Mike Ripley Getting Away With Murder by Mike Ripley
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Thrilling Tales from the Crypt


“Robert Ludlum will not disappoint fans with this, his new hardback.” So says the Press Release issued by Orion to accompany The Bancroft Strategy, and the dust jacket confirms that this indeed is “The stunning new thriller from the author of The Bourne Identity.”


Certainly fans ought not to be disappointed and probably will be stunned by this new blockbuster, as its author has been dead for over five years.


But then the careful reader (who has been to SpecSavers) will notice, in tiny print on the © page, the disclaimer:


Since his death, the Estate of Robert Ludlum  has worked with a carefully selected author and editor to prepare and edit this work for publication.


Writers known to have worked the Ludlum franchise have included Eric van Lustbader, Patrick Larkin and Gayle Lynds, so why the secrecy about who “prepared this work for publication”?


I am tempted to think it could be my old and distinguished friend Peter Guttridge, the hardest working hack in crime fiction, but then he couldn’t possibly have the time, what with doing the James Bond franchise as well, could he?

Peter Guttridge

Mr Guttridge, the hardest-working hack in crime fiction in a rare moment of relaxation.


Yet More Thrills


A bold claim is made for Thriller (Mira Books) in that it is said to be the first ever anthology of thriller short stories. I’m not sure whether that is strictly true, as there have been quite famous collections of “thrilling stories” in the past, though admittedly, they tended to include horror or supernatural tales.


Editor James Patterson defines a thriller as “an obstacle race in which the objective is achieved at some heroic cost”, which is not a bad stab at a definition, but fails to ask the question why there have never been famous collections of thriller stories before, as there have crime and detective stories. Could it possibly be that the building blocks of the ‘thriller’ – such as pace, accurate research and a rip-roaring climax – don’t necessarily sit happily in the format of a short story?


A few notable thriller writers did try their hand at the shorter form and even had volumes of their own short stories published. Alistair Maclean did, as did Geoffrey Household, and more recently, Frederick Forsyth and Dick Francis, but after naming them I run out of ideas.


And I have to say that many of the stories in Thriller would not be out of place in a regular crime anthology, with solid contributions from F.Paul Wilson, Alex Kava and Christopher Rice among others.


The whole exercise has been done to promote International Thriller Writers Inc., though the most prolific of the lot, James Patterson, simply lends his name and does not actually contribute a story. The collection is almost exclusively American (although ITW Inc is not) with only Lee Child sneaking in through Homeland Security. Among the big names notably absent are Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler and Tess Gerritsen and I would have made a case for Lisa Scottoline and Meg Gardiner, possibly even Robert Ludlum!


The thing is, ‘thriller’ writers simply don’t naturally go for the short-story format. Their talent is to produce a roller-coaster ride which carries the hero or heroine and the reader along without pause going from shock to shock not just the one surprise twist. For that you need space.


As you do for that other key facet of the thriller: place. A good crime novel may show you a scary new psychological or moral landscape, but a good thriller can take you to an entirely foreign environment, as in the books of Duncan Kyle, Alan Williams, Hammond Innes and the old master, Alistair Maclean.

Book Jackets, Maclean

Delightfully on cue, HarperCollins are reviving Maclean with two chunky collections, Sea Thrillers and Arctic Chillers in January.


I am not aware that any of the contributors to the Thriller anthology are prolific “thriller” short-story writers, as many ‘crime’ writers are, and at least one of these stories is over eight years old.


In the anonymous ‘Notes’ to each story, Lee Child’s “Jack Penney’s New Identity” is said to have been cut from a novel and had “languished on Child’s hard drive until a request came from an obscure British anthology”.


That would be the obscure “Fresh Blood 3” edited by myself and equally obscure Maxim Jakubowski in 1999. Could that be the same obscure anthology which included stories from obscure unknowns such as Minette Walters, Martyn Waites, Paul Johnston, Rob Ryan and Manda Scott? Not to mention the obscure Denise Mina whose story Helena and the Babies went on to win some obscure prize given by the Crime Writers Association? What was it now? Oh yes, the CWA Dagger for Best Short Story, 2000, that was it.



Sold With A Kiss


To Leadenhall Market, in the steamy heart of old London town, for a party where the vivacious Liz Corley was promoting her utterly gripping new novel Grave Doubts (Allison & Busby).

Liz Corley

I find myself much in envy of Ms Corley’s skill at dealing with crowds of adoring fans, something I have never mastered nor indeed ever been called upon to master. Not only does Elizabeth make a point of talking to everyone as if they themselves are the most important people in the room, but she has a wonderful way of personalising every copy she sells, by kissing them, leaving a perfect lip-print on the title page.


A class act indeed, for we are clearly talking Dior here and not Maybelline.



Party Time


Once more to the Metropolis for a splendid party to celebrate the annual Ellis Peters Award for history-mystery.


I was delighted to receive an invitation even though my own novel Boudica and the Lost Roman had actually been disqualified from the competition for not having enough crime in it!


During the champagne-soaked evening, I may have mentioned this fact to two or three dozen people and I have to confess to having to be escorted, somewhat emotionally, from the proceedings by the most charming and attractive bouncers employed by the organisers. With tact and consideration they took me around the corner into the dimly-lit Argyll Street before beating me up.



There, but for...


Vicars, priests and theologians have always co-existed happily with crime fiction, from the Father Brown stories, to Monsignor Ronald Knox, to Murder At The Vicarage, The Nine Tailors and Death In Holy Orders.


This year sees three new members of the crime writing congregation (at least in the UK). Dr Frederick Ramsey, is an Episcopal priest from Arizona, whose new novel Impulse is published here by Robert Hale, and debut author Andrew Nugent, a Benedictine monk of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick, sees his Dublin-set mystery The Four Courts Murder published by Headline. Robert Hale also publish A Novena For Murder featuring 75-year-old nun detective Sister Mary Helen, by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie who has been with the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet in Oakland California for the past forty years. This is, I believe, the first Sister Mary Helen novel, originally published in 1984, and there have been about a dozen since. I might be wrong on that but if I am I’m sure a higher authority will put me right.



Super Sleuths


ITV3 (for those who have gone digital and now find there are not five but ninety-five channels with nothing on) seems determined to corner the market in repeats of TV crime series and cop shows.


Their Autumn schedule began with a Monday menu of: Cribb (from Peter Lovesey’s books of the 1970s) at 7.15 a.m., followed by Cribb again, then two episodes of Wycliffe followed by two episodes of Maigret (the Michael Gambon version), then The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, A Touch of Frost, Rebus, Taggart, Van Der Valk (from the books by Nicholas Freeling), and finally, at 2.50 a.m., The Rockford Files.


ITV3 have also commissioned a programme, Super Sleuths, which looks at six TV detectives and the novels from which they were adapted, namely: Morse, Frost, Wexford, Wycliffe, Poirot and Barnaby (Midsomer Murders), due for transmission in November.


Among the writers, producers, directors and actors interviewed for the show, you should see certain well-known writers wearing their reviewer or pundit hats, among them Val McDermid, Martina Cole, Maxim Jakubowski and..er.. me.



Deighton Confidential


I have finally managed to catch up with the BBC4 film The Truth About Len Deighton on a late-night repeat showing, which is timely as a re-mastered print of The Ipcress File is about to be released.

The Ipcress File, Len Deighton

The BBC film trapped the elusive Len Deighton into what was billed as his first television interview in over twenty years. A sprightly 76, Deighton was filmed in his southern California home and talked about his early career as a commercial artist, his almost accidental career as a best-selling thriller writer, his legendary cooking skills and his fascination with most things German.


Whether we actually got “the truth” about Len Deighton is debateable.


He was hardly pushed or probed as to why he left England “for good” in 1969, shortly after producing the movie version of Oh What A Lovely War. Or on why none of his books since then have been filmed with the exception of the forgettable Harry Palmer clones Bullet To Beijing and Midnight In St Petersburg  in the 1990s. Or what ever happened to his aborted Viet Nam novel, a tantalising snippet of which appeared as the story First Base in his wonderful short story collection Declarations of War. Or why he hasn’t published anything for over ten years now, when surely even his notes to the milkman (if they have them in southern California) would find an audience.


I have always proudly admitted that Deighton was a key influence on my own writing (along with Raymond Chandler and Nigel Molesworth) and remember getting his new hardback, Billion Dollar Brain, for my 14th birthday. (It cost 21 shillings – that’s £1.05 to you young whippersnappers.) And I have long lobbied for him to be awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.


Whenever I raise this topic, I am told that Mr Deighton does not accept prizes and awards. Well if not, why not? The film didn’t ask that either.


I suppose it’s his way of remaining enigmatic and you have to feel that Harry Palmer would have approved.



I’d Like To Thank


In the Oscar-acceptance speech stakes for most “thank you” acknowledgements in a book, step forward Ian Sansom author of the engagingly odd Mr Dixon Disappears [Harper Perennial].


Not only does Mr Sansom refer readers to previous acknowledgements in earlier books, but then goes on (over three pages) to thank at least 180 people.


Mr Dixon Disappears, Ian Sansom

As these include the Arctic Monkeys, Frank Capra, Alan Sugar, Arthur Mullard and Arthur Schopenhauer, one has to suspect that Mr Sansom has a tongue in a cheek. He does admit that “most of them are strangers; the famous are not friends” but I’d like to believe Arthur Mullard.



An Esteemed Organ


That esteemed and authoritative organ CADS celebrated its 50th issue recently. CADS stands for Crime and Detective Stories (but is always known as CADS) and discusses every possible aspect of crime fiction, though it does not publish fiction itself.


CADS is a magazine for the serious fan of crime fiction and its appeal has always been in the eclectic outpourings of its readers, who are also the contributors, hailing from just about every country in the world where there are books.


I am a relative late-comer to its readership (it started up in 1985) but I can honestly say I have found something of interest in every issue.  I have also regularly discovered little gems which appear absolutely nowhere else – at least not on my radar.


In CADS 50, for instance, there is a review of Gumshoes: A Dictionary of Fictional Detectives by one Mitzi M. Brunsdale, Professor of English at Mayville State University in North Dakota (OK, so I had to look it up). The book is published by Greenwood Press priced $75 in the US and I’m told it could be available in the UK via greenwood.
though Amazon doesn’t seem to have it listed.


I mention this book for two reasons: (1) I would never have heard of it but for CADS and (2) Professor Brunsdale is obviously an academic of authority and excellent taste, for she covers in detail some 150 fictional detectives (mostly since the 1970s), from Roy Angel to Aurelio Zen.


Now here I must declare my interest as well as my surprise, for not only is Gumshoes remarkably generous towards my creation Angel but his very inclusion in an American critical study is amazing considering the number of American publishers who turned down the books as having “too much slang” or being “too hardboiled”(!)


So thank you, Professor Brunsdale, obviously a fine and discerning human being, and thank you too, Geoff Bradley, the man in the editor’s chair at CADS already planning issue #51.


As with any Dictionary or Guide to crime fiction, it is of course impossible to resist the temptation to search for who is not included. Gumshoes seems to have covered almost all the bases since about 1970, but I spotted a few notable omissions.


In the “P’s” (this is a dictionary after all), we have usual suspects like Amelia Peabody, Jimmy Pibble (kudos points there!) and Stephanie Plum, but no Georgina Powers, the first detective of either sex to come to terms with the IT revolution and British to boot! Cynically, one could put this down to Georgina’s creator, Denise Danks’ continued campaign never to be mentioned in any crime fiction reference book.


Under “R”, naturally, you’ll find Rawlins, Rebus, Renko, Reacher, Robicheaux but also Agatha Raisin and yet there seems to be no mention of John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick.


And while the “S’s” feature entries on Spenser, Rabbi Small, Kay Scarpetta and Jemima Shore, there appears to be no room for South London bad boy Nick Sharman, the creation of now East London bad boy, Mark Timlin.


However, this is carping. Let me repeat, this is a marvellous work of reference and recommended reading for the conclusion it draws about Fitzroy Maclean Angel: (the) one man trying to hang on to principle as the world around him goes barking mad.


Now that’s what I call literary criticism.


Not that I’m biased, of course.



Partners in Crime


To delightful and sparsely-populated Buckinghamshire (during the Tory Party Conference) for an evening in Beaconsfield Library with my dear friend Baroness Cohen of Pimlico, who adopts the nom-de-guerre of Janet Neel when dealing with the reading public. And what a treat it was to meet genuine readers once more.

Partners In Crime

Janet and I launched our touring double-act “Partners In Crime” in 2005 to coincide with the publication of my Angel In The House and Janet’s Ticket To Ride by those wonderfully people at Allison & Busby, publishers to the stars. Having toured venues in London, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex (and Janet even has the official tour t-shirt), we were tempted out for our first farewell tour to celebrate both books appearing in paperback.


Any writer who ignores, or underestimates, a library audience, does so at their peril, although local librarians have a tough time these days with stretched budgets, “value added” targets and idiotic management strictures which seem to ignore the basic point that people who use libraries like books.



High Horse


I was saddling up my trusty high horse to have a go about publishers who indiscriminately splash the words “Bestseller” or “Worldwide Bestseller” on the cover of a book before it has actually hit the bookshops. How on earth do they know it will be a bestseller? They might hope it will be, and the author may well have had bestsellers before, but this pre-emptive striking is guaranteed to get up my nose.


So I was putting on my spurs the moment the postman delivered a proof of a book which was not to be published for two months yet still bore the legend on the cover “The New No.1 Bestseller”.


Right, you cocky bastards, I’ve got you now, I thought. Then I saw the title: Close by Martina Cole.


Oh bugger.



Welcome Back


Two welcome returns to the crime scene, or four welcome returns to be absolutely accurate.


First up is veteran Dick Francis after an absence of six years, who celebrates his 86th year with a new novel, Under Orders (Michael Joseph) which is sure to have a few Christmas stockings bulging this year.

Dick Francis

The second return is none other than his hero, crippled ex-jockey turned detective Sid Halley who made his debut walking down those mean turfs of Britain’s race tracks in 1965, though miraculously is a youthful 38 in the new book. Still, it’s nice to see old Sid doing so well.


Third return is for one of the bright stars of the thriller scene in the early 1990s, Philip Kerr, who has published two new novels in the US in August and September: Hitler’s Peace (Penguin) and The One From The Other (Putnam).

Philip Kerr

Philip, recently described by the Washington Post as a “Scottish-born English writer” (?)burst on to the British, and world, stage in 1989 with March Violets and two subsequent books (known as the ‘Berlin Noir’ trilogy) featuring Bernie Gunther, a policeman then private eye who has the unenviable career path of operating in Germany under a Nazi government.


So the fourth welcome back is for Bernie Gunther who returns in The One from the Other, which is set in 1949 Vienna. I hear a whisper that Quercus are to publish it in the UK in 2007.



Everyone’s A Critic


I started reviewing crime fiction in 1989, on the Sunday Telegraph, then did ten years on the Daily Telegraph and am in my sixth year on the Birmingham Post, which I am told holds the record for British newspapers as it has covered crime fiction continuously since 1936.


In my career, I reckon I have read about 3,000 crime novels; some of them all the way through.


Yet I am always being accosted by crime writers who announce themselves and then say “You haven’t reviewed my new book” to which I usually answer “There’s no need to thank me”.


Of course you can’t read everything, or even a decent fraction of the 500+ new titles published each year. (Yes, that’s over 500 NEW titles published for the first time in the UK and doesn’t include paperback editions, reprints or re-issues.) But sometimes, just occasionally, my heart goes out to writers who firmly believe their books have been sent out for review and feel they are being ignored when no review appears.


So, to set the record strait in advance of the Christmas party season (and yes, that’s a hint) I want to make it clear that I have not been deliberately ignoring any crime writers published this year by Heinemann, Little Brown, Hutchinson, Michael Joseph and Penguin/Viking, I have just not been sent any.


Naturally, most writers don’t believe this and will blame me, usually insisting: “Oh, I never read reviews anyway.”


Yeah; right.


Sometimes you try to help and it feels like you’re bashing your head against a wall.


Take for example the case of Michael Cox’s debut novel The Meaning of Night, which supposedly took thirty years to write. A very attractive ‘taster’ proof of the opening 90 pages of this Victorian melodrama was sent out at the start of 2006 by publishers John Murray to publicise the book’s launch in September, stating that full proofs would be available in March. When no proof had arrived by July, I contacted the publishers and asked for one because I was quite intrigued by the taster sample and this was a debut novel and one always tries to help new writers.


Further emails in August revealed that the publishers ‘did not have’ my address (even though they had sent me the original sampler and I had just received and reviewed thriller-writer Guy Walters’ fascinating Berlin Games published by them). As the deadline for my September column approached and I had still only seen 90 of the proposed 600 pages of this book, but was beginning to notice the marketing campaign, more emails followed and I was assured a copy was on its way. (It was already on sale in my local Ottastones).


Publication day came and went and so did my deadline without a book and I began to feel sorry for debutant author Michael Cox, especially when I read a review of Meaning of Night in the Daily Telegraph where Alistair Sooke concluded “if I had taken three decades to pen such a baggy potboiler, I would have kept schtum.”


Sooke’s review appeared a tad harsh, calling the book “substandard, ersatz hokem”, citing a plot which “unfurls in tediously linear fashion”, “clunking” revelations, ”schlocky” love scenes “which would make a Mills and Boon copy-editor wince” and an “insultingly obvious (final) twist”.


All this and more taking up almost a whole page in the Telegraph’s tabloid book review section. My heart sank and I yearned for the days when the Telegraph used to get crime fiction reviewed by people who actually liked crime fiction and recommended good books rather than taking up valuable space trashing bad ones. I also felt badly for the poor first-time author and frustrated because I might have been able to give him a more equitable review. Such are the things which keep a crime critic awake into the wee hours.


Then I read that the advance for this debut novel was £430,000 and stopped worrying.



Foot Fetishes and Croquet


I have long been a fan of nurse detective Kate Kinsella as created by the vivacious Christine Green. Not only is Kate an endearing heroine but her sidekick is the gloriously weird foot-fetishist and undertaker, Hubert Humberstone, who goes to undertakers’ conventions in Frinton-on-Sea because of the solid customer base there. (Although it was long rumoured that an early, nervous editor told her to tone down the Hubert character mores the pity.)


At a time when the NHS surely needs investigating, Chris herself has had more than her fair share of ill-health, but I am delighted to see that a new book, Deadly Retreat, is to be published by Severn House in December.


My picture shows Chris and I in happier times, having just heard our latest sales figures.

Christine Green

Looking on is none other than Mr Ralph Spurrier, book dealer extraordinaire and the evil genius behind Post Mortem Books – which sounds as if it should have an evil genius at the helm.


Could this be the same Ralph Spurrier who appears in Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten (Hodder) as Ralph ‘The Book’ Spurrier, a member of the Reading Whackers croquet team in the thrilling 1988 World Croquet League Superhoop play-off against the Swindon Mallets?


I think we should be told.

More Bloody Foreigners


The chattering classes would have us believe that every crime novel translated from a foreign language must be good and worthy of our attention. The truth is that (like the domestic product) some of them are absolute clunkers, but at the moment publishers are hooked on crime in translation and never mind the quality.


It’s the flavour of the publishing month, though there’s nothing new about it. The Maigret books have been around for half-a-century and I remember devouring paperbacks featuring secret agent OSS 117 by Jean Bruce, as a schoolboy, not to mention some decent thrillers by Hans Helmut Kirst. And of course, there was the great Sjowall/Wahloo partnership of the Sixties, now blissfully back in print. (See last column).


I have to say, though, that The Redbreast by Norwegian Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker) is a cracking thriller and introduced me to Oslo’s Inspector Harry Hole, who may sound like a minor character from “Minder” but is now an investigator for the Norwegian Security Service, which has the unfortunate initials of POT.


It really is a thumping good read and very informative on current Norwegian right-wing politics as well as revealing (to me) the extent of collaboration with the Nazis during the second world war.


The only odd thing is that in took six years to get translated into English. Perhaps it’s something they put in the heavy water in Norway, because it has taken over 13 years for the adventures of another Oslo policeman, Inspector Frank Frolich, to get translated into English.


In March 2007, Faber publishes the first Frolich frolic (if you see what I mean) in what promises to be a series on the harder-boiled edge of the spectrum. The author is K.O. (Kjell Ola) Dahl and his debut in English will be titled The Fourth Man.


I’ve no idea whether K.O. Dahl is related to Roald, but I do know his name should not be confused with Ko Dahl, a traditional Tibetan or Nepalese dish of buttered and spiced lentils.


In Europe, he is rather well-known, his books having already made it into German, Dutch and Spanish.



Me ‘onourable friend


I was amazed to learn, over a delightful luncheon in one of Bloomsbury’s finest chop houses, that my old and distinguished legal advisor, the Rt. Hon. Marcel Berlins, QC, DSO, LlB and Bar, has now been reviewing crime fiction for The Times for 25 years now.

Rt. Hon. Marcel Berlins

Perhaps his rigorous legal training has instilled in him the stamina to survive a quarter century of crime fiction and surely the man deserves a medal for services to the genre.


We were unable to discuss this, however, as he had a black London taxi waiting at the kerb throughout the meal, which whisked him away to his next case.



How We Write


I am not at all surprised that American bestseller Janet Evanovich was persuaded to write a “How To” book and I am sure the modestly-titled How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author (St Martins) will do very well.


But why, given the title, is this book “by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof”. Surely she didn’t need help doing a self-help book, did she?


For those who prefer their self-help online, I have discovered www.mysteryclass.com which tells you “How To Write A Great Mystery”.


The site promises that, for the paltry sum of $119, “you get to go one-on-one with the instructor” with plenty of “interactive brainstorming” along the way. The instructor is none other than that household name in mystery writing: Steve Alcorn.


Could this be the same Steve Alcorn who had a crime novel, Matter of Justice,  published in 2003 by the wonderfully-named Mundania Press of Ohio? I think it must be.



Double Entendre Intended?


When I first got a connection to this jolly old interweb thing, I soon discovered that one of the best and most reliable sites for news on the crime fiction scene was that of mild-mannered Stephen Booth at www.stephen-booth.com. The site used to provide a fund of reliable information on the British crime scene without fear or favour (unlike this column).


Nowadays I have to say it seems to concentrate almost exclusively on ...well. . .er ... Stephen Booth actually, which I suppose is fair enough as he’s paying for it.


Anyhow, my point is that having heard on my exclusive grapevine what a smash hit Stephen had been at this year’s crime convention at St Hilda’s College in Oxford, I rushed to the site to read up on what had gone down there, but could not find a single mention of the event.


It may be of course that there is a dedicated St Hilda’s website of which I am not aware – let’s face it, I am not the sort they would ever invite there. In fact I believe they have taken out exclusion zone court orders on me just in case.


However, clicking through Stephen’s site, as you do, I came across his Photo Gallery for 2004 which recorded a visit he made to Bury Central Library. The caption caught my eye and I hope Stephen will allow me to quote it in full: “I noticed they seemed to have no men in Bury, as this was one of my one hundred percent female audiences. But they did have black puddings.”


Frankie Howard, Kenneth Williams, Les Dawson. You did not die in vain.



The Trouble With Fans


Part of the problem with being a crime writer is constantly being pestered by autograph hunters.


Even in the sedate and historic Oxford Bar in the quaint Scottish capital of Edinburgh, I found I was not safe, as this picture from one of the pub’s hidden CCTV cameras demonstrates.

Ian Rankin

Speaking of Edinburgh reminds me that Ian Rankin has a new book out, The Naming of the Dead (Orion), said to be the penultimate Rebus novel, and I must say it is very, very good indeed.


If it was up to me (which it certainly is not) I would be pushing strongly for another CWA Dagger for the irritatingly-young Mr Rankin. But then, on recent form, I am kiss-of-death when it comes to predicting awards.



More Kinks


Since 1992 I have treasured my copy of The Kinky Friedman Crime Club(Faber) partly because of the inscription “To Mike from a Texas Jewboy to a bluff north countryman, Kinky.”


To anyone unfamiliar with the living legend that is Kinky Friedman, country singer, comedian and crime writer, the titles Kill  Two Birds and Get Stoned, God Bless John Wayne and The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover may mean as little as his famous musical composition “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore”. If so; your loss.


I met Kinky a few times back in the early 90s when he came over here on promotional tours, usually accompanied by an unemployed and breath-takingly underdressed Beauty Queen and always with his guitar within reach.


I didn’t think anything Kinky could do, or write, or sing, could surprise me anymore but stone me, I discover he is running for Governor of Texas in the November elections in the US.


Naturally, he is running as an Independent as he wouldn’t go to any political party which would have him as a member. Bearing in mind who has held that prestigious office in the past, I’d vote for him.



Good News, Very Bad News


Flipping through some of the publishers’ catalogues for 2007, my heart leapt at HarperCollins’ announcement of a new Dalziel and Pascoe novel, scheduled for March, from the elegant pen of my old and distinguished friend, Reginald Hill.



A new Reginald Hill novel is always good news; a new Dalziel and Pascoe novel is invariably brilliant news. But what’s this? Can it really be that his 2007 title is The Death of Dalziel?


Surely not, this must be a cruel joke, mustn’t it? I mean, characters as good as Fat Andy Dalziel simply don’t die, do they? Not somebody who made his first appearance (37 years ago in A Clubbable Woman) thus:

Superintendent Andrew Dalziel was a big man. When he took his jacket off and dropped it over the back of a chair it was like a Bedouin pitching camp.


I have known Reg since our days together in the legendary Collins Crime Club, of which Reg remains the sole survivor still within the HarperCollins empire, and his was eminently civilised company to be in whenever he could be tempted out of his scenic Cumbrian retreat.

Reginald Hill

Reg has never made any secret of a small speech impediment which makes it difficult for him to pronounce the letter “R”. He has often joked that it was consequently unfortunate to be called “Reginald” and downright masochistic to adopt the pen-name “Patrick Ruell”.


And I can assure you that his difficulty with Rs has never stopped him from marching into his local bookshop (Oxfam, Cockermouth) to demand “the latest Ruth Rendell” or, I am delighted and honoured to say, “the latest Mike Ripley”.


Oddly enough, though, he’s never read an Ian Rankin.



Add a dash of vitriol


The Daily Telegraph is starting to corner the market in bitchy reviews of crime fiction (though not, one must emphasise, the Sunday Telegraph).


Earlier this month, Lynda La Plante’s The Red Dahlia (Simon & Schuster) came in for a roasting from Toby Clements who said that “If you can ignore the predictability... the leaden dialogue, the writing-by-numbers prose, the flat-pack plotting... the utter banality of it all” then the book “is just about all right.”


I do hope the Telegraph employs Lynda La Plante next month to review The No 2 Global Detective by a certain Toby Clements.



Scotland Rules


Something is stirring north of Hadrian’s Wall; a planned invasion by small publishers when it comes to crime fiction.


Firstly, we welcome Douglas Lindsay’s The Last Fish Supper from the author’s own imprint, Long Midnight Publishing of Inverness: the overdue return of Scotland’s worst barber and most inept (and innocent) serial killer, Barney Thomson.

The Last Fish Supper, Douglas Lindsay

In November comes journalist Alexander McGregor’s debut crime novel Lawless from Edinburgh company Black and White Publishing.


McGregor has already had notable success with a true crime book The Law Killers, a criminal history of Dundee, immortalised a decade ago in “Jute City”, the rather surreal TV thriller scripted by David Kane.


The Law Killers was #1 on the Scottish bestseller lists for 10 weeks and at one point was selling one copy every three-and-a-half minutes in Dundee! {One of my novels had similarly impressive sales figures, though only for fourteen minutes in total.}



Moneypenny For Your Thoughts


That iconic character Miss Moneypenny returns in print form in November, though I understand she is missing from the new film version of Casino Royale more’s the pity.


Once again Kate Westbrook (aka Samantha Weinberg) has ‘edited’ Jane Moneypenny’s diaries into Secret Servant (John Murray), a delightful romp which pits our heroine against Kim Philby as well as the usual thick-eared Russkies.


Miss Moneypenny is rapidly staking a claim for her own 00 licence.



Pip! Pip!

The Ripster



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