Plans for Quais du Polar Lyon 2016

This will be the fourth (and probably last) time I attend the Quais du Polar in Lyon and, believe me, I know just how fortunate I am! The timetable this year (between April 1-3) is, as always, terribly tempting, with many conflicting interests tearing me apart. So, for the sake of some clarity, I’ve decided to focus on women and BAME writers, as well as writers from lesser-known crime fiction countries (many of them entirely new to me). Sadly, not that many women writers are invited to the festival this year.

Copyright: Laurent Bouchard, Quais du Polar.
Copyright: Laurent Bouchard, Quais du Polar.

Here is the plan:

From the UK: Jessica Cornwell, L.S. Hilton and Sophie Hannah. I’ve read and even reviewied many of Hannah’s books, can’t get hold of Jessica Cornwell in the time left, and will read LS Hilton’s allegedly ‘explosive’ Maestra by then.

From the US: Jax Miller and Sara Gran. The latter is on my e-reader – crime set in New Orleans, doesn’t get much better than that! As for Jax Miller, everyone has been raving about her debut novel Freedom’s Child, but I haven’t read it yet.

Germany: Nele Neuhaus. I reviewed her for CFL a couple of years ago – a breezy style and an interesting start via self-publishing.

South Africa: Deon Meyer (well, who can resist him?) and Michele Rowe (new to me)

Switzerland: Sebastien Meier. I’ve heard about him: despite his Germanic-sounding name, he writes in French.

Austria: Marc Elsberg. He writes technical thrillers, about cyberspying, so I’m not sure that’s my cup of tea or glass of Grüner Veltliner.

Iran: Nairi Nahapetian – journalist of Armenian descent born in Iran, who is exiled from her home country and writes in French.

Turkey: Alper Canigüz. Has been translated into French but not English. The Assassination of Hicabi-bey apparently features a five-year-old who refuses to go to nursery and becomes a detective instead!

Africa: Janis Otsiemi from Gabon; Leye Adenle from Nigeria and Kangni Alem from Togo.

Of course, I also hope to sneak in a little conversation with other guests, such as Irvine Welsh, Anthony Horowitz, Arnaldur Indridason, Jo Nesbo, Craig Johnson, David Lagercrantz, David Peace, Donato Carrisi, Franck Thilliez, J. J. Connolly, John Connolly, Richard Price, Olivier Truc, Antonin Varenne. Many of whom I have reviewed either on CFL or here.

So here is my request for you: any burning questions you would like me to ask any of these authors?

Why I Plan to Do Diverse December Too

I’ve already committed to reducing the number of books on my Netgalley shelves in December. I’ve been monstrously greedy throughout the year and now need to be munching on my existing goodies.

However, Naomi Frisby makes a lot of sense when she talks about her reasons for the Diverse December initiative, as does Dan. So I will do my best to participate in this initiative as well, since unconscious bias is always with us, no matter how ‘liberal’ and ‘socially aware’ we like to think we are.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very international environment. Although the overseas English school I attended as a child included more than your fair share of children from privileged (moneyed, diplomatic, well-educated) backgrounds, at least it contained all colours and religions as well. So I’ve never been able to resort to glib generalisations about people based on their skin tone, nationality or ethnic group. And yet…

I too did the Harvard University’s Implicit Association test for skin colour and found that I had a slight preference for lighter skin tones. But I need look no further than among my group of friends to know that, although they are a cosmopolitan crowd, not that many of them are non-white.

Virtual bookshelves from trademarksandbrandsonline.com
Virtual bookshelves from trademarksandbrandsonline.com

So let me search among my Netgalley shelves and see what BAME writers I can find there. A bit shameful, really. Of the 45 books currently on my shelf, only 5 fit the criteria.

  1. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee – a Korean growing up in Hong Kong
  2. The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra – Algerian writer working largely in France
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – Japanese-Hawaiian in US
  4. The Killing Lessons by Saul Black – pseudonym of Glen Duncan, Anglo-Indian writer growing up in Bolton – the only non-white child at his school.
  5. The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura – OK, I’m clutching at straws here, as this is a Japanese author living and writing in Japan, so never part of an oppressed minority.

If I were to include ‘other white’ immigrants (a category in which I always have to put myself at the census), I could also read:

  1. Expulsion and Other Stories by Marina Sonkina – Russian living in Canada
  2. Forty One by Lesia Daria – of Ukrainian origin (? – not entirely sure)

Not a great proportion, but it’s a start for this month… And I may sneak in some other reads from beyond those virtual shelves!