Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Crime Interviews: Volume 2, by Len Wanner

By Jay Stringer

I get sent a lot of ebooks to read and review. To be honest a lot of the stack up simply because I don;t have a dedicated e-reader yet. Soon I'll be treating myself to a shiny kindle touch, and then I'll catch up, but for now everything I read digitally is read on my laptop. And if I'm sat with laptop, then I tend to think I should be writing or researching (or playing Football Manager.) Sometimes a book lands on my inbox that just demands to be read straight away, and when you see one that collects interviews with Ray Banks, Tony Black, William McIlvanney and Helen Fitzgerald, well, I HAVE to check it out.

First let me get out of the way and say what the publisher BLASTED HEATH has to say;

In his foreword, Ian Rankin describes THE CRIME INTERVIEWS: VOLUME TWO as "Fascinating stuff, whether you are a fan of any particular author, or of the genre as a whole, or even of the wider world of Scottish and British Literature in contemporary times. In fact, I may just have to go back and read both volumes again…"

VOLUME ONE brought us page after page of unique insights into how writers think and into the professional secrets of some of the genre's greatest exponents. With THE CRIME INTERVIEWS: VOLUME TWO, once again Wanner's encyclopedic knowledge of Scottish crime fiction is put to expert use in his enthralling and revealing conversations with another inspired line-up of stars of tartan noir. His latest interview subjects include William McIlvanney, Tony Black, Doug Johnstone, Helen FitzGerald, Quintin Jardine, Gordon Ferris, Craig Russell, Douglas Lindsay, Ray Banks and Denise Mina.

I've interviewed writers, both in print and on podcasts, and it comes with a huge pressure to try and find good chat. Len Wanner as a talent for good chat. I'm sure there are more intelligent ways to put it, but it boils down to that. He knows how to sit and have good conversations with his subjects, and to get more involved and open responses than the usual oft-rehearsed lines.

There are running themes that run through the collection, such as Scottish identity and the changing mood of the country. McIlvanney's answers show a man who went from chronicling the lives of the working class, to campaigning for a political party, to now having a more distant and almost philosophical view of the game. Banks on the other hand speaks of letting your subtext do the talking. But this isn't a political book, nor is it a marketing brochure for Scottish fiction. It's a book full of good questions and interesting answers, and really comes to life when the authors start talking craft and content. Does Helen Fitzgerald start with character or plot? How does Tony Black manager to write whilst he does all that grappling with symbolism? How does Ray Banks maintain a balance between writing about violence and celebrating it? And why would I give you the answers to all these questions when you can pick up the book and let the authors do it themselves?

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