At first, cheer was something to fill my days, all our days. Age fourteen to eighteen, a girl needs something to kill all that time, that endless itchy waiting, every hour, every day for something – anything – to begin. There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”

So says Addy Hanlon, narrator of Megan Abbott’s latest book, Dare Me. And you better believe it.

I’ll make no bones about being a huge fan of Abbott’s work (I’ve previously reviewed her work on this site here and here). Her first four books, set in America in the thirties, forties and fifties, took classic noir themes and characters and gave them a mighty twist. The End of Everything, her break out work, was a deceptively simple coming of age tale about a missing girl in an anonymous middle class American suburb in the seventies.

Dare Me takes place in the present, in another part of the great expanse of nameless US suburbia. Addy and Beth have been best friends for years and are the top dogs of their high school cheerleading squad. Beth is the captain, Addy always her faithful lieutenant. Cheerleading and their commanding place in it is the ground zero of their world. “Let’s face it,” Addy says at one point, “we’re the only animation in the whole drop ceiling, glass bricked tomb of a school.… Read more

Crime fiction criminals

By definition, the majority of crime fiction characters are criminals or at least commit illegal and/or immoral acts. But books where the main character is a full-time professional criminal are surprisingly few and far between. Here’s a selection of some of the best.

It’s worth noting that when this post originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Lover website, readers came up with several good additions, including Andrew Vachss’s Burke, Charlie Huston’s Henry Thornton, Lawrence Block’s hitman character Keller and Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. I had originally thought of including the James Ellroy character Dudley Smith (“Knock, knock, who’s there, Dudley Smith, so reds beware”), but he’s a bent cop so not eligible. However, Ellroy’s Pete Bondurant would definitely make the cut.

Please leave a comment if you can think of any others.

Parker by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)

The 24 books written between 1962 and 2010 featuring the professional thief known as Parker remain some of the best crime fiction ever written. Sixteen Parker novels appeared between 1962 and 1974. Westlake took a rest from the character until 1997, then wrote another eight Parker books.

Parker is a career criminal who steals things for a living. Get in his way on a job or try to double cross him afterwards and he’ll hurt you.… Read more

Crime Factory femme fatales

I have been meaning to post for the last few days about the March 5 launch of Crime Factory Publications.

It was a good night. A decent sized crowd rocked up to Grumpy’s Green in Fitzroy to hear readings by Adrian McKinty, Leigh Redhead, David Whish Wilson and Megan Abbott. The jazz band After Dark My Sweet, were on fire. We even sold a few copies of the local edition of Crime Factory: The First Shift.

The highlight for me was meeting US noir author Megan Abbott. Not only is she a fantastic writer, she was incredibly generous with her time and thoughts about all things crime fiction and noir.

She read was from her upcoming book Dare Me. Dare Me is her most contemporary novel to date, set amongst the world of competitive cheerleading. I’d never thought about cheerleaders as akin to US servicemen or, better still, the modern American equivalent of gladiators. But talking to Megan about what inspired Dare Me, and the research she did for it, neither analogy sounds too far from the mark.

I can’t tell you how much I am dying to read it.

I won’t say anything more now. I managed to grab an hour before the launch to interview Megan for the next issue of Crime Factory.… Read more