The German Fernsehkrimi … and a lovely milestone

I’m a couple of weeks into my research leave, and am thoroughly enjoying sinking my teeth into German crime. 5000 words are in the bag, mostly on the Fernsehkrimi (TV crime series) for the Crime Fiction in German volume, which has involved watching episodes from series such as Der Kommissar (The Inspector; a very traditional West German police series), Polizeiruf 110 (Police – Dial 110; a relatively progressive East German series that featured the first female German investigator, Lieutenant Vera Arndt, a working mother, in 1971), and of course, the iconic Tatort (Crime Scene).

Vera Arndt (played by Sigrid Göhler) in the East German series Polizeiruf 110

Tatort has been running for over 40 years and is a national institution. It’s a really interesting series, due to its distinctive regional focus (there are over 20 versions set in various cities and regions – the model for CSI, perhaps), and its strong engagement with social issues, such as right-wing extremism, the effects of reunification, and sex trafficking from the east.

In 2008, it was the first German crime series to feature a leading Turkish-German investigator, the Hamburg undercover cop Cenk Batu (played by Mehmet Kurtuluş). His depiction was hailed as ‘ein Quantensprung’ (a quantum leap) in terms of overturning ethnic stereotypes, and I’d argue is indebted in a many ways to a literary predecessor, Jakob Arjouni’s urban private eye Kemal Kayankaya. The first Batu episode, ‘Auf der Sonnenseite’ (‘On the Sunny Side’) is currently on YouTube. It’s in German, but for those who don’t speak the language, even five-minutes will give a sense of Batu’s ground-breaking characterisation and the episode’s high-quality production – aside from the endearingly naff original opening sequence, that is. Around 4 minutes and 40 seconds in, which shows Batu coming off-duty after a stressful job, is a good place to start.

Mehmet Kurtuluş with the famous Tatort logo

And the milestone? Well! Mrs. Peabody Investigates has just reached 250,000 hits. While the most important thing has always been the interaction between Mrs. Pea and the blog’s readers, there’s a certain roundness to that figure that’s rather pleasing. Thanks so much for visiting!

Please do not adjust your sets

In a change to my normal academic routine, I’m embarking on research leave for a whole, glorious semester. The chance for this kind of leave comes around every three to four years, and is really invaluable, as it provides time to build up some proper momentum – in my case for writing up research on German and international crime fiction.

I’ll be focusing on two key projects. The first is a book, Detecting the Past: Representations of National Socialism and its Legacy in Transnational Crime Fiction. As the title suggests, it will explore how crime writers have depicted the Nazi period and its post-war legacy since 1945, exploring themes such as criminality, morality, justice, memory and guilt in larger historical, political and social contexts. One key area of interest is how ‘Nazi-themed crime fiction’ reflects the work of historians on the period. A recent example is David Thomas’ Ostland (Quercus, 2013), which draws on perpetrator studies by historians such as Christopher R. Browning to create a portrait of an ‘ordinary man’, police detective Georg Heuser, who comes to play an active part in the Holocaust. A compelling ‘psychological thriller’, the novel is also a sobering depiction of the mechanics of the Holocaust, and of the attempts to bring perpetrators to justice in the 1960s. It’s an excellent example of how history and the findings of historians can be made accessible to a wider public by harnessing the conventions and popularity of the crime genre. Incidentally, details of the 150 primary texts I’m working on can be found here – a number of which have been discussed on this blog over the past two years.

European Crime Fictions: Scandinavian Crime Fiction

My second project is to finish editing Crime Fiction in German, a volume of essays for the University of Wales Press, which will act as an introduction to the subject for an English-language audience. As well as exploring the development of crime fiction in Germany, Austria and Switzerland from the nineteenth century onwards, the volume examines German-language crime from a number of different angles: the crime fiction of the former GDR; regional crime fiction; women’s crime fiction, historical crime fiction; Turkish-German crime fiction; and the enduring popularity of TV series such as Tatort (Crime Scene). It’s the first time this kind of comprehensive overview will have been published in English, which is very exciting. The volume will join others in UWP’s European Crime Fiction series, such as French Crime Fiction (2009), Scandinavian Crime Fiction (2011) and Italian Crime Fiction (2011).

Focusing my energies on academic writing means that I’ll be blogging a little less than I usually do over the next few months. But I’ll still be popping up with recommendations now and then, so please do not adjust your sets! And normal service will most definitely be resumed…