Jakob Arjouni event / A trip to Swansea Library / Maigret

News of an event tomorrow night that will be of particular interest to those in London:

No Exit Press, together with Pancreatic Cancer UK, is hosting an event at Daunts Books (112-114 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA) on Tuesday 26th November, 18:30-21:00, to celebrate the life of German author Jakob Arjouni (1964-2013) and to raise funds for research into pancreatic cancer (http://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/). Barry Forshaw will be hosting and there’ll be German food and drink available. Entry is free.

The event will also launch Arjouni’s fifth and final Kayankaya novel, Brother Kemal. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m particularly fond of the first in the series, Happy Birthday Turk!, which was an absolutely ground-breaking German crime novel back in the 1980s – see my earlier post here. I can also thoroughly recommend Brother Kemal, which provides a wonderful conclusion to the Kayankaya series.

In other news, I’ve been down to my local library to stock up on some crime fiction! I’m particularly blessed that Swansea Central Library is on my doorstep, which has an impressive range of crime fiction, including lashings of international crime. I came away with a satisfying selection including the first Arabic detective novel in English translation (Abdelilah Hamdouchi’s The Final Bet), some Spanish crime (Eugenio Fuentes’ At Close Quarters) and M.J.McGrath’s second Arctic novel, The Boy in the Snow. I’ve now read the first two, which were both excellent in their own ways, and am looking forward to meeting Edie Kiglatuk again soon.

Aside from the quality of these novels, it’s been a relief to read some crime that doesn’t open with the gruesome murder of a young woman. All too many of the novels sent to me by publishers begin with blurbs such as the following: ‘the body of a young woman is found carved up and buried in a forest glade’ / ‘a young woman is discovered in her apartment bound and gagged, the victim of an extraordinarily brutal attack’ / ‘a young woman has been brutally killed, her body abandoned in a car boot as a warning to others’ / ‘a young girl has been brutally murdered, her body arranged in bed with her hands over her eyes’. And so on… There does seem to be a depressing pattern here of an opening set piece featuring a young, sadistically brutalised female, and I’m getting pretty fed up with the gratuitousness of it all. I think a few more trips to the library are in order soon.

And finally… I’ve set up a new Maigret tab on the main menu of the site, where I’ll post mini-reviews of Simenon’s 75 Maigret novels as they are reissued by Penguin once a month. The idea is to build up a nice record / resource over time, and to track interesting developments in the series. It’s a (very) long-term reading challenge, which you are most welcome to join – either for the whole or for part of the way.

19 thoughts on “Jakob Arjouni event / A trip to Swansea Library / Maigret

  1. Mrs. P – Thanks for going to the effort to set up a Maigret tab. I’ll be keen to see your reviews. And you are fortunate indeed to have such a good library close by. Isn’t it wonderful to have such ready access?

    • Thanks, Margot. Yes, I’m very lucky to have such as well-stocked library. I’ve not been that often in the recent past – partly due to being busy and partly because publishers very kindly send me lots of crime fiction to read. But there’s no substitute for standing in front of a bookshelf sometimes and having a good old browse. You really do find all sorts of gems that way. And they’re free. Hooray for libraries!

  2. Three authors I want to read. Especially Arjouni, because I have not read much (if any) German mystery fiction. I look forward to reading some of the early Maigret mysteries, although I don’t know if I can keep up with them financially. Also M.J.McGrath. I don’t have any books by that author yet but want to read her books. The other authors I am not familiar with, and look forward to your reviews.

    • Thanks, TracyK. I very much recommend Arjouni’s first novel as a starting point. As for the Maigret, I reckon this would be a good investment for a library! That way everyone could easily enjoy them (and I bet they’d be very popular).

      I loved McGrath’s first novel, White Heat – she captures life in the Arctic very convincingly – especially impressive given that she’s a Brit!

  3. Good that you have enjoyed the first two books and about to read Edie Kiglatuk’s second adventure. I liked White Heat a lot, character and the sense of place. The food descriptions, not so much. There, I prefer the pesce and pasta of Italy.
    And on the subject of books opening or centering on the brutality against women, I could not agree more. I don’t read books with that focus at all, unless it’s sprung on me in the middle of a book I was reading.
    Why do publishers insist on this nowadays? Why are authors writing this? Does it increase book sales? If so, I ask, who is buying/reading the books? It turns off so many women readers, yet it seems women are the main buyers of crime fiction.
    I do wonder who buys and reads books like this, with “torture porn,” to cite the late Maxine Clarke, who also asked this question and didn’t hesitate to criticize this current feature of much of crime fiction.
    What happened to good writing? Good investigations? Character development?
    Even Andrea Camilleri got into this gore in Treasure Hunt. I wring my hands at this. Did he run out of ideas for the solution? Or did his publisher ask him to write more gratuitous violence?
    What is going on here?

    • Thanks, KathyD. There are certainly moments when it feels like the market is being swamped with crime that fixates in a gratuitous fashion on the brutalised young woman. The ones I’ve seen recently have been sent to me by publishers for a particular reason (an award I’m helping to judge), but I’ve yet to figure out if this is a larger development, or somehow typifies crime fiction that’s being produced these days. My trip to the library was heartening because I was able to lay my hands on quality crime fiction that didn’t go down this route with ease. So the good stuff does seem to be out there, which is a relief. And that’s the kind of crime novel that I’ll keep reviewing here!

  4. Thanks Mrs P….’Torture porn’ is a new term for me – I think it fits, and it’s awful and I am alarmed. I won’t be rushing out for all the new Maigraits as I have most of them already, but I’ll very much enjoy the reviews, so thanks for the quick link.

    • Yes, a rather nasty term for protracted descriptions of sadistic violence against women that are designed to titillate readers. Sigh.

      I do think that the way such subject matter is handled is crucial. There are crime novels that thematise violence against women, but do so in ways that are designed to critique that violence (two examples: Hawken’s The Dead Women of Juarez, which highlights the wave of femicides taking place in Juarez (Mexico), and Persson’s Linda, As In The Linda Murders, which shows the impact of the crime on family members and is critical of the sensationalist way in which the press report the murders of young women). I’ve been happy to review both of those because they take the subject seriously and have important points to make. It’s the gratuitous ones that are the problem.

  5. Thanks for yet more new books to find – once more I will go off to the library armed with a list of authors from your blog. Although you’re right there is also no substitute for browsing those shelves – I never know what I might find hidden among all those books with large gold embossed titles (often a sign I’m sure that they either start with or contain ‘torture porn’ so to be avoided).

  6. I am with you all the way: when I pick up a book that has ‘mutilated’ or ‘tortured’ in the blurb, it goes straight back on the shelf in the bookshop or library. And I’ll be joining you in the Maigret fest.

    • Absolutely. Good to hear that you like the look of the Maigret challenge, Chrissie! Looking forward to adding more as the months go on. Please do leave some comments if you fancy as you read along too. Would be very interested to hear what you think.

  7. An action packed post Mrs P! Very interested to hear about the Jakob Arjouni evening, used to live near there but sadly cannot go as now live outside of London…it is thanks to your blog that I am in the middle of Kismet right now, am loving it . I agree re libraries, I love my local library I would chain myself to the railings if they threatened to close it (the fact that there aren’t actually any railings wouldn’t stop me). I did not enjoy White Heat as much as you, maybe I was in a reading slump, but I found I got a bit bogged down in descriptions of seal blubber…I agree re torture porn tendencies – I have a strong stomach but I really did not like Alex by Pierre Lemaitre – but I wonder if it was ever thus, thinking back to the Kay Scarpetta books (oh gosh, I can’t remember the author’s name, brain has gone soggy..) and even earlier – The Black Dahlia.. have never read any Maigret, think I may opt out of that one – have just decided to try Harkan Nesser after reading good reviews over at Crime Scraps…Bye for now, keep warm!

    • Hello Blighty! Your mention of Alex (which I still haven’t read) is really interesting, because it reminds me of the recommendation I received from author Ann Cleeves to read the novel at the Bristol Crime Fest. It’s a recommendation that with hindsight seems surprising, given that the media later reported her critical views on Scandi crime/depictions of violence (see for example here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/29/nordic-noir-violence-against-women).

      The question this raises for me is why some novels with graphic depictions of violence are OK in the eyes of one individual while others are not? I answer this a little in one of the comments above – I have my own rule of thumb and it’s that the violence should not be gratuitous. That’s why I would defend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which is one of the books that Cleeves criticises), because I think Stieg Larsson is trying to make a serious point about misogyny through Salander’s story. What a tangled web…!

      I do think you’re right that these tendencies have always been there – one extra question might be whether they have become more mainstream. Cleeves thinks that the violence is more ’embedded’ now somehow. And I would be very interested to discuss the issue with a publisher from a marketing and sales point of view.

      Enjoy the Hakan Nesser – one of my favourites too 🙂 Stay nice and toasty!

      • Dear Mrs P, an Important Update for you – you know how your blog has been very influential in the Blighty household’s reading? Well yesterday I finished Kismet which I loved, partic the clever twist. Put it ready in bag to return to library. Imagine my surprise when I found the Blighty dog frollicking joyfully round the living room with Kismet in his mouth, spreading pages all over. He particularly enjoyed page 223. See, your blog reaches parts other blogs cannot reach: previously he had shown no interest in books, let alone top quality German crime fiction.

      • An Important and Rather Brilliant Update, Blighty, although please understand that I’m not condoning the consumption of library property in any way. Did page 223 survive the mauling? Did the book make it back to the library? Does your dog have German family ties? I wait with baited breath…

  8. I agree that violence against women was intrinsic to Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. In fact, the original title of his first book, renamed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was The Man Who Hated Women. I

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