April 4, 2006
I just finished reading The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais, the LA-based crime fiction writer who earned fame for the Elvis Cole series of novels and for Hostage, which was later made into a movie starring Bruce Willis.
It wasn’t Crais’ best work, but that doesn’t matter too much. When he’s at the height of his powers, as he has been in Elvis Coles’ recent outings such as The Last Detective and Forgotten Man, Crais is right up there in the elite group of crime fiction writers.
In The Two Minute Rule, a novel inspired by Los Angeles' extraordinary two-a-day bank robbery culture, Crais is just off his best. The plot was as tight and twisty as
a brand new slinky, as one might expect from Crais. The new characters in this
standalone book – a convicted bank robber trying to go straight after 10 years
in jail and a retired FBI officer – were interesting enough that I’d be more
than happy to see them again should Crais choose to return to them. There was
also Crais’ usual probing analysis of the fine and ever-moving line between
good and bad, an often subjective boundary weaving in and out of the objective
markers laid down by the law of the land.
what he didn’t achieve with these characters, Max Holman and Katherine Pollard,
was the emotional depth that has characterised the Cole novels. This is not
really a criticism. Elvis and sidekick Joe Pike have been around for 10 books,
Max and Katerhine are just starting out. They may never appear again.
relate all this because it might be one of the few places you can read it. For
reasons I will explore another time, many literary editors of the UK's national newspapers, have sidelined genre fiction - crime, espionage, romance, sci-fi, fantasy etc - to the status of afterthought.
they are reviewed at all, these books are too often cast into tiny “paperback”
sections where they get perhaps 200 words each, or else stuffed into great
round-up pieces where 8 novels might be given the same number of column inches
as the biography of some long-forgotten 18th century Armenian poet.
And I find this baffling. Because these are the books people read. Genre writers sell tens of millions of books a year, while the market for poet biographies, regrettably, is pitifully small.
you don’t believe me, pick up any one of the Books sections this Saturday or
Sunday in the nationals and see how much space is given over to books people
actually read, crime fiction and mysteries and the like. It won’t be very much.
So where do you go to find a not new writer, to hear about the latest Robert Crais novel, or to find out when Michael Connelly or John Grisham might be visiting you local bookstore?
are disappointingly, frustratingly few resources. Richard and Judy do a job,
but I’ve never been home in time to see them. There are some decent
crime-writing magazines that do a job, but without ever quite persuading me it
was necessary to get a subscription one. And there’s always Amazon – I have
found the odd recommendation useful there, but it’s somewhat random and
But to someone who reads a lot of crime fiction, and who enjoys discussing it, arguing about it, being faintly anoraky about it – there’s not that much.
So rather than bitch and moan about it - in fact, as well as bitching and moaning - I decided to try and do something about it, and have created this site as a resource for crime/mystery/thriller/historical fiction fans. (I apologise to fans of chick lit and romance but it’s not my thing, I don’t read much of it and can’t help uou)
It will, in part, be a sort of reading diary. I’ll let you know what I’m reading and what I think, and sound off about tangential issues. I will post formal reviews here. And as a former journalist who has written occasionally about crime fiction I am not completely without resources and will (hopefully) have access to writers for interviews and the like, which I’ll also post here. (I had a half hour with Robert Crais last week, while he was in town promoting The Two Minute Rule and will put some of that up here).
But writing this doesn’t help me get recommendations, so I’m also hoping to attract some feedback. What are you reading? What do you like? Post your reviews and recommendations. What I really want is intelligent and lively debate about the sort of books I love reading.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger (p 245)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (p 14)
(I generally have two books on the go; one on my bedside table at home, and one for my 90-minutes-each-way commute.)
Waiting on the shelf
Blood from a stone by Donna Leon
Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs
The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton