GoetheKrimi! A report on the Goethe-Institut/New Books in German crime event

The Goethe Institut/New Books in German crime fiction evening – ‘In the Library with the Lead Piping’ – took place in London last week and was a rip-roaring success. We had an audience of around fifty, who gamely took part in our murder mystery and listened with rapt attention to authors Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano, Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh as they read from and discussed their work.

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Who killed Macneath? The evening began with a murder in the library…

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…before moving on to the readings and a discussion.

The panel discussion focused on Mechtild Borrmann’s ‘Kleve’ police procedurals and her historical novel Silence (Amazon Crossing); Michael Ridpath’s spy novel Traitor’s Gate and his Icelandic ‘Fire and Ice’ series; Mario Giordano’s screenwriting for the TV crime series Tatort (Crime Scene) and his comic crime novel Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (Bitter Lemon Press, 2016); and Louise Welsh’s psychological thrillers The Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs.

As moderator, I thoroughly enjoyed putting some juicy questions to the authors about their works… 

We explored why British authors Michael and Louise chose to write novels set in Germany (Traitor’s GateThe Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs); the authors’ use of settings (from urban Berlin and small-town Germany to the island of Sicily); German regional crime and the Soziokrimi or social crime novel (the ‘Kleve’ series and Tatort); the use of crime fiction to celebrate plural cultural identities (Aunt Poldi); the role of transgressive women in German film and crime (Pandora‘s Box, The Girl on the Stairs, Aunt Poldi); the challenges of writing about the Nazi past (Traitor’s Gate, Silence) and on contemporary Iceland (‘Fire and Ice’ series). We also discussed whether the former East Germany could be the next big thing in historical crime fiction or whether it was still too early to focus on this era (the authors had differing views on this point). The audience put some great questions too, asking to what extent the authors worked together with their translators, whether or not they wrote with their future readers in mind, and the nature of Ingrid Noll’s influence on contemporary German crime writing (huge).

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Ernst the duck was the evening’s mascot – a potent reminder of the pitfalls of national stereotyping…

All in all, it was an excellent evening. Huge thanks to everyone who came along, and to Jens Boyer at the Goethe Institut London and Charlotte Ryland of New Books in German for organising such a fantastic event – Charlotte also did sterling work as a translator during the panel discussion!

We managed to interview each of the authors about their works ahead of the event – I’ll add some links to the podcasts here soon.

And here’s a good blog post by Alyson Coombes on one of Mechtild’s novels – The Other Half of Hope – which will hopefully be translated soon.

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Left to right: Jens Boyer, Kat Hall, Charlotte Ryland, Louise Welsh, Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano and Michael Ridpath. Photo by www.londonvideostories.com

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In other news, the final proofs of the Crime Fiction in German volume have just arrived from the University of Wales Press. All that remains to be done is the index, a job I enjoy as it always throws up entertaining entries. I’ll leave you to wonder how ‘Elvis Presley’, ‘Cagney and Lacey’ and ‘Dragnet‘ fit into the history of German-language crime writing!

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14 thoughts on “GoetheKrimi! A report on the Goethe-Institut/New Books in German crime event

  1. How I wish I could have been there – what a smart-looking (and smart-sounding) panel you are!
    I’ll be featuring Mechtild Borrmann as Talented Women to Watch over at CFL shortly – hope more of her work gets translated into English.

    • We scrub up well 🙂 Wish you could have been there too – it was a fun night.

      Delighted to hear that you’re featuring Mechtild at Crime Fiction Lover. Do let me know when that’s up and I’ll pass it on.

    • Thanks, Barry – it was brilliant to have you there (and thank you again for your question!!!). Look forward to getting a copy of Crime Fiction in German off to you while it’s still warm from the presses.

  2. Will defiantly try to be at the next one, sounded really good.. Have you by any chance read any either of the two novels by the Polish author Zygmunt Miloszewski? I’m just finishing ‘A Grain of Truth’. His Main character can be a bit of an arrogant arse! Certainly a gripping read. Will have to read the first in the series.

  3. Yes that’s where I came across him, I beleave it was his first book ‘Entanglement’, the same time as I came across the Arango book. Y es I certainly want to go to the next one.
    What did you think of the new Bridge? The jury’s still out as far as I’m concerned it’s the old 3rd series thing. The Killing is a perfect example, I thought the 3rd was a big let down, plus the ending
    of series two was a cop out. Afraid that happens to often in TV, to be fair it takes real courage to kill
    off your main character! What an ending that would have been!
    Still some interesting characters, especially the new male detective, & they brought together the jumping about of all the story lines towards the end of the second episode, just didn’t buy the kidnaping of Hans. Also would you really let her near a relative of a murder victim!

    • Hi Brian,

      I enjoyed the first two episodes of The Bridge yesterday – straight into the action without any messing around, an interesting theme (gender/families), and a new partner with some interesting potential. Looking forward to next week already! I’d really missed Saga.

  4. Forgot to add, on BBC 4 to night there’s a very good German film called West, was on earlier this year at the Broadway, got good reviews, will be recording it starts 22.30.

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