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Cathi Unsworth, ‘Weirdo’ (2012)

I started reading Cathi Unsworth based on the recommendation of two authors. David Peace (author of the four ‘Red Riding’ novels, the closest the UK has to James Ellroy’s LA Quartet) called her ‘the first lady of noir fiction’, comparing Bad Penny Blues to Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia. Unsworth has also said that she became a crime … Continue reading

On the size of a story

I’m currently in the middle of reading Cathi Unsworth’s Weirdo, which is just over 400 pages long. This is at the longish end of what I’d usually read; but as I’ve previously enjoyed her Bad Penny Blues, I’m willing to take this one on trust. As with the previous novel, Unsworth uses the story’s length to explore … Continue reading

Georges Simenon, ‘Maigret Sets a Trap’ (1955)

This is my second Simenon novel (the first being Maigret and the Lazy Burglar, which I read last year). I picked it up from a sale in my local library (cost: 10p), and as it’s the original 1965 English translation, it has lovely, heavy, slightly yellowed pages. I spent half my time thinking I’d turned … Continue reading

On the burning of books

I once thought about writing a story in which an obsessive bibliophile – determined to have the only copy of a private press book – steals all the others in existence and kills their owners. At the story’s climax, he builds a huge bonfire – but of course, in his madness, he’s added his own … Continue reading

My New Favourite Author: Ted Lewis

Three weeks ago, I’d heard of Ted Lewis but not read any of his work. Now, in quick succession, I’ve finished both GBH (his final novel, published in 1980), which I picked up for the steal-of-the-century price of 10p; and also Jack’s Return Home (Lewis’s second novel, which came out in 1970; it’s often published under the title of the Michael Caine film it inspired, … Continue reading

‘A certain disciplined exoticism’: Ian Fleming and the art of writing a thriller

I was delighted (via a fellow blogger) to be pointed in the direction of a wonderful essay by Ian Fleming entitled ‘How to Write a Thriller’, first published in August 1962 in American magazine Show (I’ve not been able to source an original copy, but would love to see one, even in digital format). Now, I don’t consider … Continue reading