The Goethe Institut/New Books in German crime fiction evening – ‘In the Library with the Lead Piping’ – took place in London last week and was a rip-roaring success. We had an audience of around fifty, who gamely took part in our murder mystery and listened with rapt attention to authors Mechtild Borrmann, Mario Giordano, Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh as they read from and discussed their work.
The panel discussion focused on Mechtild Borrmann’s ‘Kleve’ police procedurals and her historical novel Silence (Amazon Crossing); Michael Ridpath’s spy novel Traitor’s Gate and his Icelandic ‘Fire and Ice’ series; Mario Giordano’s screenwriting for the TV crime series Tatort (Crime Scene) and his comic crime novel Aunt Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (Bitter Lemon Press, 2016); and Louise Welsh’s psychological thrillers The Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs.
As moderator, I thoroughly enjoyed putting some juicy questions to the authors about their works…
We explored why British authors Michael and Louise chose to write novels set in Germany (Traitor’s Gate, The Bullet Trick and The Girl on the Stairs); the authors’ use of settings (from urban Berlin and small-town Germany to the island of Sicily); German regional crime and the Soziokrimi or social crime novel (the ‘Kleve’ series and Tatort); the use of crime fiction to celebrate plural cultural identities (Aunt Poldi); the role of transgressive women in German film and crime (Pandora‘s Box, The Girl on the Stairs, Aunt Poldi); the challenges of writing about the Nazi past (Traitor’s Gate, Silence) and on contemporary Iceland (‘Fire and Ice’ series). We also discussed whether the former East Germany could be the next big thing in historical crime fiction or whether it was still too early to focus on this era (the authors had differing views on this point). The audience put some great questions too, asking to what extent the authors worked together with their translators, whether or not they wrote with their future readers in mind, and the nature of Ingrid Noll’s influence on contemporary German crime writing (huge).
All in all, it was an excellent evening. Huge thanks to everyone who came along, and to Jens Boyer at the Goethe Institut London and Charlotte Ryland of New Books in German for organising such a fantastic event – Charlotte also did sterling work as a translator during the panel discussion!
We managed to interview each of the authors about their works ahead of the event – I’ll add some links to the podcasts here soon.
And here’s a good blog post by Alyson Coombes on one of Mechtild’s novels – The Other Half of Hope – which will hopefully be translated soon.
In other news, the final proofs of the Crime Fiction in German volume have just arrived from the University of Wales Press. All that remains to be done is the index, a job I enjoy as it always throws up entertaining entries. I’ll leave you to wonder how ‘Elvis Presley’, ‘Cagney and Lacey’ and ‘Dragnet‘ fit into the history of German-language crime writing!
How I wish I could have been there – what a smart-looking (and smart-sounding) panel you are!
I’ll be featuring Mechtild Borrmann as Talented Women to Watch over at CFL shortly – hope more of her work gets translated into English.
We scrub up well 🙂 Wish you could have been there too – it was a fun night.
Delighted to hear that you’re featuring Mechtild at Crime Fiction Lover. Do let me know when that’s up and I’ll pass it on.
Oh, it all sounds fabulous! I really am delighted that it went so well! I certainly hope there’ll be another event like this. Thanks very much for sharing all the details.
Thanks very much, Margot. It looks like there could well be other events in the pipeline. Watch this space 😉
The panel was greatly illuminating, There’s a place reserved on my bedside table for the book, and I’ve dusted off my CDs of Deutsch Direkt,
Thanks, Barry – it was brilliant to have you there (and thank you again for your question!!!). Look forward to getting a copy of Crime Fiction in German off to you while it’s still warm from the presses.
Will defiantly try to be at the next one, sounded really good.. Have you by any chance read any either of the two novels by the Polish author Zygmunt Miloszewski? I’m just finishing ‘A Grain of Truth’. His Main character can be a bit of an arrogant arse! Certainly a gripping read. Will have to read the first in the series.
You were missed, Brian – perhaps next time? Hope you had a great birthday!
I haven’t read any novels by Miłoszewski, but have had my eye on them as they may fit in with my research. And I’m always keen to check out Bitter Lemon titles!
I see that M had some attention from BBC radio during their ‘Reading Europe’ series. A bit cross that I missed this, but there you are – impossible to track it all…
Yes that’s where I came across him, I beleave it was his first book ‘Entanglement’, the same time as I came across the Arango book. Y es I certainly want to go to the next one.
What did you think of the new Bridge? The jury’s still out as far as I’m concerned it’s the old 3rd series thing. The Killing is a perfect example, I thought the 3rd was a big let down, plus the ending
of series two was a cop out. Afraid that happens to often in TV, to be fair it takes real courage to kill
off your main character! What an ending that would have been!
Still some interesting characters, especially the new male detective, & they brought together the jumping about of all the story lines towards the end of the second episode, just didn’t buy the kidnaping of Hans. Also would you really let her near a relative of a murder victim!
I enjoyed the first two episodes of The Bridge yesterday – straight into the action without any messing around, an interesting theme (gender/families), and a new partner with some interesting potential. Looking forward to next week already! I’d really missed Saga.
Forgot to add, on BBC 4 to night there’s a very good German film called West, was on earlier this year at the Broadway, got good reviews, will be recording it starts 22.30.
Thanks very much, Brian – will record this as well tonight. Thought it rang a bell – it’s based on a novel by Julia Franck.
(Sternly to self) Thou shalt not envy those living in London ….
It’s difficult sometimes not to (and I say that as someone who doesn’t live in London either)!