In a change to my normal academic routine, I’m embarking on research leave for a whole, glorious semester. The chance for this kind of leave comes around every three to four years, and is really invaluable, as it provides time to build up some proper momentum – in my case for writing up research on German and international crime fiction.
I’ll be focusing on two key projects. The first is a book, Detecting the Past: Representations of National Socialism and its Legacy in Transnational Crime Fiction. As the title suggests, it will explore how crime writers have depicted the Nazi period and its post-war legacy since 1945, exploring themes such as criminality, morality, justice, memory and guilt in larger historical, political and social contexts. One key area of interest is how ‘Nazi-themed crime fiction’ reflects the work of historians on the period. A recent example is David Thomas’ Ostland (Quercus, 2013), which draws on perpetrator studies by historians such as Christopher R. Browning to create a portrait of an ‘ordinary man’, police detective Georg Heuser, who comes to play an active part in the Holocaust. A compelling ‘psychological thriller’, the novel is also a sobering depiction of the mechanics of the Holocaust, and of the attempts to bring perpetrators to justice in the 1960s. It’s an excellent example of how history and the findings of historians can be made accessible to a wider public by harnessing the conventions and popularity of the crime genre. Incidentally, details of the 150 primary texts I’m working on can be found here – a number of which have been discussed on this blog over the past two years.
My second project is to finish editing Crime Fiction in German, a volume of essays for the University of Wales Press, which will act as an introduction to the subject for an English-language audience. As well as exploring the development of crime fiction in Germany, Austria and Switzerland from the nineteenth century onwards, the volume examines German-language crime from a number of different angles: the crime fiction of the former GDR; regional crime fiction; women’s crime fiction, historical crime fiction; Turkish-German crime fiction; and the enduring popularity of TV series such as Tatort (Crime Scene). It’s the first time this kind of comprehensive overview will have been published in English, which is very exciting. The volume will join others in UWP’s European Crime Fiction series, such as French Crime Fiction (2009), Scandinavian Crime Fiction (2011) and Italian Crime Fiction (2011).
Focusing my energies on academic writing means that I’ll be blogging a little less than I usually do over the next few months. But I’ll still be popping up with recommendations now and then, so please do not adjust your sets! And normal service will most definitely be resumed…