Extensive re-run of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ crime fiction series on now!

Thanks to Andy Lawrence for spotting that BBC Radio 4 is re-running episodes from Mark Lawson’s excellent ‘Foreign Bodies’ crime fiction series on BBC Radio Four extra and BBC iPlayer Radio. Most episodes will be available online for a month following broadcast, and offer 15-minute opportunities to delve into the work of key crime writers and traditions from around the world.

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The ‘Foreign Bodies’ series are close to my heart for their celebration of international crime fiction, their focus on some of our most interesting detective figures, and their analysis of how crime fiction is used to explore important political and social issues. I was also lucky enough to contribute to two episodes in Series 1 – on the works of Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Jakob Arjouni respectively.

Here’s a list of the ‘Foreign Bodies’ programmes you can listen to via BBC Radio iPlayer, either now or in the coming days. If you’re looking for some gems to add to your reading list, then these programmes are definitely for you.

Series 1, Episode 1  Belgium: Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret (Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon)

Series 1, Episode 2  Switzerland/Germany: Inspector Bärlach (Friedrich Dürrenmatt… with a contribution from Mrs Peabody)

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Series 1, Episode 3  Czechoslovakia: Lieutenant Boruvka (Josef Skvorecky)

Series 1, Episode 4  The Netherlands: Commissaris Van Der Valk (Nicolas Freeling)

Series 1, Episode 5  Sweden: Inspector Martin Beck (Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö)

Series 1, Episode 6  UK: Commander Dalgliesh/Chief Inspector Wexford (P.D. James and Ruth Rendell)

Series 1, Episode 7  Sicily: Inspector Rogas (Leonardo Sciascia)

Series 1, Episode 8  Spain: PI Pepe Carvalho (Manuel Vázquez Montalbán)

Series 1, Episode 9  UK: DCI Jane Tennison (Linda La Plante)

Episodes 10 to 15 are not yet listed as available, but they may well be soon – I’ll update if so (these include Montalbano/Italy, Kayankaya/Germany, Rebus/Scotland, Wallander and Salander/Sweden, Harry Hole/Norway and Fandorin/Russia).

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Series 3, Episode 1  Cuba: an exploration of fictional investigations of Cuba after the Castro revolution with Leonardo Padura, author of The Havana Quartet, and Caroline Garcia-Aquilera, a Cuban-American writing from exile in Miami.

Series 3, Episode 2  USA: Laura Lippman and Walter Mosley, the creators of private eyes Tess Monaghan and Easy Rawlins, discuss how they introduced the experience of women and black Americans into crime fiction dominated by men and a McCarthyite fear of outsiders.

Series 3, Episode 3  Poland: Zygmunt Miloszewski and Joanna Jodelka reflect on how Polish crime fiction depicts the country’s occupation by Nazis and Communists, the transition to democracy through the Solidarity movement and lingering accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.

Series 3 Episode 4  Australia: Australia’s leading crime novelist, South African-born Peter Temple, discusses depicting a society shaped by both British colonialism and American power, and why Australian crime fiction should contain as few words as possible.

Series 3 Episode 5  Nigeria: Writers Helon Habila and C.M. Okonkwo discuss how a flourishing new tradition of Nigerian crime fiction explores British legacy, tribal tradition and the new “corporate colonialism” as global companies exploit the country’s mineral reserves.

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Mark Lawson’s article on the first ‘Foreign Bodies’ series is also available via The Guardian: ‘Crime’s Grand Tour: European Detective Fiction’.

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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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Tasty treats: Sherlock Holmes, Chinese crime, John le Carré and some publishing news

All sorts of interesting bits of crime news have come my way in the last couple of weeks…and are now gathered here for your delectation.

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A three-volume collection of over 60 new Sherlock Holmes stories appeared on 1st October, edited by David Marcum (MX Publishing). As well as being an absolute feast for Holmes fans, the collection supports a brilliant cause: all royalties will be used to fund preservation projects at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw. You can read more details of how the Undershaw rescue mission and new collection came about – a heady tale of determined fans, thwarted property developers and support from Mark Gatiss (co-creator of the TV drama Sherlock) – in this Radio Times article.

Thanks to Martin Rosenstock for alerting me to the new Sherlock adventures. Martin is one of the authors featured in the collection, and has also contributed an excellent chapter on Swiss crime fiction to our forthcoming Crime Fiction in German volume. In fact, he opens that chapter with a reference to Sherlock Holmes’ apparent demise at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, creating a rather lovely virtuous circle!

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Chinese President Xi has been on the receiving end of a charm offensive during his recent visit to the UK, as various deals are sealed including a 25 billion pound nuclear power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset. So I was very interested to see this piece by Bruce Jacobs, entitled ‘Qiu Xiaolong’s Detective Chen novels give clues to unravelling the mysteries of China‘. I read the first in the Chen series, Death of a Red Heroine, a good while ago, and remember liking it, but hadn’t realised that there are now nine in the series. Jacobs shows how the Chen novels give ‘excellent insights into China from the time of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution to the present’, and, as the covers above indicate, explore the interaction of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Chinas. Thanks to Craig Sisterson for posting this piece on Facebook.

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Regular readers to this blog will know that I am a huge John le Carré fan – you can read my appreciation of his novels here. A major new biography by Adam Sisman has just been published by Bloomsbury, which examines le Carré’s life and his career as a spy and writer in detail. There’s a long piece by Sisman in The Guardian today entitled ‘From cold war spy to angry old man: the politics of John le Carré’, which explores how the author’s political views have become more left-wing over time. Sisman uses a great German term to account for this – Alterszorn (the rage of age) – and provides some excellent insights into a number of le Carré’s novels. Well worth a read.

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‘My emergency plan: A Prosecco to wake up. Then an expresso with a shot. Around eleven, the first beer. And so on in stages’. Yours, Aunt Poldi

And finally, some publishing news generated by the Frankfurt book fair:

  • No Exit Press has acquired The Harbour Master and Night Market by Daniel Pembrey. They are the first and second installments of ‘The Amsterdam Quartet’ featuring police detective Henk van der Pol.
  • Bitter Lemon Press has acquired the English-language rights to the hilarious German crime novel Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, which will be published in 2016. Author Mario Giordano will be in London on 10th November at the Goethe Institut to talk about the book. It’s a free event – for further details see here.
  • Orenda Books has secured a three-book deal for Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu Botswana crime novels Deadly Harvest, A Death in the Family and Dying To Live.
  • And Orenda has also acquired World English Language rights for Norwegian crime writer Thomas Enger’s next two titles in the ‘Henning Juul’ series, Coat of Arms and Mortal Wound.