Would we still have heard Nabokov’s ‘Laughter in the Dark’ without ‘Lolita’?

December 25th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

Reading habits are formed by repeated acts of disposal. Read a book you don’t particularly enjoy and the writer will probably be discarded from your reading list. As you read more books, more authors get a figurative black mark next to their name. The survivors are what we refer to as our favourite writers.

Even these favourites may lose their place on the reading list as the years go by. Either our tastes change or we simply finish reading all their books or at least all the best ones.

Looking back over more than 30 years of serious reading, there is only one author from those very early years whose books I still read. » Read the rest of this entry «

On opening Andre Agassi’s ‘Open’

December 16th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

I can’t play tennis for shit. Or money. But I am a committed fan, perhaps one that should be committed. Mornings when I trade the world of dreams where I spend my nights for the world wide web where I spend my days, it’s a toss up between first checking my email, bank balance or the ATP tennis results.

I write for love. And money. Over the years, » Read the rest of this entry «

Police procedurals – judging on the evidence

December 8th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

The police procedural, the sub-genre of the crime novel that focuses on the police investigation of crime, has never been high on my agenda. However, on the evidence of Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s excellent Martin Beck books (discussed here), I was compelled to investigate. » Read the rest of this entry «

James McClure’s ‘The Steam Pig’ – a great crime novel that grates

November 18th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 2 comments § permalink

James McClure’s first crime novel featuring Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and Constable Mickey Zondi, The Steam Pig, appears on a couple of Top Ten lists for police procedurals. The setting, like that of my first crime story, is South Africa. So I was very keen to read the book. Doing so, however, wasn’t the unmitigated pleasure I had hoped for. The reasons are complex.

It is clear from the first line that McClure is a witty writer: For an undertaker George Henry Abbott was a sad man.

If that’s not a great first line, I don’t what is. The Steam Pig has a great many equally delightful sentences and some wonderful twists, though partly offset » Read the rest of this entry «

Sjöwall and Wahlöö – taking crime to the gatan where it belongs

November 5th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

After reading seven Swedish crime novels in a couple of weeks, I’m even beginning to think of street names as Thisgatan and Thatgatan. But even more curious is the fact that Swedish crime books have become so popular in the English-speaking world.

Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson may have become popular on their own merits anyway, but perhaps neither of them would even have written crime stories if it hadn’t been for » Read the rest of this entry «

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