Wednesday, December 16, 2020

And now, the end is near... by Cathy Ace

So, 2020 is finally drawing to a close, but it seems this year still has more bitter pills for us to swallow. The death of John le Carré has encouraged me to add this “Foreword” to the piece I had prepared for today, so – if you’ll forgive me – I’d like to open by tipping my hat to a master of our craft. 

Whilst his stories centered (in the main) upon the world of professional spies, le Carré's writing about human relationships (both personal and professional), politics (from the intimate to the global in scale), the David vs Goliath scenarios he so often utilized - and his ability to create characters, mood, and setting so seamlessly -  made a huge impact upon me from the time I first read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (which I think I read in the mid-1970s) right through to my reading of Agent Running In The Field, which I read earlier this year. I find it hard to express how very much I was in awe of his skills, and the extent to which his works gave me delight. If ever I wanted to slow down and truly relax when reading a book, I’d choose one of his; he gave me the priceless gift of allowing me to take time to think as I read, and to experience the world through which his tales moved in a very real way. As I write this, I can still conjure characters and settings, as well as scenes, of his I haven’t read for decades, and that’s saying something. Thank you. You, and your talent, will be missed. Many others have been able to write with more knowledge and eloquence than I possess about his enormous influence upon a certain sub-genre of crime writing, but – for me – I shall just remember him as a great writer.

Because I read le Carré I also discovered Len Deighton’s books and, more recently, those by Mick Herron – all of which have also allowed me countless hours of pleasure. I should also mention here - because I'm now thinking "spy" - the Evan Tanner books by Lawrence Block - which are an absolute delight...bizarre, whimsical, yet truly set in this sub-genre. 



That being said, I’d also like to pick up on comments made by some of my fellow-bloggers here at 7 Criminal Minds: as a group of writers our output covers a wide-range of sub-genres – check out our offerings and you’re likely to find the type of book that would appeal to anyone for whom you need a gift.

Beyond our coterie I would suggest the following: 

The Logan McRae books by Stuart MacBride: dark, not for the faint-hearted! Topics/themes include child abduction, torture and murder, cannibalism, and sex crimes; the violence is graphic, and heartrending. But…if you have a dark heart (it seems I do!) you’ll also find these books to be laugh-out-loud funny. The vividly-drawn characterizations are second to none, and the humor arises from situations that are…well, without context it’s pointless me trying to describe how these police “procedurals” work, but they do – sublimely well, for me.

The Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books by Robert Crais: stylish, full of memorable and enjoyable characters, twisty tales with a real LA flavor. Not too dark, but with call-backs to classic noir and much hat-tipping to Chandler and Hammett.

The Ruth Galloway books by Elly Griffiths: excellent traditional mysteries featuring a strong but flawed female protagonist, and a supporting cast of (mainly) loveable returning characters. I don’t know why Elly’s books aren’t better known than they are in North America, but maybe her recent win of an Edgar (for a standalone, The Stranger Diaries) will change that.


Books by Martina Cole: most of Martina Cole’s books are standalones, though there are a few which return to characters over the years (the Maura Ryan trilogy and the DI Kate Burrows quartet). For anyone who enjoys London crime family/London gangster underworld tales (think The Long Good Friday) these books are for them! She’s the Queen of Gangland writing for a reason – she’s bloody good at it; you don’t get to sell a gazillion books by accident. Again, not as widely read in North America as in the UK (strong language, graphic violence warning) but she should be!


The Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley: the antithesis of Martina Cole’s books, this series featuring a young girl living out her life (full of science and murder!) in a crumbling once-grand home in mid-twentieth century England are a delight for ANY age of reader (tweens upwards). Traditional mysteries rather than cozies, they’re one of my guilty pleasures!


The Peter Diamond books by Peter Lovesey: from Wobble To Death (pub. 1970, featuring Victorian detective Sergeant Cribb) to The Finisher (pub. 2020, featuring Supt. Diamond) I have enjoyed every book I have read written by Peter Lovesey. You can't go wrong with any of his works, but I recommend diving into the wonderful Peter Diamond books, set in Bath. 


As we face the end of what has – for many – been a desperate fight to stay safe and sane, seemingly unending months of uncertainty and (sadly, for many) loss and heartbreak, I hope you and those you care about are able to find peace and enjoyment between the covers of a book. Escape, enjoy, discover, challenge yourself, solve the crime, bring the culprits to justice…if you can.

Here’s to all of us working out how we’re able to live by The Golden Rule – to treat others as we would wish to be treated – and I wish you a healthy, peaceful end to this year, and 2021.



Dietrich Kalteis said...

Some great recommends here, Cathy. I'm a fan of Crais and Le Carré.

All the best to you and yours for the holidays.

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks to you and yours too!

Catriona McPherson said...

Your warmth shines through everything you write, Cathy. This included. Cx

Susan C Shea said...

Ditto Catriona's comment, and thanks for the personal tribute to Le Carre. I have lots of his books but haven't read all of them. It may be time for another one. Happy holidays.