What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Raven?

7e42f475d4f202bdd68eac647fceabf5_bigger (1)After a little business-related break, here is another installment in my series of interviews with crime fiction afficionados. Raven is the mysterious nom de plume of one of my favourite book reviewers, whose opinions have an uncanny tendency to match with mine. In real life (as if books were not real life?!), Raven is a bookseller as well as an avid reader and reviewer. And I am delighted to say that we are also comrades-in-arms as contributors to the Crime Fiction Lover website.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

Thanks to the encouragement of my mum, a keen reader, who started me reading at a very early age, I have always been a regular library user, and surrounded by books. I remember dipping into mum’s fiction collection so started on Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King, Eric Ambler and possibly some others that weren’t entirely suitable for my age at that time! However, the real turning point for me in terms of my passion for crime fiction came with the early issuing of my adult library ticket, and discovering the as yet unexplored delights of what seemed to me a never ending wall of crime books in our local branch. Consequently, I remember some of my first discoveries including Ed McBain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, William McIlvanney and Derek Raymond, and my crime reading career was forged in earnest from that point on.

Are there any particular types of crime fiction or subgenres that you prefer to read and why?

Thanks to my early reading experiences, I have a long-held affection for American crime fiction, not so much the more mainstream ‘mass-produced’ authors, but those that practice the noble art of sparsity and social awareness underscored with a nod to the dark side. So currently, I would cite authors such as George Pelecanos, Ryan David Jahn, Dennis Lehane, Frank Bill and Ace Atkins as among my more recent favourites. Likewise, I am an ardent fan of Scottish and Irish crime fiction, despite being neither, as this feeling of the darker side of the human psyche seems more in evidence in the police procedurals of this sub-genre. Also, with what I call ‘the Larsson effect’, I am positively lapping up the increasing availability of European crime fiction in translation, thanks to publishers such as Quercus, Europa Editions and Gallic Books et al, producing crime fiction that really ticks the boxes for me. Not one for cosy crime I must admit!

What is the most memorable book you’ve read recently?

Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex and Irene, I found astounding in both their execution, and different take on the crime fiction genre. With my natural propensity to veer towards the darker side of the human psyche, and the positively masochistic preference for the probing psychological read, he has been a real discovery.

If you had to choose only one series or only one author to take with you to a deserted island, whom would you choose?

No quibbling on this one. Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series would be firmly ensconced in my washed up, hopefully waterproof, trunk. Also one of my numerous boxes of books that I would try to rescue in a fire!

Huge_pile_of_booksWhat are you looking forward to reading in the near future?

In the very lucky position of being an established crime reviewer and a bookseller, every day unveils a new reading treat, and a new or not so new author to read. Therefore, every new arrival on my crime radar is a treat in store and I particularly relish the discovery of a cracking new debut author. I look forward to reading them all, although I’m increasingly edgy about the new George Pelecanos collection not appearing until next year…

Outside your criminal reading pursuits, what author/series/book/genre do you find yourself regularly recommending to your friends?

With my brilliant ‘day-job’ as a bookseller, I am also a keen fiction reader, so actually spend an equal amount of my time recommending my fiction finds. I am an avid reader of classic and contemporary American fiction, less mainstream British fiction, Australian fiction, as well as European fiction in translation, and have a store of favourites from Elliot Perlman, Andrey Kurkov, Jim Crace, Magnus Mills, Gregory David Roberts, Ron Rash, Tim Winton and oh- countless others. When time allows I also enjoy an eclectic range of non-fiction titles, as I suddenly develop a strange interest in something, and am driven to read extensively about it. Reading is my passion and I love sharing this enthusiasm with anyone kind enough to listen!

Thank you, Raven, and that explains why your reviews speak to me so much – since you mention so many of my favourites: George Pelecanos, Ed McBain, Pierre Lemaitre… Looks like the dark side of crime fiction appeals to both of us. And of course we are all envious of your day job!

For previous revelations of reading passions, see here. And if you would like to participate in the series, please let me know either in comments below or on Twitter.

23 thoughts on “What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Raven?”

  1. Marina Sofia – Raven’s is one of my ‘must visit’ blogs, so I’m very glad to see this interview – thanks.

    Raven – I think the 87th Precinct series is among the best in the police procedural tradition. Can’t blame you for choosing it as your ‘desert island’ series. And I agree about ‘mass produced”blockbuster’ series. Not my cuppa, either.

    1. Thanks so much for asking me to take part in this series. It’s been lovely to read about the criminal passions of some of my favourite bloggers. What an interesting bunch of people united by their love of great books. And I love the fact that we both like a trip to the dark side…. 🙂

  2. An absorbing little interview: many thanks to both of you. I too was bowled over by Lemaitre’s Alex. I’ve not yet been able to lay hands on Irene.

    Being a bookseller in this day and age must take a lot of courage, Raven. You have my admiration.

  3. Enjoyed this, Marina Sofia. I’m in an escapist place right now as I publish novel #2 and have turned to crime fiction for my reading at night. Can’t wait to check out some of your suggestions, Raven.

    1. Ah, it’s a slippery slope, Victoria. I turned initially to crime fiction for escapism and it now forms the bulk of my reading. At least this way, if the writing isn’t quite up to scratch, at least I have a puzzle to resolve (or that’s my reasoning, at least).

  4. Thank you Marina Sofia for this great interview. I quite like crime fiction, with a slight preference for Michael Connelly and Scandinavian authors. I also quite like Faye Kellerman’s novels.

    1. You’ve named some great ones there! I don’t like all Scandinavians (sometimes, because of the popularity of certain Scandinavian authors, publishers have jumped on the bandwagon and released things which were mediocre at best), but when they are good, they are very good!

  5. Reblogged this on Raven Crime Reads and commented:
    My thanks to Marina Sofia for including me in this excellent series on bloggers and reviewers on her own blog Finding Time To Write. It’s both interesting and enjoyable to see how our individual interests in crime fiction came about and what books are currently exciting our criminal tastebuds. Be sure to check out the rest of the series!

Do share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.