Welcome to my stop on the tour for the third book in Chris Lloyd's fantastic Elisenda Domenech series, set in Girona, Spain. Here's Chris talking about his 5 favorite writers, most of whom would be on my list too!
Five Favourite Authors
Right, I’m really going to cheat here, but you can trust me, I’m a crime writer. It’s incredibly difficult to reduce my favourite writers to just five, so I’m going to list just my favourite crime writers… which is still nearly impossible. That means I won’t be mentioning non-crime writers that I love, such as Jonathan Coe and his beautifully crafted and structured stories of modern life, or even Hunter S Thompson and that incredible flow-of-conscious gonzo writing he pioneered. Neither will I be mentioning the imaginative brilliance of Douglas Adams or the charming grace of Nina George. Not even Ben Elton’s hauntingly powerful recent books or the extraordinarily atmospheric writing of Jessie Burton. And I certainly won’t say a thing about my love for the delightful silliness of PG Wodehouse.
Instead, I’ll just be talking in no particular order about the following crime writers who I admire and who have inspired me. (I also think I might just have got away with my little cheat.)
1. I love intelligent novels that look at World War Two from another angle. And when you can weave a strong and addictive crime story into that with a remarkable attention to detail, and then round it off with one of the most charismatic protagonists in crime literature, then you’ve got me hooked. I’m a huge fan of Philip Kerr’s stories set in Berlin (and often further afield) in the years before, during and after WWII. His hero, Bernie Gunther, a German police detective forced into service in the SD, is a snappy, wisecracking detective who has to take on dirty jobs for even dirtier employers but still manages to hold onto some semblance of honour. Each book masterfully brings in true events and real characters into the story, often relatively little known moments from history, and places Bernie at the centre of the moral dilemmas they create.
2. With still only three novels under her belt, Attica Locke is my favourite American crime writer. Like all good crime writing, her books have so much to say on the human condition and on issues that need to be said – another case of fiction being the best way to comment on reality. Her first and third books are related and are set in the same African-American community. Both have a wonderful blend of gripping political/legal thriller with tremendously insightful social observations. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is set on an old southern states plantation that has been turned into a living museum. Against a highly menacing and atmospheric backdrop, the modern-day protagonist has to solve a riddle that is an echo of the era of slavery that the museum commemorates. The author’s comment at the end of the book on her inspiration for the story is an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing.
3. If we’re talking about crime writing that has something to say about the human condition, Val McDermid is supreme. If you only ever read one crime book, make sure it’s The Wire in the Blood. The only problem is that that becomes a self-unfulfilling prophecy as it would be impossible not to want to devour every single book she writes once you’ve read it and got the taste. Her intelligent and lyrical writing really lull you into a false sense of security before the brutality of the stories – they’re not for the squeamish, but they tell such a powerful tale, with such a strong message, that you learn to ride with it. And as a central character, profiler Tony Hill is fascinating, often as obsessed and disturbing as the criminals he’s seeking.
4. Like so many people, I’ve been completely bowled over by Nordic noir. The problem is there are so many superb writers, I’m struggling to bring it down to just one of my five. Also, as a translator, I feel I ought to include at least one author that I read in translation. So in the end, I’ve chosen Arnaldur Indridason, in the excellent translations from Icelandic by Bernard Scudder. There are many other great writer/translator teams I could have mentioned, but I think Indridason just about pips it. Again, it’s a powerful central character that does it for me – the lonely and rather gloomy Detective Erlendur is a thoroughly engaging protagonist – but in many ways, it’s the setting that I find even more of a draw. An island like Iceland, remote from my experience, distant, isolated, makes for the perfect locked-room mystery, and Indridason really conveys the bitter cold and beautiful desolation, always with a compelling story. One of the joys of reading books set in other cultures is learning about an unfamiliar world, and I always feel I finish an Erlendur book having had a door on another way of life opened for me.
5. One of the hardest things is to infuse a crime book with humour but still make sure that the story is strong and compelling and the characters realistic and engaging. One writer who I think really pulls this off to perfection is Stuart MacBride with his Logan McRae series set in Aberdeen. The stories are hard-hitting and sometimes grisly, but there’s exactly the right amount of humour in them – usually gallows humour – to act as a breather when you need it most. McRae’s boss, the sarky and intimidating DI Steel with her gloriously unapologetic comments, is one of the great comic creations. It’s quite some gift to be able to combine a genuinely puzzling and intriguing plot with a cast of characters who are in turn both funny and real.
Lastly, thank you Fi for hosting me on Bookish Outsider today.
About the book
When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking.
Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.
When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.
Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…
Be careful not to drown.
City Of Drowned Souls - Chris Lloyd
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - February 6th, 2017
About the author
Chris was born in an ambulance racing through a town he’s only returned to once and that’s probably what did it. Soon after that, when he was about two months old, he moved with his family to West Africa, which pretty much sealed his expectation that life was one big exotic setting. He later studied Spanish and French at university, and straight after graduating, he hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia where he stayed for the next twenty-four years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a writer and a Catalan and Spanish translator, returning to Catalonia as often as he can.
He writes the Elisenda Domènech series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona. The third book in the series, City of Drowned Souls, is published on 6 February 2017.
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