Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sussex: Peter Guttridge - 'A Ghost Of A Chance'

I've thoroughly enjoyed this week reading 'A Ghost Of A Chance' by Peter Guttridge (pub.1998, Headline) featuring his self-deprecating and witty series protagonist Nick Madrid.

As the story opens, Madrid is huddled on a South Downs hillside near Ditchling Beacon. He has been persuaded by his domineering and lubricious editor Bridget to spend Walpurgis Night, 30th April, camping beside a supposedly haunted prehistoric burial chamber where occultist Aleister Crowley - aka the Wickedest Man in the World, and the Great Beast - tried to raise the devil.

All Madrid manages to raise is a girly-scream when, after a bottle of beaujolais and an attack by rampant cows, he discovers a man hanged by his ankles in a nearby graveyard.

Madrid books a room in the local pub to investigate the death and the goings-on at the local mansion, Ashcombe Manor, which has been turned into a New Age conference centre full of dubious characters. Add to the mix an old friend of Madrid's who is shooting a movie about Aleister Crowley in Brighton Pavilion accompanied by various egomaniac method actors, and you have a highly-readable romp. The only thing that's serious here is the craft of the writer!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sweden: Henning Mankell's Wallander comes to BBC 1 on November 30th

The first stop on our crime fiction tour of Sweden: Ystad

'Wallander', the BBC series based on Swedish author Henning Mankell's series of detective stories featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander is scheduled to begin on 30th November. The first episode (of three) is entitles 'Sidetracked', and stars Kenneth Brannagh as the eponymous cop.

The stories are set in Ystad in Skane, on the southernmost coast of Sweden - which Mankell has compared to Texas: "It runs along the border. I feel that in border countries there is a special dynamism that I use in my stories."

The Ystad Tourist Office has a page on their website about Kurt Wallander, and they run an official Wallander tour called 'In The Footsteps Of Inspector Wallander'. I don't yet know whether the tour is offered in English, but even if it isn't, you can download a useful pdf guide in English. The local paper, the Ystads Allehanda, has a flash movie about Wallander's Ystad. (There is an English translation!) It also includes an interactive map of the Skanes area.

Filming for the BBC series took place in Skane, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Mankell's spare prose and somewhat bleak vision have been interpreted for television, and set in a landscape that I've only previously experienced through his books.

Now if only I could afford to go there.......

'Sidetracked' won the CWA's Gold Dagger award in 2001, and the other two stories which will be shown are 'Firewall' and 'One Step Behind'. Mankell's stories have been filmed before, but not in English.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Madly reading Sussex, Surrey & Kent!

This half-term week I have been madly reading crime fiction set in the South-East of England, as I am working on a WhereDunnit book proposal.

I have read:

MAD ABOUT THE BOY? by Dolores Gordon-Smith (Sussex)
BLACK COFFEE by Agatha Christie & Charles Osborne (Surrey)
MAXWELL'S CHAIN by M J Trow (Sussex)
SAVAGE TIDE by Glen Chandler (Brighton)
A FOREIGN FIELD by Margaret Mayhew (Sussex) - which turned out after all not to be crime fiction
FATAL LEGACY by Elizabeth Corley (Sussex)

and for fun, AN ENGLISH MURDER by Cyril Hare, which I took with me to my annual check-up at Guy's Hospital. Lucky I did, too, as I had to wait over an hour to see the consultant.

I am currently reading THE END OF SOLOMON GRUNDY by Julian Symon (Surrey) which I am not remotely enjoying. I hope I find more pleasure in the two stories of his set in Kent which I will get to shortly.