What Got You Hooked on Crime, Fiction Fan?

A Glaswegian by birth and now back living in a small town just outside the city after a detour to the bright lights (and better employment opportunities) of London. Fiction Fan (who prefers to keep her anonymity) started reading when she was four and anticipates still being as enthusiastic about it when she turns 104. Although her tastes in reading are eclectic, crime is how she ends every day. Clearly, one murder before bedtime puts her in the right frame of mind for sleep! She started reviewing on Amazon about 4 years ago in a tiny way, was then invited onto the Amazon Vine programme – at that time a wonderful source of free books – and became addicted to the whole reviewing thing. You can find her discussing books on her wonderful blog or on Twitter.

Tommy and Tuppence.
Tommy and Tuppence.
How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

Very traditionally – via Enid Blyton first, especially George and Timmy in the Famous Five books. Then on to Agatha Christie in my teenage years: she has remained one of my all-time favourites, which explains why my cats are called Tommy and Tuppence. My elder sister was, and still is, a voracious reader of British and American crime, so through her I met up with a huge range of authors in my teens, from PD James to Ed McBain and all points between.

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

I wasn’t really aware of it till I started keeping a record of my reading through reviewing, but I’ve discovered my tastes are incredibly insular. Though I read a wide range of authors from different countries, my favourites always tend to be British and often Scottish. I guess it must be because I feel at home within the cultural setting. In older books, I enjoy the classic mystery style with a private detective, but in modern crime my tastes run very much towards police procedurals with strong central characters – Ian Rankin’s Rebus, Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan, Sharon Bolton’s Lacey Flint.

Untidy bookshelvesWhat is the most memorable book you have read recently?

Ooh, so many! But I’d have to go with Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty. Brilliantly situated within Holmes’ world, but Horowitz has avoided the problems of characterisation and tone that so often beset ‘continuation’ novels by omitting Holmes and Watson entirely, except by reference. So well written and with a twist that left me gasping and applauding, it has everything – great descriptions of London, excitement, peril, horror and enough humour to keep the tone from becoming too grim. Wonderful stuff – hope he’s hard at work on the next one!  

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

Ah, that would have to be Reginald Hill! I can’t imagine life without Dalziel – for decades I waited eagerly for publication day for each new one to come out, and there’s not one of them that doesn’t stand up to repeated re-readings. I loved seeing how Hill’s style changed and developed over the series, from fairly standard crime novels at the beginning to almost literary novels by the end, often playing with aspects of some of the classic writers. If I had to choose one favourite crime novel of all time, it would be Hill’s On Beulah Height – superbly written, deeply moving and still with a great crime story at its heart. But I’d want to take his Joe Sixsmith books along too – lighter in tone and great fun. Oh, and his standalones, of course…

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

Peter May’s Runaway, due out in January. I’ve been a long-term fan of May since his China Thrillers days, but his more recent books – The Lewis Trilogy and then Entry Island – have taken his writing to a whole new level, perhaps because he’s writing about his native Scotland and somehow that has given his books a deeper integrity and more of an emotional heart. Runaway is set partly in Glasgow, partly London and is apparently influenced by events in May’s own early life. Can’t wait!

I’m also eagerly awaiting the English translation of Zoran Drvenkar’s You (in January too, I hope, though it’s been put back a couple of times already), having loved his previous very dark Sorry. Just threw that in to prove I do occasionally read non-British authors!

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

Ah, my poor friends and blog followers will be heartily tired of me recommending – nay, evangelising about – Patrick Flanery, the most exciting newish literary author on the block, in my opinion. His first book Absolution is set during and in the aftermath of apartheid, seen from the perspective of the white South Africans. It is a brilliant look at how memories are distorted and conflicting, and how hard it is to distinguish whether motives are personal or political. A book that actually made me re-assess my opinion of the time. And his more recent novel, Fallen Land, is a stunning cross between thriller and literary novel, looking at the state of the American psyche in the post 9/11, post global economic crash world. I somewhat arrogantly declared it The Great American Novel for this decade – and I still stand by that! Oh, and it’s also an absolutely enthralling and rather terrifying read.

Otherwise I fear I incessantly recommend whatever new thing has taken my fancy (which happens on average once a week or so), be it factual, fiction, crime or just plain weird… I actually found myself trying to talk people into reading the manga version of Pride and Prejudice not so long ago! Well, an enthusiasm shared is an enthusiasm doubled, isn’t it? Especially when it’s a book…

I see nothing wrong with manga or BD versions of great literature. I’ve read most of my French classics in this way! And I’m completely in agreement with you about ‘On Beulah Height’ being one of the most remarkable of the Reginald Hill (or perhaps even all British crime fiction) canon.

This will be the last of the ‘What Got You Hooked’ series for this year. Thank you so much to all of my participants for their patience, humour and insights. You’ve added many, many authors to my TBR list! For previous participants in the series, just follow this link. If I have enough people willing to take part, I will continue the series in 2015, so please let me know if you would be prepared to answer these questions, don’t be shy!



33 thoughts on “What Got You Hooked on Crime, Fiction Fan?”

  1. You got me hooked on crime fiction! Thanks for all the RT’s about the genre! I am starting my ‘own’ Crime adventure 2015!

  2. Wonderful interview with crime fiction fan. I discoverd some great reading suggestions and new blog to add to my blogroll. I must keep reading my classics and French books…but I’m itching to read my crime fiction in the afternoon!

    1. Be careful: it’s addictive, once you start! Fiction Fan does a good job of reading other books, not just crime fiction, but it’s always there in the background.

  3. Marina Sofia – Thanks for hosting FictionFan. I couldn’t agree more about how wonderful her blog is!

    FictionFan – What a delight to see you here! And I must say, Tommy and Tuppence are looking fabulous. I don’t blame you for your ‘desert island’ choice. The Dalziel/Pascoe books are ‘must-reads,’ I think, for any crime fiction fan. And I’m not surprised your addiction started with Enid Blyton and later Agatha Christie. I think a lot of us succumbed that way… 😉

    1. Thank you, Margot! T&T always insist on that photo since they think they look gorgeous in it, and who am I to disagree? Doing this has made me even keener to fit on some Dalziel & Pascoe re-reading very soon. I wonder if as many people would have turned to crime if it hadn’t been for Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie…

  4. Thanks for having me as part of your What Got You Hooked series, Marina Sofia. I’ve enjoyed reading all the other ones, and it was fun to do – but hard to narrow the top picks down. I guess we could all talk about our favourite crime for hours once we start… 🙂

    1. And that’s kind of the point… a chat around the water cooler about our favourite crime fiction and making new discoveries… away from the tyranny of 140 characters of Twitter.

  5. What a lovely interview, MarinaSofia, not to mention a wonderful interviewee!

    I’m so glad she continues to bang the much needed drum for Patrick Flanery – she banged it VERY loudly in my ear for Absolution a couple of years ago and immediately got me banging too!

    I think FF deserves a special mention also for not just banging the drum for authors, but for bloggers and their blogs. She spends as much time promoting US to each other as she does promoting them wondrous books we read.

    I’m constantly amazed that such a lovely generous person should be such a fan of grisly dismemberment though (Tee Hee) Some of us need chamomile tea to get to sleep, others make do with half buried body parts waiting to be discovered!

    I think she probably got the taste for dismembered corpses from Tommy and Tuppence……………

    1. Haha! Thank you very much, milady! It is odd that I can cope with (fictional) autopsies and blowflies, and yet one captured mouse can lead me to call the cats words that I would strongly object to reading in print! But then most rodents are so much sweeter than most people…especially the people in crime novels… 😉

    2. I know I’ve surrendered and will be investigating Patrick Flanery very shortly…
      And do you know what I’ve noticed at book festivals and on Twitter etc.? That crime writers or crime fans are usually the sweetest, most generous, fun and gregarious bunch of people you’re likely to meet in the literary world! Maybe all that murder on the page helps them to get all the aggression out of their system…?

      1. I’ve certainly noticed that since I joined the blogosphere…people have been SO encouraging and helpful, just a really nice bunch of folk. Thank you all, for everything! And re crime writers – I instantly thought of Val McDermid, who’s always so jolly – but with some of the most gruesome murders on the page. I think you’re onto something here…!

      2. Well I think crime fans must be gregarious only because you all know far too much about the ease of bumping people off ever to trust yourselves to be outside a large group of you gathered together. It’s safety in numbers syndrome!

        I’ll remind FictionFan she must be generous when there is only one chocolate left in the box!

        Delighted you are surrendering to Flanery

      3. Oh good! I think you’ll enjoy Flanery – I hope you do!

        Or maybe we feel we have to be nice to people for fear that, if we annoy them, they’ll bring out that untraceable poison… 😉

  6. What s a splendid way to end the year, Marina Sofia, with one of my favourite bloggers, who plays havoc with my TBR pile! I also love her eclectic tastes,which has encouraged me to be more adventurous about what I read. She has also been responsible for my parents’ (hopefully) buying me the Roy Jenkins bio for Christmas! I have some Reginald Hill in my collection; I WILL get to them. And I promise I’ll investigate Patrick Flanery!

    1. Thank you very much, crimeworm! I think you’ll love the Reginald Hills – they seem to me to tie in well with the kind of things you enjoy. The Roy Jenkins bio is great, and at a million pages or so should keep you well occupied till long after the Christmas cake is gone. And Flanery is a must… I’ll keep going on about him till everybody just gives up and reads them… 🙂

      1. I’ve got the Jeremy Thorpe biography too, at 700 pages! So I’ll emerge around March! I think it was because Dalziel and Pascoe looked terribly dull on tv, although I never watched it, that I was actually put off the novels! I’m pretty sure I have On Beulah Height somewhere, it’s in a lot of “Best of Crime” lists…but as I haven’t seen it since we moved I suspect it’s in one of the two still unpacked boxes of books.
        And I think I’ve solved the mystery of your anonymity…you are Patrick Flanery! Yes, I think reading all this crime fiction is clearly paying off…LOL!

        1. Haha! I wish I was! Apart from being brilliant, he’s also young and pretty gorgeous. Wrong gender, though, sadly… 😉

          I quite enjoyed the Dalziel and Pascoe series – well, the early ones, anyway – but the books are much better. Aren’t they always?

        2. Absolutely – TV (in the UK, at least) doesn’t have the same time as a book has to develop. The one British crime TV series for me is Scott And Bailey – probably because the women are in charge!

    2. She has been a source of inspiration and comfort (and blown budgets) for all of us, so it’s been a real honour and pleasure to have her here! And yes, you need to get to the Reginald Hill books – they are quite different from the TV series, where Ellie just becomes annoying rather quickly.

  7. Thanks for this feature Marina! So lovely to get the inside track on one of my favourite bloggers, the marvellous Fiction Fan who takes delight in extending my TBR list beyond the realms of physical possibility…but I love it 😉

  8. Haha! This was awesome. Don’t know how I missed it. When one gets old, one tends to miss things.

    Now this is maybe sorta coming close to convincing me to maybe read some crime fiction. I could probably count the number of crime books I’ve read–on one hand!

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