Recommendations of Australian Crime Novels published in the last 50 years

Our Holiday Reads - SMSA Library Crime & Mystery Book Club

Our Favourite Crime Books That We Read in 2016

Crime Books from the Year We Turned 21 (or thereabouts)

A Selection of Green Penguins from the SMSA Crime Book Club

In this meeting we read books that had been published as a green Penguin. The original idea, according to wikipedia, was established by Penguin Books, a British publishing house that was established in 1935 that sold inexpensive paperbacks through high street stores.

"From the outset, design was essential to the success of the Penguin brand. Eschewing the illustrated gaudiness of other paperback publishers, Penguin opted for the simple appearance of three horizontal bands, the upper and lower of which were colour-coded according to which series the title belonged to; this is sometimes referred to as the horizontal grid. In the central white panel, the author and title were printed in Gill Sans and in the upper band was a cartouche with the legend "Penguin Books". The initial design was created by the then 21-year-old office junior Edward Young, who also drew the first version of the Penguin logo. Series such as Penguin Specials and The Penguin Shakespeare had individual designs (by 1937 only S1 and B1-B18 had been published).

The colour schemes included: orange and white for general fiction, green and white for crime fiction, cerise and white for travel and adventure, dark blue and white for biographies, yellow and white for miscellaneous, red and white for drama; and the rarer purple and white for essays and belles lettres and grey and white for world affairs. Lane actively resisted the introduction of cover images for several years. Some recent publications of literature from that time have duplicated the original look."

What a great design and marketing idea that has been fabulously executed and has been renewed throughout the years. This meant that the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library's Crime and Mystery Book Club members had a plethora of books to choose from to read. For the latest list you can go here to Penguin Australia. Here is a list of what was read by the group.

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B Parker

Duet of Death by Hilda Lawrence

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

Frequent Hearses by Edmund Crispin

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Glass-sided Ant's Nest by Peter Dickinson

Traitor's Purse; Death of a Ghost; The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham

Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S.J. Simon

The Caterpillar Cop by James McClure

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

Death At The President's Lodging by Michael Innes

Recommendations of Crime Stories from Page to Screen

In our latest Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library Crime and Mystery Book Club, we discussed books that had been adapted for television and film. Some were done well and some we not, and of course, some were better in the written form and some actually were improved on screen. Here are our recommendations:

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
This is the first book in the Cadfael series and was made into a British TV series starring Derek Jacobi.

Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton
This is the first book in the Hamish McBeath series and was made into a British TV series starring Robert Carlyle.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
This is the first book in the Swedish trilogy was made into a nine hour miniseries for Swedish television that was  reedited into three theatrical movies that did very well internationally. This book was also made into an English speaking film with American and English actors. I personally preferred the Swedish version because it holds truer to the Lisbeth character. 

The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter 
The Remorseful Day is the last Inspector Morse, and of course Inspector Morse was a long running British TV series starring John Thaw and inspired two spin offs. Lewis, about his sidekick Sargent Lewis, and a prequel - Endeavour, about a young Morse set in the 1960s.

Wire In The Blood by Val McDermid 
Wire In The Blood is the book the TV series is named after is the first in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. 

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith 
Child 44 was made into a movie starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace in 2015

Runaway Jury by John Grisham 
This is Grisham's seventh novel, but was only the ninth one to be made into a movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 
This series of books from Alexander McCall Smith was made into a US TV series in 2009.

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie 
This collection of short stories have been made into a UK TV series called Grantchester after the town Sidney lives in.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy 
Ellroy's third novel in the LA Quartet was made into a very successful film in 2008.

Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton 
Another series from M.C. Beaton made into an UK TV show.

Frosted Christmas by R.D. Wingfield
Frosted Christmas is the very first DI Frost novel. The UK TV series, A Touch of Frost, starred David Jason. It was very popular and ran for a long time.

Sidetracked by Henning Mankell 
OK, this series of books about Swedish detective Kurt Wallander has been made into a very long running TV series called Wallander in Sweden starring Krister Henriksson from 2005 to 2013. It was made again in English, by the British, starring Kenneth Branagh.

Standing In Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin
Rankin's very popular character Inspector Rebus has been brought to TV by two actors, Ken Stott and John Hannah. Both great actors, but very different approaches to character.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
What can I say? It is a classic in both mediums. Read it and watch the movie.

Meet Inspector Banks by Peter Robinson
Inspector Banks was brought to British TV in the last few years. The next series is due out this year.

To Catch A Thief by David Dodge
This is a book that is actually more famous as a film. The classic Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly is one of the best movies of the 1950s. The book has also been made into a radio play on BBC 4.

The Night Manager by John Le Carre
Other John Le Carre's novels have been dramatised, most notably the Smiley books. However, this recent British TV miniseries is a very slick and sexy take on a later novel from Le Carre.  

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Originally published in 1898, this gothic novel was made into an opera by Benjamin Britten, a ballet by Will Tucket, a play (The Innocents) by Harold Pinter, five feature films (some non-English speaking), over 10 TV movies (again some non-English speaking), and it has also heavily influenced other novels. 

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Rum Punch was adapted by Quentin Tarantino into the film Jackie Brown starring Pam Grier. Here is an interesting interview with Leonard about that adaptation. 

Laura by Vera Caspary
This 1942 novel was made into a classic film in 1944 (yes another one) by Otto Preminger starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. 

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
Made into a film by Michael Apted in 1983 starring William Hurt, Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith was written in 1981 and was the first book in his series set in Soviet Russia.

Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
This is a debut novel by S.J. Watson that was published in 2011 and made into a film starring Nicole Kidman in 2014.

The 2016 Sydney Writers Festival - Murder in the Making

Unfortunately I only managed to get to three talks at this year's Sydney Writers Festival, which boasted over 300 events with many local and international authors and writers.  You can check out some of this year's events here on their youtube channel. My final event was Murder in the Making, which was a discussion between Australian fiction and true crime authors about why they decided to write about crime and murder.

The authors involved were Emily Maguire, who not only writes crime fiction but also pens essays and articles on sex, religion and culture; Anna Westbrook, who has just written her debut crime novel; and true crime writer and academic, Alecia Simmonds. The facilitator was Dr Alyce McGovern, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW Australia. 

It was a great discussion that felt like an extension of Gloria Steinem's writing about violence in the home and concepts of masculinity (especially in Australia). These very smart women spoke about the mainstream narrative around victims, such as who 'qualifies' to be a victim; the levels of description around the violence of the crime being written about; and the defining scilence around the fact that there is one woman killed every week in Australia

It is wonderful to see that there are Australian authors (especially women) are writing within the crime genre and challenging the tropes around victims, white male protagonists' and descriptions of violence.

The 2016 Sydney Writers Festival - Gloria Steinem a conversation with Caroline Overington

The original conversation between Gloria Steinem and Australian writer and journalist, Caroline Overington, was sold out pretty quickly and the Sydney Writers Festival very sensibly put on another event yesterday at the Town Hall. Taking her recently published memoir, Life on the Road, Steinem delved into what drivers her as a writer, activist and feminist.

Many things have been written about Steinem and by Steinem. So instead of interpreting over 60 years of life and thoughtm I recommend reading and listening toher yourself, with no intermediary.  Click her to see her recent interview with the Australian Broadcast Corporation

The 2016 Sydney Writers Festival - World War II in Fiction

It is that time of year again in Sydney, the weather turns cold and the writers and readers come out of the woodwork for a week of celebrating the written word. This year's festival started last Saturday, 14 May and will run until this Sunday 22 May. I have only managed to get to to a session yesterday, and was lucky enough to get a ticket for the panel discussion about World War II in Fiction.  

The writer's waiting to start their discussion

The discussion was facilitated by ABC interviewer Michaela Kalowski and involved Nir Baram, an Israeli author, Leah Kaminsky, an Australian writer who's latest book focuses on the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations, and Irish author John Boyne, who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Obviously the gargantuan topic that is World War II honed in on the Holocaust and how each author decided to write about this subject, how they approached it and how they dealt with the impact on their lives.

It was a fascinating conversation that kept coming back to the authors agreeing on being loyal to the story rather than loyal to history. Not that they advocated throwing away historical fact, but that the role of the author is to create a story that runs true to the world created not to the official historical narrative we are told. To set a novel in a place and time in the past only works if it reflects on the issues of today. Each of the novels discussed does this, whether it is a story of a how someone can thrive in a fascists regime, the generational impact of genocide or a child's perspective of war.  What is undeniable is thtat each writer ensured that their protagnosts are well rounded human beings that make decisions to survive. No one is a hero or a villan but a person like you and me.

It was a great way to start the weekend.

New Year & Over 40 Recommendations from the Latest SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

Welcome to 2016 and the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library crime & mystery book club's latest recommendations. All of them read over the holiday period. Click on the books listed below for reviews and information. Enjoy.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Her Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Play Dead by Bill James

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow; The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School for Villainy by Shamini Flint

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry

Chosen Perry by Karen Grigsby Bates

Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson

Grandad, There's A Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill

City of the Dead by Sara Gran

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

Dishing The Dirt by M.C. Beaton

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Even Days in the Wild by Ian Rankin

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Dictator by Robert Harris

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

The Whites by Richard Price

The Spies of Warsaw; The Polish Officer; The World At Night by Alan Furst

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B Parker

The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman

Singing the Sadness by Reginald Hill

Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon

Red Mass by Rosemary Aubert

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon

Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

Acute Misfortune - The Life & Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

See you next month.