Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Back among the books...

Award-winning indigenous filmmaker turned debut crime novelist Michael Bennett (Ngati Pikiao, Ngati Whakaue) hanging with Queen of Crime in Hatchards, London

Craig every second Tuesday

Kia ora and gidday everyone,

Well, we're well and truly settled back into London life after a wonderful April back in Aotearoa New Zealand, and bookish things really seem to be ramping up for me and many others. While I didn't make it to Bristol for Crimefest over the weekend - having just returned from a month away and with plans to attend several British crime festivals over the coming months, eg Harrogate, Bute Noir, and Bloody Scotland - the past week has been bookaful for me. 

Last Wednesday I went to my first 'author lunch' since before the pandemic, to celebrate bestselling Irish novelist and screenwriter Jo Spain's new psychological thriller, THE LAST TO DISAPPEAR. It was really lovely to catch up with Jo and several fellow reviewers and awards judges/crime aficionados including Ayo Onatade, Jon Coates, Barry Forshaw, Laura Wilson, Mike Ripley, and Paul Burke. In fact, it was the first time Paul and I had met in person, though we'd had several conversations and video chats throughout the pandemic, so I felt like I knew him already. 

Some criminally good company at Jo Spain's author lunch

It was really nice to hang and out and chat crime fiction and more for a couple of hours - the first time several of us had seen each other since pre-pandemic, after getting used to many catch-ups each year at various festivals. For me, other than the excellent Bloody Scotland festival last September, this was my first in-real-life crime fiction hangout since March 2020, and first author lunch since Australian author Michael Robotham was in town in late 2019. 

Many weeks I have books-related writing to do: features for magazines and newspapers or reviews for the same or online. But last week I actually had clear decks on that front - the interviews I was doing were with African lawyers for one of my day jobs, and the High Commissioner to Singapore for a non-books feature for a magazine - though I still had some crime fiction related writing, or rather editing, to do. 

On Sunday night I pressed 'send' on the manuscript for a very cool project I was asked late last year to helm: a first-of-its-kind anthology of Australian and New Zealand crime writing. With the boom in global recognition of the terrific crime writers now pouring out of Australia and New Zealand (there've always been some really good writers down that way, but now more eyes are looking), it's been a lot of fun - as well as a fair bit of work - to showcase some many authors from 'the antipodes' not only in feature articles and reviews but also both in Southern Cross Crime, my pandemic-released first book, and now with Dark Deeds Downunder.

A superb table of contents for DARK DEEDS DOWNUNDER, including the first new story from legendary Aussie crime writer Shane Maloney in many years

It's been pretty cool getting put together this anthology - the line-up we got is amazing, ranging from long-time legends of modern Aussie crime like Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, and Shane Maloney (all Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement honorees) to many award-winning, well-established novelists, and some really exciting, fresh voices. I'm particularly stoked that we have a really wide range of voices too, spreading all across 'Downunder' geographically and demographically. The response we had from authors was superb - so much better than I hoped at the start. So much so that before this manuscript was even done we already have Volumes 2 and 3 underway. 

Dark Deeds Downunder will be released in a few weeks time. Check it out when it's out. 

After pressing send on that manuscript near midnight on Sunday, I spent the bulk of Monday and today (outside of some legal journalism and Dad stuff) doing more bookish things with visiting Māori storyteller Michael Bennett, who was passing through London after doing some work in Ireland on a television series (he's an award-winning film and TV director and screenwriter) and some European and North African travel. Michael's first crime novel, Better the Blood, comes out in August in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and in the USA early next year. 

Michael will be part of the 'New Blood' panel of debut authors hand-picked by Val McDermid at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in late July, so lots of crime readers and authors will get a chance to meet him then. It's really cool to see his first crime novel getting published globally - he's a heck of a storyteller, and from a broader perspective it's really heartening to see a talented indigenous author added to our crime ranks. For me, our big crime writing tribe only benefits from more and more different perspectives and experiences joining in. 

Craig, Michael, and Katherine outside Goldsboro Books

Along with some meetings with his publishers, we took the chance to show Michael around London a bit, including visiting fabulous spots like Goldsboro Books - one of my favourite places in the city - and Hatchards, which has been doing its bookselling thing since the late 18th century, and stopping into the Lamb & Flag pub, a Dickens haunt. 

I'm looking forward to Michael getting to meet and hang out with lots of cool crime-lovers at Harrogate and elsewhere later this year, when he's back over from Aotearoa New Zealand. As many of you reading this will know, we have a really cool 'crime tribe', that's overall very welcoming and a great bunch to hang out with. 

The love of books and creativity and ideas (and talking about all those things - often over a drink or three) is a nice thing to have in common, and the crime writing community in general is pretty amazing. 

On that night, I may sign off for today. It's been a busy bookish week, in among other life things, but a very good one because of that. Lots of exciting things ahead over the northern Spring-Summer-Autumn (Fall for our North American pals). I hope to see some of you at a festival or event or two as we start sharing more in-real-life things. 

Stay safe, and happy reading. 

Until next time, ka kita ano. 

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 

Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I've been ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Ahakoa he iti he pounamu

(Although it is small, it is greenstone)

Pounamu are treasured items carved in a variety of traditional designs that are full of meaning and should never be bought for yourself - only gifted to you by others

1 comment:

  1. Craig, you certainly do know how to stoke the fires of desire to return to the joys of in person crime lover gatherings ASAP. I can't wait to be back...and buy you that beer I promised--or at least I think I did. :)