Month: April 2019

May I Suggest Murder? an overview of crime fiction for readers’ advisory services staff (2011) by Rachel Franks

Paget_holmesA brief but interesting account of crime fiction.

Description: Crime fiction first started to gain widespread popularity in the 18th century, a popularity which dramatically increased in the 19th century. Today, crime fiction is the most popular form of fiction with almost one in every three new books published in English falling into the crime fiction category. Since the early days of crime fiction the genre has evolved into an incredibly diverse area of fiction, making it one of Australia’s, and the world’s, most popular. There is, literally, a dead body to suit every reader’s taste. Such scale and scope of choice, however, can create challenges for readers wanting to read crime fiction for the first time or wanting to extend their reading past a favourite author or series. This overview of the genre identifies the main sub-genres of crime fiction, providing a set of concise definitions illustrated with international and Australian examples of crime fiction works.

Rachel Franks (2011) May I suggest murder? An overview of crime fiction for readers’ advisory services staff, The Australian Library Journal, 60:2, 133-143, DOI:10.1080/00049670.2011.10722585
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049670.2011.10722585

Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John H. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter, which appeared in The Strand Magazine in September, 1893. Original caption was “HOLMES PULLED OUT HIS WATCH.”

My Book Notes: The Wrong Shape, 1911 (s.s.) by Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Reading Time (2019). Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3536 KB. Print Length: 1001 pages. ASIN: B07MZ6BNWV. Content: The Innocence of Father Brown; The Wisdom of Father Brown; ‘The Donnington Affair’; The Incredulity of Father Brown; The Secret of Father Brown; The Scandal of Father Brown; and ‘The Mask of Midas’. NOTE: This edition Father Brown: The Complete Collection has only 52 of the 53 Father Brown short stories Chesterton wrote.  The 53rd story is “The Vampire of the Village,” often included in some versions of  The Scandal of Father Brown, but not in this volume.

41xMeK3S3QLBook Description: ‘The Wrong Shape’ is a Father Brown mystery short story originally published in The Saturday Evening Post (10 December, 1910), one of the twelve short stories included in The Innocence of Father Brown, published in book form in 1911. In this instance Father Brown, of the small church of St. Mungo, accompanied by a very tall French friend of his called Flambeau investigates the death of the celebrated poet Leonard Quinton, whose body has been found in his study, together with a note that read: “I die by my own hand; yet I die murdered!”.

My take: ‘The Wrong Shape’ is a delightful account of a Father Brown mystery, included in The Innocence of Father Brown and available free in the Internet. It is one of my favourites and has all the characteristics of the series. The two plots encompasses both the investigative elements (the detection itself) together with the story of the crime. And Father Brown sums up very well the difference between a miracle and a mystery what looks certainly curious –for the time it was written– coming from a Catholic priest.

‘You call it queer, and I call it queer,’ said the other [Father Brown], ‘and yet we mean quite opposite things. The modern mind always mixes up two different ideas: mystery in the sense of what is marvellous, and mystery in the sense of what is complicated. That is half its difficulty about miracles. A miracle is startling; but it is simple. It is simple because it is a miracle. It is power coming directly from God (or the devil) instead of indirectly through nature or human wills. Now, you mean that this business is marvellous because it is miraculous, because it is witchcraft worked by a wicked Indian. Understand, I do not say that it was not spiritual or diabolic. Heaven and hell only know by what surrounding influences strange sins come into the lives of men. But for the present my point is this: If it was pure magic, as you think, then it is marvellous; but it is not mysterious–that is, it is not complicated. The quality of a miracle is mysterious, but its manner is simple. Now, the manner of this business has been the reverse of simple.’

My rating: A (I loved it)

The Wrong Shape has been reviewed at Past Offences

About the Author: Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, five plays, five novels, and some two hundred short stories, including a popular series featuring the priest-detective, Father Brown. In spite of his literary accomplishments, he considered himself primarily a journalist. He wrote over 4000 newspaper essays, including 30 years worth of weekly columns for the Illustrated London News, and 13 years of weekly columns for the Daily News. He also edited his own newspaper, G.K.’s Weekly. Chesterton was equally at ease with literary and social criticism, history, politics, economics, philosophy, and theology.

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La forma equívoca (1911) de Gilbert K. Chesterton

Descripción del libro: “La forma equívoca” es un relato de misterio breve del Padre Brown publicado originalmente en The Saturday Evening Post el 10 de diciembre de 1910. Es uno de los doce cuentos incluidos en El candor del Padre Brown, publicado en forma de libro en 1911. En este caso, el padre Brown, de la pequeña iglesia de San Mungo, acompañado por un amigo francés muy alto llamado Flambeau, investiga la muerte del célebre poeta Leonard Quinton, cuyo cuerpo fue encontrado en su estudio, junto con una nota que decía: : “¡Muero por mi propia mano pero muero asesinado!”

Mi opinión: “La forma equívoca” es un relato encantador de un misterio del Padre Brown, incluido en El candor del Padre Browny disponible de forma gratuita en Internet. Es uno de mis favoritos y tiene todas las características de la serie. Las dos tramas comprenden tanto los elementos de investigación (la propia investigación) como la historia del crimen. Y el padre Brown resume muy bien la diferencia entre un milagro y un misterio, lo que parece ciertamente curioso, para el momento en que se escribió, viniendo de un sacerdote católico.

—Sí —continuó el padre Brown—. Usted dice que es extraño y yo digo que es extraño, pero ambos queremos decir cosas opuestas. La mente moderna confunde siempre dos ideas diferentes: misterio, en el sentido de lo maravilloso, y misterio, en el sentido de lo complicado. En materia de milagros, esta confusión es la mitad del problema. Un milagro es admirable, pero simple. Simple por lo mismo que es un milagro. Es la revelación de un poder que dimana directamente de Dios (o del diablo) en vez de proceder indirectamente a través de la naturaleza o la voluntad humana. Aquí, usted dice que este caso es maravilloso porque es milagroso, porque es una brujería obrada por ese indio malvado. Entiéndame usted bien: yo no niego que sea un hecho espiritual o diabólico. Sólo el cielo y el infierno conocen las extrañas influencias que determinan los pecados humanos. Pero lo que yo digo es esto: si, como usted lo supone, es un caso de magia, claro es que será maravilloso, pero no será misterioso, es decir, no será complicado. La calidad del milagro es misteriosa, pero su procedimiento es simple. Y he aquí que, a mi modo de ver, el procedimiento de este asunto ha sido todo lo contrario de lo simple. (Traducción copiada de Internet)

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) nació en Londres, se educó en St. Paul’s y fue a la escuela de arte en el University College de Londres. En 1900, se le pidió contribuir con algunos artículos de revistas sobre crítica de arte y se convirtió en uno de los escritores más prolíficos de todos los tiempos. Escribió cien libros, contribuciones a 200 más, cientos de poemas, incluida La balada del caballo blanco, cinco obras de teatro, cinco novelas y unos doscientos cuentos, incluida una popular serie en la que aparece el sacerdote-detective, Padre Brown. A pesar de sus logros literarios, se consideraba principalmente un periodista. Escribió más de 4000 ensayos periodísticos, que incluyen 30 años de columnas semanales para el Illustrated London News y 13 años de columnas semanales para el Daily News. También editó su propio periódico, G.K.´s Weekly. Chesterton se sentía igualmente cómodo con la crítica literaria y social, la historia, la política, la economía, la filosofía y la teología.

The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (2003) Edited by Martin Priestman

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Cambridge University Press, 2003. Format: Paperback Book, 310 pages. Edited by Martin Priestman. ISBN: 978-0521-00871-6.

case6.000x9.000.inddSynopsis: The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction covers British and American crime fiction from the eighteenth century to the end of the twentieth. As well as discussing the ‘detective’ fiction of writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, it considers other kinds of fiction where crime plays a substantial part, such as the thriller and spy fiction. It also includes chapters on the treatment of crime in eighteenth-century literature, French and Victorian fiction, women and black detectives, crime in film and on TV, police fiction and postmodernist uses of the detective form. The collection, by an international team of established specialists, offers students invaluable reference material including a chronology and guides to further reading. The volume aims to ensure that its readers will be grounded in the history of crime fiction and its critical reception.

Table of Contents: Chronology. Introduction: Crime fiction and detective fiction. 1. Eighteenth-century crime writing by  Ian A. Bell; 2. The Newgate novel and sensation fiction, 1830-1868 by Lynn Pykett; 3. The short story from Poe to Chesterton by Martin Kayman; 4. French crime fiction by Sita Schütt; 5. The golden age by Stephen Knight; 6. The private eye by Dennis Porter; 7. Spy fiction by Davis Seed; 8. The thriller by David Glover; 9. Postwar American police fiction by LeRoy Lad Panek; 10. Postwar British crime fiction by Martin Priestman; 11. Women detectives by Maureen T. Reddy; 12. Black crime fiction by Andrew Pepper; 13. Crime on film and TV by Nickianne Moody; and 14. Detection and literary fiction by  Laura Marcus. Guide to further reading

My take: The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction collects fourteen essays, including a six-page Introduction by book editor Martin Priestman in a 310 pages volume. The essays following Priestman’s introduction range from 11 to 23 pages. Martin Priestman himself acknowledges in his Introduction: ‘As with any book aiming to comprehend such a vast genre, some omissions have sadly been inevitable: doubtless of many well-loved individual works, as well as any non-Anglophone fiction apart from the French or high-cultural. Less apology is due for the occasional overlap of material – and even at times the disagreements – between chapters. For the reader of this book from cover to cover, as well as for those to chase up particular interests, the aim is to provide a sense of the genre’s history as multi-layered rather than unidirectional , and of its criticism as in process rather than univocal. At the same time, we hope that much of the best that has been and can be said about crime fiction in the early 2000s is represented – through direct argument or through references as comprehensive as we could make them – here.’

Regretfully, Priestman –maybe foreseeing some criticisms– tries to anticipate them, recognising some omissions, the occasional overlap of material, and even the disagreements between chapters at times. However, this self-criticism, doesn’t seem sufficient in my view and, at the end, I was rather disappointed with this book. Perhaps my expectations were set too high. Although –to tell the truth– not all the contributions deserve such a bad critical review. In short, I’m very much in agreement with Patricia Craig (see her full review of The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction in The Independent here) when she writes: ‘The authors have a good deal to say …. The problem is that often they say it in someone else’s words. Running through the whole collection like a dull refrain is a spate of recycled observations: “as Robert Barnard has shown”; “as Symons notes”; “as Howard Wincant has it”.’ I honestly believe that the Wikipedia entry here, provides a better coverage on the subject.

About the Editor: Martin Priestman is a Professor of English at Roehampton University of Surrey. Books on crime fiction include Detective Fiction and Literature: The Figure on the Carpet (Palgrave Macmillan, 1991); Crime Fiction: From Poe to the Present (Northcote House Publishers Ltd; 2 Revised edition, 2013); and The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (2003), editor and Chapter 10. Post-war British crime fiction (contributor).

My rating: Since this is not a work of fiction, I’m not going to give this book any rating.

Cambridge Core

The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (Guía de Cambridge a la Novela Criminal), por Martin Priestman

Sinopsis: The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction trata de la novela criminal británica y estadounidense desde el siglo XVIII hasta finales del XX. Además de hablar sobre la novela policíaca de escritores como Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie y Raymond Chandler, considera otros tipos de novelas donde el crimen desempeña un papel importante, como el thriller y la novela de espionaje. También incluye capítulos sobre el tratamiento del crimen en la literatura del siglo XVIII, la novela francesa y victoriana, las mujeres detectives, la novela policíaca de color, el crimen en el cine y en la televisión, la novela policiaca y los usos posmodernistas del formato policial. La recopilación, realizada por un equipo internacional de reconocidos profesionales, ofrece a los estudiantes un valioso material de referencia que incluye una cronología y guías de lecturas adicionales. Este volumen tiene por objeto asegurar que sus lectores adquieran los fundamentos de la historia de la novela criminal y de la importancia de su aceptación.

Contenido: Cronología. Introducción: La novela criminal y la novela de detectives. 1. La escritura criminal en el siglo XVIII, por Ian A. Bell; 2. La novela de Newgate y la novela de sensaciones, 1830-1868, por Lynn Pykett; 3. El cuento de Poe a Chesterton, por Martin Kayman; 4. La novela criminal francesa, por Sita Schütt; 5. La edad de oro, por Stephen Knight; 6. El investigador privado, por Dennis Porter; 7. La novela de espionaje, por Davis Seed; 8. El thriller, por David Glover; 9. La novela policiaca  estadounidense de la posguerra, por LeRoy Lad Panek; 10. La novela policiaca británica de posguerra, por Martin Priestman; 11. Las mujeres investigadoras, de Maureen T. Reddy; 12. La novela policiaca de color, por Andrew Pepper; 13. El crimen en cine y en la televisión, de Nickianne Moody; y 14. La novela de detectives y la ficción literaria, de Laura Marcus. Lecturas adicionales.

Mi opinión: The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction es un libro de 310 páginas que recopila catorce ensayos, incluida una Introducción de seis páginas del editor Martin Priestman. El resto de los ensayos que siguen a la introducción de Priestman tienen una extensión de 11 a 23 páginas. El mismo Martin Priestman reconoce en su Introducción: “Al igual que cualquier libro que pretende abarcar un género tan vasto, lamentablemente algunas omisiones han sido inevitables: sin duda muchas obras individuales muy conocidas, así como novelas no anglófonas, aparte de las francesas o de alto valor cultural. Menos disculpas se deben a la superposición ocasional del material, e incluso a veces de desacuerdos entre capítulos. Para el lector de este libro desde el principio hasta el fin, así como para aquellos que tengan intereses en determinados capítulos, el obejtivo es porpocionar un sentido de la historia del género de múltiples dimensiones en lugar de unidireccional, y de su crítica como proceso en lugar de unívoco. Al mismo tiempo, esperamos que mucho de lo que se ha dicho y se puede decir de la novela criminal a principios de la década del 2000 esté representado aquí, con argumentos claros o con referencias tan completas como las que hemos podido hacer.” (mi traducción libre)

Lamentablemente, Priestman, tal vez previendo algunas críticas, intenta anticiparse a ellas, reconociendo algunas omisiones, la superposición ocasional de material e incluso, a veces, las discrepancias entre los capítulos. Sin embargo, esta autocrítica no me parece suficiente y, al final, me decepcionó bastante este libro. Tal vez mis expectativas eran demasiado altas. Aunque, a decir la verdad, no todas las contribuciones merecen una crítica tan mala. En resumen, estoy muy de acuerdo con Patricia Craig (ver su reseña   completa de The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction en “The Independent” aquí cuando escribe: “Los autores tienen mucho que decir … El problema es que a menudo lo dicen en las palabras de otros. Recorrer toda esta colección con un aburrido estribillo es un alubión de comentarios reciclados: “Como ha demostrado Robert Barnard”, “Como destaca Symons”, “Como cuenta Howard Wincat”. Honestamente, creo que la entrada de Wikipedia aquí, proporciona una mejor cobertura sobre el tema.

Acerca del editor: Martin Priestman es profesor de inglés en la Universidad Roehampton de Surrey. Sus libros sobre novela policíaca incluyen Detective Fiction and Literature: The Figure on the Carpet (Palgrave Macmillan, 1991); Crime Fiction: From Poe to the Present (Northcote House Publishers Ltd; 2ª edición revisada, 2013); y The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (2003), editor y colaorador del Capítulo 10. Post-war British crime fiction.

Mi valoración: Como no se trata de una obra de ficción, no le voy a dar ninguna valoración a este libro, aparte de lo ya señalado.

OT: Nasca: Looking for Footprints in the Desert

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This week Begoña and I had the opportunity to visit Nasca: Looking for Footprints in the Desert, a free exhibition at Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Fuencarral, 3 Madrid.

On the arid southern coast of Peru, between approximately 200 BC and 650 AD, Nasca, one of the most fascinating and enigmatic pre-Columbian Andean cultures, thrived. Since its discovery in the early 20th century, Nasca people have amazed the world with their striking pottery and fine textiles, as well as their geoglyphs, huge drawings etched across the pampas, whose nature and function have been the subject of great debate.

From a representative selection of pottery, textiles and metal objects, displayed together with contextual materials, this exhibition tells the story of the people who populated the basin of Rio Grande de Nasca two thousand years ago.

The Espacio Fundación Telefónica is hosting the Nasca exhibition. Looking for Footprints in the Desert, organised by the Lima Art Museum (MALI) and the Museum Rietberg Zurich in cooperation with the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn and Fundación Telefónica. In scientific cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute and the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad (SLSA).

Organised by Cecilia Pardo, Deputy Director of the Mali Museum and the curator of Museum Rietberg Peter Fux, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to learn about the nature and significance of this enigmatic culture through pieces of great significance. It also offers a series of technological tools(mapping, virtual reality, animations, etc.) that allow the viewer to have a new experience thanks to a museum that emphasises dissemination through digital resources.

Read more at Fundación Telefónica

The exhibition reminded me of Agatha Christie and Jorge Luis Borges. I am sure that they would have loved it.

The Petrona Award Shortlist

TPAlogoThe 2019 Petrona Award Shortlist was announced yesterday. You can read all details at The Petrona Award website. I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to read them all before the 11th of May, when the winning title will be announced. However, I will interrupt my reading plan to read next  BIG SISTER by Gunnar Staalesen, tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway) and THE DARKNESS by Ragnar Jónasson, tr. Victoria Cribb (Penguin Random House; Iceland). I’m also much interested in reading THE WHISPERER by Karin Fossum, tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway) and RESIN by Ane Riel, tr. Charlotte Barslund (Doubleday; Denmark). And, last but not least, I look forward to reading THE ICE SWIMMER by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway) and THE KATHARINA CODE by Jørn Lier Horst, tr. Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph; Norway). Stay tuned.

The Petrona Award was established to celebrate the work of Maxine Clarke, one of the first online crime fiction reviewers and bloggers, who died in December 2012. Maxine, whose online persona and blog was called Petrona, was passionate about translated crime fiction but in particular that from the Scandinavian countries.

Her memory will always remain with us.