Sunday, 28 November 2021

Beck for Christmas

 THE KILLING TIMES have reported on an all new series of Beck which will premiere on Christmas Day in Sweden, with a UK showing in the wings - great news for fans of all things Nordic Noir -Beck – A New Life will be the first of four new films.

Swedish broadcaster C More says: “This season, the Beck group is facing more complex cases and also major private challenges.”

A body is found floating in the water near Liljeholmen. The body belongs to a 39-year-old Danish citizen with a solid criminal record and a member of a notorious Danish drug
gang. When his car is found near suspicious premises, Alex and Josef start guarding it. 

Saturday, 20 November 2021

TERROR LEVEL RED - An Explosion of Free......

 

In a special promotion the eBook version of The Reluctant Terrorist is free to download from Amazon for the next three days.

That's an explosively good deal!

Go, get it.


From the pen of G. M. Dobbs, creator of the Granny Smith series.

Set deep within the picturesque Welsh valleys lies the quiet village of Gilfach. Nothing ever happened in the village until - the peacefulness is shattered by a confusion of killer clowns and a full-scale terrorist hunt.

John Smith is an everyday sort of man with everyday concerns. He spends his time working at the local supermarket, walking his dog and arguing with his domineering wife, Rose. However, John Smith, thanks to a bizarre series of events, most of which were beyond his control, finds himself with the tag of Britain’s most wanted.
John Smith is the reluctant terrorist.


It's an eccentric dimwitted character book. Sort of like a set in Wales version of a Florida set Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Bill Fitzhugh novels. It ends up not being a bad novel at all. ****

Happy Birthday Kindle

 Last week marked 14 years since the Kindle first burst onto the scene - Back in 2007 Amazon had intended to revolutionise reading with its eReading device and here in 2021 I think it can safely be said that it is a case of mission accomplished.

The Rocketbook.


It was ten years previously, in 1997, that the first true eReader was created and this was the Rocketbook. It was created by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, voracious readers who saw a future where everyone was reading electronically. 

They initially took their prototype to Jeff Bazos and for a short while it looked like Bezos and Amazon were going to run with the Rocketbook, but the fact that books had to be hard-loaded, via a USB cable, soured the deal and Bezos passed on the design.

"Bezos seemed impressed but had some reservations. To download books, a customer needed to plug the e-reader into his computer. We talked about wireless but it was crazily expensive at the time. It would add an extra four hundred dollars to each unit and the data plans were insane.”  Martin Eberhard


The pair then took the device to Barnes and Noble and a deal was struck at once. In its first year the Rocketbook sold over 20,000 eReaders.



The Rocketbook, now a device largely forgotten to history, was the father of the modern eReader, and it would take another ten years before Amazon did get in on the so called future of reading when it launched the first ever Kindle device.

 This time books could be loaded by wi-fi, the resolution of eInk had improved and Amazon launched the device with 90,000 eBooks available in its eBook store.

The first generation of the Kindle sold out within five and a half hours of its launch - Amazon had a massive hit on their hand. 

At the same time Amazon also launched their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) store which allowed anyone to easily publish a eBook to their platform for sale to eager Kindle readers out there, and many many writers, as well as spivs who suddenly developed a literary ambition, did.

In 2009 Amazon launched the next generation Kindle, offering some improvements on the original clunky device.

True, there have been a few missteps - The Kindle DX for one was short lived and the Kindle Voyage, a deluxe eReader never really took off in the way Amazon expected. 

To be fair the Voyage was a very good eReader, but it didn't really do that much more than the Kindle Paperwhite, and maybe the timing of its launch, when tablets were starting to take off, worked against it. In the end Amazon discontinued the Voyage. The company would eventually score a success though with deluxe eReaders and the current Kindle Oasis, my own reader of choice, is a great seller despite being the most expensive eReader out there.


" My top objective was to make the Kindle disappear.We want to provide the ultimate reading experience—so a person forgets that he's using a device." Jeff Bezos


And now in 2021 the Kindle has become synonymous with the eBook industry - sure there are other great devices out there from other companies, but it is the Kindle that holds the biggest market share across the world, and the devices we use today offer a truly immersive experience. Bezos always said that he wanted to device to disappear in the reader's hand, for them to be sucked into the story and that aim has been met tenfold.


Happy Birthday, Kindle.




Thursday, 11 November 2021

Taff Noir and the Rise of Welsh Crime Fiction

 

Wales; once a medieval principality is proudly a country in its own right and although it shares a land border with England it is very much its own thing. 

It is complicated, though and it wasn't until 2011 that Wales was officially declared a country  when the International Organisation  for Standardisation said so -  though in truth Wales hasn't been a Principality since the 16th Century.

 So why did the ISO step in, when there was no real need since the Welsh have long considered Wales to be its own country? It started when the ISO defined Wales as a Principality in a newsletter, which prompted the Welsh politician, Leanne Wood to start a campaign to have its status changed. Yes, Welsh politicians, just like those all over the world chose their fights on the basis of it creating good press rather than what really matters.

Though it gets even more complicated - in the Thirteenth century the Princes of Gwynedd ruled most of North and West Wales. They were called Princes of Wales and had to swear an oath of allegiance to the King of England. In 1216, at the council of Aberdyfi, the Welsh princes declared Llywelyn the Great to be their main leader, and this prompted the King of England to agree that Llywelyn's heirs would be known as the Prince of Wales. 

Then the Welsh had a level of independence from England but this ended in 1283 when Edward 1 conquered the principality, and after that Wales was split into two separate Principalities - Gwynedd in the North and Cardigan in the South and these were ruled by the English King. The rest of Wales was then ruled by the Marcher Lords.


It was the Act of Union in 1536 that actually made Wales a country again - though until September 1997, Wales was governed from Westminster by the UK government. It was a vote for devolution that sparked the creation of the Welsh Assembly, but Wales still has a Prince of Wales (that Charley blokey with the big ears)  and that title is given to the eldest son of the reigning English monarch. It is this last fact that creates the confusion with many still claiming that Wales is a Principality rather than a country. It still causes problems from time to time and in 2017 the English rugby coach, Eddie Jones sparked controversy by calling Wales a Principality.

 “They’re countries where rugby is the main sport and the support is absolutely fever pitch. And the results affect the country, in South Africa’s case, and in Wales’ case, the Principality.” Eddie Jones

Now that's all out of the way (sort of) let's get on with the real thrust of this article and that is the Welsh crime fiction movement. For a country of little more than three million people, Wales has a vibrant crime fiction movement. We've had Nordic noir and Tartan noir - so it the next big thing Taff noir? I'd like to lay claim to that phrase, Taff Noir - you heard it here first. So, is Taff Noir to be the next big thing? I do hope so, since I'm very much a part of the movement myself. Quick plug for my valleys set crime thriller, Down Among the Dead - available now. Listen to the Wind,  a second book featuring Chief Inspector Frank Parade will be published next year.


Wales - 870'ish miles of stunning coastline, from the industrial scars of the valleys to the breath-taking beauty of rural Wales the country has a plethora of fictional crime, and always has - Agatha Christie set her 1934 novel in the fictional Welsh town of Marchbolt. 

Though these days the real Wales features in a range of crime fiction, taff noir if you like. Take Henry Bingham for instance, who has penned a truly amazing series of crime thrillers  featuring the character of Detective Fiona Griffiths. Or there's the great Belinda Bauer  whose novel Rubbernecker used the A470 (The Welsh answer to Route 66), 180 odd miles of Welsh road to set up the premise of what is a truly stunning thriller. In fact all of Belinda's books are brilliant.


"Honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be writing crime fiction in Wales. Author, Beverly Jones


The first Welsh International Crime Festival ( Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival ) is to kick off in 2022, and then hopefully we will see Taff Noir (that phrase again) become a thing in the crime fiction world. Though, those who keep their ears to the corpse strewn ground have always known that Taff Noir is a thing - it's just never been as well publicised as say Tartan Noir or Nordic Noir. Let's hope all that is about to change.


The entire spread of Wales is covered by crime fiction - Dylan H Jones (Anglesey),  Rose Claverton (Cardiff), Gary M Dobbs (The South Wales Valleys), Simon McCleave (Snowdonia), John Williams (Cardiff), Alis Hawkins (the Teifi Valley) and the list goes on and on with many great writers and well realised locations to discover.

Ever since Hinterland appeared on TV, people have been getting more interested in looking for Welsh crime, and not just on their TVs,  Gail Williams, CWA

Wales had produced a lot of great crime writing and continues to do so -  and apologies for the many many writers not mentioned here, but the list of all of the excellent writers working in Taff Noir would  end up reading like one of those telephone directories that used to sit in everyone's hallway.

Suffice to say Wales is an amazingly picturesque country, with landscapes steeped in ancient myth, with valleys that still hold the scars of the industrial might that once held sway, with clear lakes that hide secrets a'murky beneath their pristine surface and inner city mean streets that even Chandler would think twice about sending his tarnished knight a'walking down.


The Wales International Crime Festival


Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival is Wales’ first international crime literature festival. Crime writing takes many forms – from crime fiction and non-fiction through to television and film.

Our intention is to provide visitors to the festival with an opportunity to meet and interact with top talent from around the world. Come and see the big names, discover new writers – and support Welsh talent.

Save the dates: 30 April to 2 May 2022



Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Support this Author

 

Support the author of this blog by purchasing a copy of the new novel, Down Among the Dead.


Available at a criminally low price on eBook - also in print and audio.


An exhilarating crime thriller *****

Frank Parade is a wonderful creation, and Dobbs is a shining star in the crime fiction universe

*****


Few thrillers have been so gripping in recent years

*****

Available at Amazon, iBooks, and anywhere else books are sold.


It's 1940 - France has fallen, and Britain stands alone against the might of the German war machine; a fierce battle for supremacy of the air rages in the skies as the Battle of Britain hits full stride.

For Chief Inspector Frank Parade and his much-depleted team, there are many challenges to policing the small Welsh mining village of Gilfach Goch, for while miles away from the theatres of war, the home front faces unique challenges of its own. The wartime demands thrown on the country mean that each officer in Parade’s team must do the work of two men - three even.

Soon, the already overwhelming workload is increased when not one, but two bodies turn up, and Parade finds himself having to investigate two murders as well as cope with everything else thrown his way.



Check out author interview HERE




Review from Donna Morfett on Goodreads


This is set just after the outbreak of World War 2, in the Welsh Valleys, both providing a great setting and atmosphere, both dark, brooding, tense,


The story begins with the murder of a young woman, and then a man is found dead shortly after. It follows the police investigation into both murders hampered by the increased issues of blackouts and air raid sirens, and Germans bombing the local big cities.


The main Policeman, Parade, is patient and dogged. His men can't work him out. He is a widower and despite being in charge of of station is willing to bend the rules a little to get the job done. He also didn't want to implicate any of his men.


When a German airman is arrested, he shows him humanity and compassion, which says everything possible about the man.


Despite the subject being relatively dark, there were a lot of light hearted moments, that I think showed the spirit of British people, not only during the war but in general. There is also the exploration of friendships, relationships, both clandestine and genuine.


This book hooked me in, every time I put it down i was itching to get back to it to find out what happened. I wouldn't have guessed the truth either.

Beck and the birth of Nordic Noir


 In the ten years between 1965 and 1975, the author team of Maj Sjowell and Per Walhoo all but invented the Nordic Noir movement - they took their influence from American fiction, specifically the work of Ed McBain and even more specifically his 87th Precinct series.

 To say the pair invented Nordic Noir is not an exaggeration since their influence has been openly acknowledged by the likes of Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum and just about anyone who is anyone in the crime fiction sub-genre that has become known as Nordic.

I've seen articles that call them a husband and wife writing team, but in truth the pair were partners but never married  during their thirteen year relationship - Sjowell had been married twice previously and Per Wahloo already had a wife. 

They were both journalists and very politically minded - they were Marxists and on times their world view sneaks into the books, how could it not!, but the books are never didactic and there is plenty of wry humour in the series. The main character, the policeman Martin Beck actually loathes politics and the authors were careful that Beck would take no obvious political stance. This may have allowed them to explore the society they lived in with a fresh set of eyes, free of prejudice. 

They used their fiction to explore the moral grey areas of the socialist state within which they lived; charting Sweden's building of its famous welfare state. They touched opon the formation of a police state, the alienation of many citizens and tackled immigration and racism head on.


And this did all this in a series of ten widely entertaining police procedurals, the ripples of which are still spreading out today and touching the pen of many an author.


The Wiki entry on the Beck series reads:

Martin Beck is a fictional Swedish police detective and the main character in the ten novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, collectively titled The Story of a Crime. Frequently referred to as the Martin Beck stories, all have been adapted into films between 1967 and 1994, six of which were included in a series featuring Gösta Ekman as Martin Beck. Between 1997 and 2018 there have also been 38 films (some released direct for video and broadcast on television) based on the characters, with Peter Haber as Martin Beck. Apart from the core duo of Beck and his right-hand man Lennart Kollberg, the latter have little resemblance to the original series, and features a widely different and evolving cast of characters, though roughly similar themes and settings around Stockholm.


I came upon the series after hearing a Radio Four play of the first book in the series, Roseanna and I was intrigued enough to explore the books, learning as I did that prior to the Beck books the Scandinavian crime fiction market took the Agatha Christie novels as their blueprint; predominantly focusing on the mystery aspect of the fiction rather than the very real outward effects of the crime itself.

 SJowall and Wahloo turned all this on its head and their books detail police investigations in great detail, much in the way the best of the Ed McBain books do. Nothing in fiction is truly innovative since all writers are drawing on what went before, but the Beck books were handled with such skill and genuine compassion for the underdogs in society that they became a series that could stand on its own and was soon recognised as something quite unique.

There are ten books in the series, and as things progress they become darker in tone and out protagonist, the dogged policeman is put through the mill - his marriage eventually falls apart, his health deteriorates, and his determination to do his job to the best of his abilities comes at the expense of every thing else in his life. You find shades of Beck in the likes of Wallander, Harry Hole and just about any fictional detective you care to name.


If one was to define the elements that make up the Nordic Noir movement the list would be something like:


A brutal crime or a series of such crimes.

A socio-political element to the story.

A strong focus on setting; usually bleak and often very bloody cold.

Strong multi-dimensional female characters.


The Beck books contain all of these elements, and their series defined what would become the Nordic Noir movement.


The books in order:


  • 1.   Roseanna: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 2.   The Man Who Went Up in Smoke: A Martin Beck Police Mystery
  • 3.   The Man on the Balcony: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 4.   The Laughing Policeman: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 5.   The Fire Engine That Disappeared: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 6.   Murder at the Savoy: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 7.   The Abominable Man: A Martin Beck Police Mystery
  • 8.   The Locked Room: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 9.   Cop Killer: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 
  • 10.   The Terrorists: A Martin Beck Police Mystery 


Then ten books come out at an estimated 657,820 words.



Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Interview

 I was interviewed over the weekend by Donna Morfett - Donna's become something of an influencer in the crime fiction field, with her reviews gaining a large readership. 

Donna is something of a crime fiction aficionado and she also hosts a vibrant Facebook page, blog, podcast and You Tube Channel - all of which give indie authors some much needed exposure.

You can find the interview embedded below.



 


Down Among the Dead is Available now