Deutschi Crime Night and the ‘Crime Fiction in German’ volume

The wonderful Deutschi Crime Night took place yesterday at Waterstones Piccadilly. The panelists were Austrian author Bernhard Aichner, German author Sascha Arango, the acclaimed translator Anthea Bell, New Books in German editor Charlotte Ryland and me, with Euro Noir expert Barry Forshaw in the chair – who did us proud.

Embedded image permalink

Photo by Charlotte Ryland

The discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating, and included the following: Sascha on his decision to set The Truth and Other Lies in a unidentifiable, universal space (like Nesser’s ‘van Veeteren’ series), in contrast to the regionally rooted writing he does for the Kiel episodes of the German TV crime drama Tatort (Crime Scene), and about the influence of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series on his writing; Bernhard on his creation of the ‘lovable serial killer’ Blum and the research he carried out for Woman of the Dead in a funeral home and at autopsies; Anthea on the process of translating the novel, which she really enjoyed, and on translating more generally, which she described as ‘finding the author’s voice’.

In addition, we took a canter through the crime fiction of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, discussing early German-language crime, crime greats from the Weimar period such as Fritz Lang’s M, Nazi crime fiction, Austrian crime fiction’s use of satire, Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s complex detective figures, and the boom in historical crime fiction since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (I drew on the forthcoming Crime Fiction in German volume when making my contribution to this portion of the discussion, of which more below). Charlotte filled us in on the work of New Books in German and some crime fiction coming our way soon, including the beguilingly entitled Der nasse Fisch (The Wet Fish) by Volker Kutscher and Melanie Raabe’s Die Falle (The Trap). She also helped us ponder the question of why German-language crime hasn’t quite had the breakthrough it deserves in the UK, with a publisher in the audience adding that she was confident it has the capacity to do so. A good boost would be provided by some German-language crime in the BBC4 Saturday crime slot…

Waterstones crime event

Anti-clockwise from front: Charlotte Ryland, Anthea Bell, Bernhard Aichner, Sascha Arango, Barry Forshaw, Mrs Pea (photo by Jennifer Kerslake)

Barry also kindly gave me the opportunity to talk about the Crime Fiction in German volume, which is out in March 2016 and will provide the first comprehensive overview in English of German-language crime from its origins in the 1800s to the present day. I’ve set up a tab about the volume here, and you can see further details on the University of Wales Press website. The volume is part of the UWP ‘European Crime Fictions‘ series, which already contains volumes on French, Italian, Iberian and Scandi crime.

The cover for the Crime Fiction in German volume has just been finalised and looks gorgeous. I love the psychedelic green (Schwarzwald on speed?) and the lashings of blood. And just look at those clever little bullet holes.

German CF cover final

Finally, as a few people from our lovely audience were asking for reading recommendations after the event, here are some past ‘Mrs. Peabody Investigates’ posts about German-language crime:

Alles Gute und viel Spaß!

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22 thoughts on “Deutschi Crime Night and the ‘Crime Fiction in German’ volume

    • Thanks, Margot – it was a lovely evening all round. Glad you like the cover too – it’s great to have it and makes the volume (finally) seem real.

  1. Sounds like my kind of evening – how I’d have loved to see and hear you all there! Looking forward to your book too and to spreading the word about German crime fiction.
    Just one question: why was it called Deutschi – is that Swiss German?

    • I wish you could have been there too, MarinaSofia!

      I think the ‘Deutschi’ tag came about for two reasons: firstly to echo/link to ‘Scandi’ crime, and secondly to signal that it’s not just German crime fiction we’re talking about, but Austrian and Swiss (and possibly other countries) too. It sounds a little odd to begin with, but is beginning to grow on me.

  2. A fantastic evening with a highly esteemed panel and two authors who firmly put to bed the misconception that German crime fiction plods along and reads like a procedural manual with little or no appreciation for subtlety and humour. On the contrary, both Sascha Arango and Bernard Aichner were engaging and charismatic personalities who both display much of their dark humour amidst the pages of their novels. From the panel discussion and author chat, I doubt “plodding” is a term you could apply to either of these.

    The shame of it is that so few European translations hit our bookshelves and even less seem to gain any mass market momentum. Maybe it seems like a no brainier to target the mass market chick lit genre and ship em in, ship em out pronto. Whilst I appreciate the work of the New Books in German publication, the pity is that these novels aren’t widely available.

    Hearing first hand from translator Anthea Bell about what it takes to translate a foreign novel well and thanks to the always good value Mrs Peabody who took us on a breakneck canter round Germn crime fiction through the years. My, how I wish I had taken notes! Whilst Krimi may not be as invasive and all consuming as the Scandi/Nordic trend, there are clear many special works and landmarks in German crime fiction waiting to be discovered.

    I wondered if every few months anyone fancied starting a German crime fiction book club and a few of us either pick a key novel from German crime history or a work from New Books in German and engage in some sort of Twitter book discussion upon completion. I for one would be very keen, however, due to my limited (alright, GCSE) level of German, I would need English transactions and cannot read the original German. If anyone is keen, do let me know.

    Thanks for a terrific night,

    Rachel (@hallrachel on Twitter).

    • Good morning, Rachel! I totally agree with you about Bernhard and Sascha – they were really lively and engaging speakers – and I think that you’ve hit on an important point here. What we need is for lots of German/Austrian/Swiss writers like them to come over and properly meet a wider UK public via events such as DeutschiCrime. We touched on stereotypes in our discussions on Thursday, and it’s *possible* that Brits think of Germans as being rather serious and humourless 🙂 So let’s add more author appearances to our wishlist along with a major German-language crime series on BBC4.

      One of the points I was trying to make on Thursday was that there are a surprising number of German crime translations already available. I think the problem is less a lack of translations and more that these have not been gathered together and marketed/sold effectively as an entity like Scandi Noir. Three examples: No Exit Press has been championing the Kayankaya series by Jakob Arjouni (see http://www.noexit.co.uk/index1.php?imprint=1&isbn=9781842437810), Nele Neuhaus’s Snow White Must Die was featured on the Richard and Judy bookclub (http://richardandjudy.whsmith.co.uk/20-13/autumn/neleneuhaus-snowwhitemustdie/) and the greats like Friedrich Duerrenmatt’s The Pledge have been in translation for a while (http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo4155490.html).

      If you fancy some crime from other countries, then the World Noir series from Europa books is a treasure trove: http://www.worldnoir.com/. Bitter Lemon Press is also great (http://www.bitterlemonpress.com/).

      I like your idea of a German crime fiction bookclub, and reckon there are enough texts out there in translation to have plenty of supplies. Have you tried to run anything like this before? I’ve been to physical reading groups, but not tried a virtual configuration (though I suppose the blog crosses over with that idea of a reading collective a bit).

    • I’m all for that, Rachel! As Mrs. P. says below, there are already plenty of good translations of German crime fiction available (just not always in bookshops!)

      • Hi there Mrs P and Marina,

        I am very grateful for both your replies and thoughts. I would be very keen to delve further into the German crime world and think that a few of us having a set text to discuss or review would certainly add a little impetus. I review for new releases for the website http://www.lovereading.co.uk and those of us on the book reviewing panel submit a review to the website to be posted as a PDF file on the website for other followers to peruse and see if the book could hold something their interest. This typically happens on release date for the new publications and although it does not facilitate discussions and interaction so much, it is good to gauge others opinions of themes, feelings towards characters, etc.

        However, I am keen not to make this too onerous as we all have jobs/home lives and responsibilities to combine with our reading endeavours. I had thought as an initial starting idea we could set one book every two months and those who wish to get involved could contribute a review of their thoughts, not just whether they enjoying reading it, but to go a little deeper. I see on the Richard and Judy website they do provide book club questions and these would be helpful as ideas to be consider reviews. At lovereading, the publishers gain some promotion for the novels they send out to the new release panel, and although I know we are unlikely to get too much help from the large publishing house, but perhaps others like No Exit Press would provide a list of book club discussion ideas to get us all thinking.

        If we were to gain some kind of mass, then we might be able to get publishers or other websites interested in our ideas and maybe get some free copies of books sent out, however, I would be perfectly happy to purchase all of the books myself. (Books are my one extravagance, sod clothes and make up!). If we felt we didn’t have time to take part on occasions because of other life commitments then that would be fine, but if we gained a core of say about 10 of us, you would hope that 7 people would review. We could also kindly ask Mrs P. if she might allow a PDF of our reviewers thoughts to be available through a website. Mrs P. I am very happy to collate reviews and send to PDF, but we would need somewhere to host it. Mrs P. do you have any students on Swansea who have created something similar which we could use as a starting point?

        Although I didn’t speak to Charlotte on the evening, perhaps New Books in German or the Geothe Institute might we willing to play some part in this and promote the German authors? This would be great advertising for some of new releases and key novels through history.

        By the way, Mrs P. how I wish some of the Radio 4 episodes of Foreign Bodies were still available on the iPlayer. Do you know of any other host website where some of the earlier episodes these can be downloaded from?

        Anyway, sorry my Mum tells me I can bore for England, so apologies if have waffled on and ores anyone stiff. Any thoughts would be appreciated…

        Take care all,

        Rachel

      • Hello Rachel – I LOVE your enthusiasm and ideas. I’m away on a trip until Tuesday, and will have a good think about options while on the road. Very happy to participate/host in some shape or form.

        I wish Foreign Bodies was still available as well. It would have been great to have a CD with all of them. I don’t think they’d be anywhere else due to copyright, alas.

        Have a good weekend and talk further soon. All the best, Mrs P x

      • Great Mrs.P and thanks for your comments… I too will think about the logistics of how we could get some kind of impetus and momentum for this group. We can bash heads again at some point on Wednesday, but in the meantime, could I see what kind of enthusiasm we have for this amongst readers of this blog? Please can I ask anyone who would be keen to get involved to post a message of this interest prior to Wednesday please.

        Mrs. P, I know you are an academic and your commitments to Swansea and your students will be many and varied, so I would hope that I could do some of legwork involved in establishing a group of readers, collating reviews etc and contacting publishers if were to progress to that stage. If it wasn’t practical to host on your blog Mrs. P, I could mention this idea to http://www.lovereading.co.uk and ask them if they would have any interest in getting our plan off the ground!

        Night night all, it has been great to find this blog and so many people who have enthusiasm and passion about our hobby.

        Bye for now, but will check in on Wednesday, take care all,

        Rachel xx

  3. As a mystery writer myself I always enjoy reading Mrs. Peabody Investigates, and getting a wider picture of the crime writing world, with your own criticisms and comments. It was a particular pleasure to see the photo of translator Anthea Bell on the panel for Deuttschi Crime Night. Long, long ago we were both at Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth, and her sister Sylvia was in my year. I have always followed her career in TLS reviews, and have never seen anything but the highest praise for her work.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jill, and what a lovely link to have. I’ve long admired Anthea’s work and remember seeing her years ago in discussion with W.G. Sebald, whose incredibly complex prose she translated brilliantly. It was a thrill for me to be on a panel with her – and she told me that she sometimes visits Mrs. Peabody Investigates, which made my night. She’s still translating an incredible amount of literature and was very perceptive in her comments about Aichner’s novel and the process of translating. An inspiration 🙂

  4. Interesting discussion. Will your book be available int he U.S. as a paperbook and also as an ebook? Just trying to figure it out for those of us in the States who want to read it.
    Glad the panel was good.
    I do think U.S. readers (can’t speak for those across the Pond) may think that German writers are staid, serious and verbose, and without humor. I’m sure tht isn’t true in crime fiction.
    I rarely see German crime fiction over here in bookstores or libraries though. And it’s not discussed on a lot of blogs, which seem to focus on British, Scandinavian, Italian and (as of now) French crime fiction. But I think it has all taken a lot of promotional work, book reviews, comments on blogs, being listed on book recommendation lists, etc.
    I don’t think Scandinavian mysteries would have become as popular without Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and then Jo Nesbo’s hits. But this all took a lot of promotion by publishers and booksellers.

    • Hello Kathy D. Yes, the book will be available in the States. The volumes in the series are usually published by the University of Chicago Press, but I will double-check this and get back to you with further details.

      I absolutely agree with what you say about raising the profile of German-language crime. There has to be a huge amount of (largely invisible) work to get a particular area of crime fiction on readers’ radars. New Books in German, which is supported by the Goethe Institute, is one such initiative, but we need to keep building awareness/momentum in all sorts of ways, like the Deutschi Crime event and online activities.

    • Thanks, Cavershamragu. The volume’s out in March 2016. I’m just getting the final final final revisions done now and then it’s good to go 🙂

  5. Oh well Mrs Pea and Marina,

    My suggestion of a German crime fiction book club seemed to have gone down like a lead balloon.. Apart from you two I did not receieve anymore messages of interest from others sadly. However this is not going to deter me – I had another thought…!

    Once I have finished by current read, I plan to progress through a number of the books recommended on this website, namely Woman of the Dead, The Truth and Other Lies and Happy Birthday, Turk! However, I do not have my own blog, so I would be posting on GoodReads and Amazon.co.uk. I, however, find GoodReads to be of varying degrees of assistance when selecting a novel to read. A book may not have been reviewed many times, so reviewers will simply offer a one liner of “I loved this” and others I often find biased with the tendency being that those who love the novel leave a review and those who hate everything the novel stands for do so as well!

    My suggestion would be that perhaps we need something akin to GoodReads but with the particular emphasis being on German crime fiction. As this is over and above our time restraints and definitely my capabilities, I was going to suggest that perhaps Mrs Pea would allow other reviews to kindly be posted on this website. As a start to generate debate, could we think about other reviews being allowed to be added in the comments area after Mrs Pea has written her initial thoughts? Anyone with an interest in Euro Crme is surely au fait with Mrs Pea’s blog and it has long been one of the sources that I look at for clear and concise thoughts and discussion.

    Mrs Pea, I know that is asking alot, but your blog is highly respected and one of the first places readers of the whole Euro Crime scene peruse. Surely this would help drum up more interest in these novels.

    Anyway folks, take it easy and all the best for now, Rachel x

    • Hello Rachel! Let’s not give up on the idea of some kind of German crime reading group just yet. It may be the case that we three start it off and that others join on the way. It’s just figuring out the best way of getting things going (some of your earlier suggestions were very good) – or transforming it into something else along the lines you mention later if we feel that’s better.

      If I remember rightly, you said something about a PDF you sometimes generate when reviewing for GoodReads? Perhaps you could send me an example so that I could take a look? I think you were suggesting that we could adapt it in some way?

      I’m going to have to ask you for a little time, though… I’m working against the clock at the moment to finish up exam marking and the final revisions for the German volume. I’m then away for a week, which takes us to the beginning of July. I’ll have much more time then to discuss our ideas in detail; and we could put out a call out for participants when we have a clearer idea of what we want to do. I’m sure we can grow things from there… 🙂

      None of that should stop you getting your teeth into some German crime fiction though…. And it would be great if you could add your thoughts about the books you mention on this blog in the comments sections. The blog loves discussion – and we’ve had some really good ones in the past on all sorts of different works and themes.

      All best wishes, Mrs Pea x

      • Mrs Pea,

        I agree, we are not in any rush with this project. I understand you are extremely bogged down with end of term marking and assessments. I did not want to burden you – my apologies. Maintaining this website in itself must occupy vast swathes of your time.

        I will pause and gather some more thoughts and ideas, try to think through the initiative a little more carefully and we can reconvene when you are home from your hols and have a clearer horizon and a student free summer!

        Btw, I hope your book launch warrants a London bash???

        Take good care, Rachel x

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