Geschrieben am 31. Dezember 2017 von für Crimemag, Highlights 2017, News

CulturMag Highlights 2017, Teil 3 (Carter – Denker)


Alan Carter
Andrew Cartmel

Liza Cody
Ute Cohen
Jacqueline Delaye
Claudia Denker

Alan CarterAlan Carter

2017 has been a very up and down year, literally. It started on our farm at the top of New Zealand’s South Island with my wife, Kath, being knocked off a ladder by a rogue falling tree and being choppered out to Nelson Hospital over the hills and far away. Result, a multitude of fractures in foot and leg and the first four months of 2017 in recuperation with our son and his family in Adelaide. Of course the other downer was a certain narcissist seizing power in the USA and assuming control of the nuclear trigger. But he’s already getting too much attention so let’s focus on the positives.

One upside of the Adelaide sojourn was the opportunity to attend Adelaide Writers Week and see the fabulous and erudite Graeme Macrae Burnett (author of His Bloody Project) sharing a stage with the equally fantastic Hannah Kent (The Good People) – two of my favourite reads during the last year – discussing the joys and pitfalls of researching a historical novel and bringing a certain place and a certain time vividly to life. Another great read during 2017 was Jock Serong’s novel On the Java Ridge which passionately and angrily illustrates the dark heart of Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers.

carter marlborough man 9781925164534_WEBLARGEAbout a month after returning to NZ from the Adelaide recuperation home it was back on the road again to promote the release of my latest novel Marlborough Man in Australia and New Zealand. This was a bit of a gamble for me, a departure from the ‘Cato Kwong’ series set in Western Australia to a standalone set in NZ – how would Cato fans react? How would NZ react to me stepping into their territory? Well, so far so good, and maybe Marlborough Man will return for further adventures.

There’s been some good crime series and films this year which may have been out for a long while but it’s taken me until now to find them. I’ve particularly enjoyed binge-watching Happy Valley a UK police procedural with plenty of heart and grit set in Yorkshire. Likewise Line of Duty, another UK crime series, has become something of an addiction. And Deutschland 83 – another jewel introduced to me via Air New Zealand in-flight entertainment (no wonder they keep winning airline of the year awards). My two favourite films this year were Human Traces a creepy thriller set on one of NZ’s sub-Antarctic islands and The Killing of a Sacred Deer which was plain bonkers.

Finally a shout out to an old classic crime book re-discovered during my PhD research – Charlotte Jay’s 1952 PNG-set Beat not the Bones – again, at times it seems plain bonkers but at others it’s an incisive take-down of colonialism and racism. Check it out if you get the chance.

Happy 2018 and let’s hope that guy in charge of the doomsday button doesn’t chuck the mother of all tantrums and blow us all to kingdom come. On that score, ten kilometres up a dead-end valley in remote NZ feels like the right place to hang out.

Alan Carter with CrimeMag here and here. He is published in Germany at Nautilus, Hamburg.

Andrew Cartmel me & molly pic for alfAndrew Cartmel

 I would like to tell you about one of my favourite writers of all time. 

He’s scandalously close to being forgotten now, but in his heyday John Dann MacDonald (1916-1986) sold tens of millions of books and was omnipresent on the paperback racks.

McDonald’s métier was crime or suspense fiction. But he also wrote powerful human dramas, highly effective humour and some outstanding science fiction. 

Sometimes he combined these genres (The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything is science fiction-humour, and it’s smashing). He even wrote a charming book about his cats (The House Guests).

But crime was his main thing. And he was impressively prolific. One book about MacDonald and his writing has the highly appropriate title The Red Hot Typewriter. Written by Hugh Merrill, it’s a readable and useful introduction to MacDonald. But a more solid and reliable book is simply called John D. MacDonald and it’s by David Geherin. 

car red hot typewritercar 111a45811129c3399465659525848283However, the most painless introduction to this fine writer is the excellent BBC Radio 4 program 21 Shades of Noir which you can find at the BBC website. Available indefinitely online, it’s hosted by Lee Child, another big fan of MacDonald and himself a colossally successful crime writer — he’s the creator of the Jack Reacher series. Child is to be applauded for his support and enthusiasm. Largely thanks to his efforts, MacDonald’s reputation is being recovered from obscurity.

Unfortunately, this has also led to MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels being repackaged to look like Jack Reacher adventures. I think this is a shame, since the appeal of the two series are very different.

Travis McGee is MacDonald’s immortal hero, created in 1963, after decades of resisting his publisher’s pleas for a series character. McGee ushered in the third great phase of John D. MacDonald’s career, which began as a short-story-writing machine for the pulp magazines  in the 1940s and then segued into a star novelist of the paperback originals in the 1950s.

Incidentally, now might be a good time to mention why that middle ‘D’ in MacDonald’s name is so important…

You see, there is another famous American crime novelist called Ross MacDonald, who wrote the famous Lew Archer private eye novels. That MacDonald’s real name is Kenneth Millar. When he was looking for a pseudonym he actually chose “John MacDonald”…

There was a major problem with this pen name. You’ve guessed it… There already was our hero, John MacDonald, also writing crime fiction. And under his real name.

So, once this fiasco was discovered, after the publication of Lew Archer’s first adventure, both authors had to take evasive action, like ships avoiding a collision. 

Thus Kenneth Millar became John Ross MacDonald and the real MacDonald started using his middle initial and transformed to John D. MacDonald, whom he remained, while Millar finally settled on Ross MacDonald.  

car 0521-deceivers-the-410car 0508-only-girl-in-the-game-the-957What’s in a name? Well, for a writer establishing his reputation, just about everything.

John D. MacDonald started writing just as the careers of the three great giants of American crime fiction — Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain — were drawing to a close. 

Of these three, MacDonald is closest to Cain in that his plots often involved ordinary people who are swept to destruction by currents of greed or lust. Whereas Hammett and Chandler tended to write about the professionals who came along afterwards and picked up the pieces.

In terms of his prose style, MacDonald doesn’t really resemble any of these three. And in fact, by the time he hits his stride in the 1950s he was better than any of them in his sheer ability to use language. MacDonald’s prose was a shrewd blend of brilliant description, acute observation, cynical humour and what he called “unobtrusive poetry”.

The quality of his writing was unprecedented in the crime field, and pretty much in American literature at large. (Though if he had no clear predecessors, he had a least one very distinguished successor — in his Hannibal Lecter novels, Thomas Harris shows the emphatic and beneficial influence of MacDonald.)

If MacDonald had a flaw it was in moments of  over-sentimentality — something which Hammett, Chandler and Cain were very unlikely to succumb to. MacDonald also tended to over-write when devising erotic-romantic scenes.

But by the late 1960s even these minor flaws had largely fallen away and left him as the great American storyteller at the top of his game… for another twenty years.

car john-d-macdonald-one-monday-we-killed-them-allAllow me to tell you, in a little bit of detail, about just one novel by John D. MacDonald, to give a flavour of his work.

One Monday We Killed Them All was published in 1961, and it is a favourite of mine. There is an amazing grim sense of foreboding and approaching doom in the book, which derives not least from the brilliant title.

The set-up is simple and powerful. A small town cop has an idyllic marriage save for one small detail — his wife’s half-brother, Dwight McAran, is a psychopathic thug. And he’s just about to be released from prison.

And he’s sworn revenge on the town where our hero lives. 

Heightening the tension is the fact that the hero’s wife utterly refuses to believe that there’s anything wrong with McAran. She’s protective of her little brother. So much so that, to the cop’s chagrin, she invites him to stay with them in their family home when he gets out of prison.

car 0260-executioners-the-1486car 0517-cape-fear-1732This book is close kin to MacDonald’s The Executioners (filmed twice as Cape Fear) in that is shows an ordinary family on a collision course with a criminal psychopath while the hero is helpless to lawfully do anything to stop it.

Probably the most powerful engine in the story is our frustration at the wife’s stubborn refusal to realise what McAran is, and the grim delight we take in the terrible inevitability of her finally seeing the truth.

Throughout the book MacDonald’s superlative powers of description are in evidence. An impulsive, spoiled young woman is “as random as the March wind.”

The wild hill country, where the books climax takes place, is particularly vividly evoked. In its morning sky, “A hawk drifted, turning his head from side to side, his mind on a breakfast mouse.”

car 0470-slam-the-big-door-1106And the cop’s grim assessment of his own situation is entirely accurate: “there’s no way to stop it. It’s like a long hill and no brakes.”

In the end, McAran’s meets his much-deserved end, and his death rattle is described as “a last sound that was like somebody trying not to cough in church.”

This is a beautifully written, utterly compelling, compact thriller. If you would like to sample John D. MacDonald, it is an ideal place to start.

Andrew Cartmel is a British author and journalist, he was also the script editor for „Doctor Who“ from 1987 to 1989. His Vinyl Detective Series will be published in Germany at Suhrkamp from fall 2018 on. Thomas Wörtche is the culprit. – For a lot of beautiful John D. Macdonald covers look here.

(c) Liza Cody

(c) Liza Cody

Liza Cody

 It’s been an oddly backward-looking year. I’ve had to face the consequences of the twin shocks of the UK voting to leave the European Community and the US voting Donald Trump into the White House – both horribly disturbing outcomes. On top of that, one of my musical loves, poet and prophet Leonard Cohen, died.

 So I’ve been listening to a lot of Cohen’s work – especially You Want It Darker, and reading some of his poetry and other writing. I’ll always miss him.

 But to counter the sadness I’ve been listening to the Stones’ Blue & Lonesome which looks back to the simple, stirring funk of original blues.

 On TV I’ve conducted a personal Aaron Sorkin retrospective – everything I could find that he’d written for TV, with special attention to The West Wing because it portrays the White House as humane, rational and literate. Wishful thinking, I know, but better than sucking my thumb, shivering fearfully under the bed and sending more donations to Planned Parenthood.

 All the same I’d like to put in a good word for Jane Campion’s weird and messy Top of the Lake: China Girl. Campion has almost too much to say about women’s lives and dilemmas. She doesn’t fit neatly into the TV format. Also I can’t think of anyone else who can make water so expressive – eerie, threatening, lambent and beautiful all at once.

 Movies – catching up with what I missed last year – I loved Mara Nair’s Queen of Katwe, and Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures. But a new find has been The Florida Project, by Sean Baker (the guy who wrote and directed Tangerine – my new favourite Christmas movie). This is so wonderfully chaotic and beautifully acted – I’d recommend it to anyone.

Cody_Krokodile-edle-Ziele_HomepageReading – well, the search for rational thought continued, and I rediscovered Scott Turow. His belief in the law, if used humanely, as a unifying factor in a diverse and aggressively greedy society is comforting. Even Testimony, which looks at the difficulties of the European courts, pays tribute to good intentions. (Although oddly, for Turow, the women and relationships are uncharacteristically crude.)

 Yes, all in all, I’ve been looking for hope and comfort in a distressing year, and finding it, sadly, in the past. 2018 has got to be better.

Liza Cody is published in Germany at ariadne Verlag, Hamburg. Just out, her „Krokodile und edle Ziele“ (Crocodiles And Good Intentions). Liza’s website.

Ute Cohen1Ute Cohen

Sex and Crime

Während Tristan Garcia den Zeigefinger hebt und vor den Gefahren der Intensität warnt, lasse ich mich freudig von deren Taumel erfassen. Work-Life-Balance, Selbstoptimierung und Selbstkontrolle, um den Absturz zu verhindern, mag das neue Phi-Paradigma des Maßes sein, mich locken jedoch die anarcholibertären Umstürzler, nicht ein französischer Prediger des Mittelmaßes. Konsequenterweise fegte ich durch das Jahr mit Blitzgeschwindigkeit und einer Gefühlsintensität, die Garcias Skala garantiert gesprengt hätte.

With a bing and a bang erschien im Februar mein Roman „Satans Spielfeld“. Dieses Buch brannte mir unter den Nägeln, seit sich der körperliche Schmerz verflüchtigt und von einer unbändigen Wut abgelöst wurde. Nein, ich glaube nicht, dass alle Geschichten bereits erzählt sind, dass sich Literaten nur mehr in strukturellen Spielereien und Wortfindungsexerzitien ergehen können. Der Blutleere und dem Ennui halte ich einen Ring of Fire entgegen. Nichts ist mir mehr zuwider als schreibschulenbereinigte Schreibe. Ich will den Herzschlag spüren, auf die Gefahr hin, dass der Text überschäumt oder die Buchstaben gefrieren.

Wenn mich dann der Albdruck plagt und Rache sich in tausend Tötungsarten sublimiert, dann schrecke ich nicht vor mir selbst zurück, sondern schreibe mir den Hass vom Leib. Grunewalder Champagner-Schnepfen im Selbstbemitleidungsmodus? Take it! Berlin Noir und Valverde nehmen euch auf die Schippe. Eine Handvoll Erde gefällig?

In diesem State of Mind kommt mir dann ein Benjamin Whitmer gerade zupass. Wildromantische, vogelfreie Scheiße, die uns zeigt, dass die Welt vielleicht ein einziges Shithole ist, aber dass es sich dennoch zu kämpfen lohnt. Zu verdanken haben wir den White Trash-Kämpfer der Perle der deutschen Krimiverlage: dem Polar-Verlag und seinem Schöpfer Wolfgang Franßen. Wahre Idealisten, wahre Überzeugungstäter lassen sich nicht unterkriegen. Der Tod mag wie eine lästige Fliege auf der Wange kleben, Franßen kostet das nicht einmal ein Wimperzucken. Ich bin glücklich, dass der Verlag überlebt, glücklich, dass ich in der Krimi-Branche so viele ehrliche Häute, begnadete Stilisten und wohltuende Schulterklopfer kennen gelernt habe, denn nichts ist mir wichtiger als Freiheit und L.O.V.E.

sexmagEine Unterkategorie des Four Letter-Words ist S.E.X. Deshalb habe ich mich mit Haut und Haar in die Herausgeberschaft der Spezialausgabe des litmag, des SEXMAGs gestürzt. Mit begeisterten Mitstreiterinnen und Mitstreitern haben wir uns über Sex in Wort, Bild und Musik Gedanken gemacht, wobei auch mein Alter Ego Theresa S. Grunwald ihrer Schreiblust freie Bahn ließ. Big Thanxxx to Thomas Wörtche und Brigitte Helbling für die freie Hand und das Vertrauen.

Mildere Saiten in mir brachte Lisa Sandlins „Ein Job für Delpha“ zum Erklingen. Dass Hass der Stechapfel im Vexierbild der Rache ist, Verzicht der Seele wohl zu tun vermag, Vertrauen in die Selbstjustiz des Schicksals geboten sein kann, hat mir Delpha gezeigt. Thank God und all denen, die mit dem Verzicht auf Vendetta gebenedeit sind.

Wie schwer der Abschied des Gehassten, des Geliebten ist, erlebte ich in Charlotte Gainsbourgs neuem Album „Rest“. Das Interview, das ich mit ihr geführt habe, war eines der erhellendsten Gespräche dieses Jahres. Als sie aufblickte, mich ansah, nicht mehr den eingeübten Interview-Text abspulte, sondern zu plaudern begann, war ich beglückt. Off the record natürlich…

Ein Dank? Oh, ja! Ein Dank noch meinen geleibten Musikern aus Dresden, die ich schon letztes Jahr auf meinen Jahresrückblicks-Trip mitgenommen habe: Fran Dango und Heiko Hesh Schramm. Fran schrieb sogar den Titelsong für meinen Roman. Mit „Scars ´n Grace“ trifft sie ins Schwarze und The Hunters Bass wird spätestens nächstes Jahr wieder alle Gewissheiten zum Einsturz bringen.

51EAElQvMLL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Peace, Leute! Ich wünsche euch, dass ihr so froh und glücklich das Jahr ausklingen lasst wie ich!

Tristan Garcia: Das intensive Leben. Eine moderne Obsession, Suhrkamp 2017

Ute Cohen: Satans Spielfeld, Septime Verlag 2017-12-06

Berlin Noir, herausgegeben von Thomas Wörtche, culturbooks 2018

Benjamin Whitmer: Im Westen nichts Neues, Polar Verlag 2017

Lisa Sandlin: Ein Job für Delpha, Suhrkamp 2017

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest, 2017

Fran Dango: Scars ´n Grace 2017

Ute Cohens feine Texte bei CrimeMag hier. Im Sommer 2017 kuratierte sie das CulturMag Sex Special.

Jacqueline Delaye

Lady Kunst ist eine in Berlin lebende Performance-Künstlerin mexikanisch-französischer Herkunft und Gründerin der Parfümerie PassowDelaye. Ihr Schwerpunkt liegt auf Kapitalismuskritik. Sie war auch im SexMag Special dabei.

ClaudiaClaudia Denker

Der stetige Umsatzrückgang der kleinen Buchläden oder auch des Einzelhandels war im Jahr 2017 leider ein Thema, das mich durchgehend beschäftigt hat.

Meine Highlights waren natürlich die Lesungen und Veranstaltungen mit Beteiligung der Berliner »Krimibuchhandlung Hammett«. Ganz großartig war es u.a. mit Max Annas, Zoë Beck, Jérôme Leroy und Gary Victor.

Besonders gefreut hat mich eine Veranstaltungsreihe »Das Buch wird laut«, ins Leben gerufen von Oliver Bottini und Rainer Wittkamp. Die Buchhandlungen »totsicher«, »Miss Marple« und das »Hammett« hatten tolle Abende mit KrimiautorInnen, die ohne Gage mit Lesungen und Diskussionen auf die Lage der kleinen Buchhandlungen aufmerksam gemacht haben.

Das waren im »Hammett« Max Annas, Oliver Bottini, Kerstin Ehmer, Susanne Kliem, Regina Nössler und Matthias Wittekindt.

Klasse war dann auch noch eine ganz kurzfristig zustande gekommene Lesung mit Yassin Musharbash und seinem Kollegen Sebastian Christ, die sehr beeindruckend aus ihren Büchern zum Thema »IS« gelesen und von ihrer Arbeit erzählt haben.

Gratulieren möchte ich auch noch einmal Wolfgang Franßen, der schon die Insolvenz seines Polar Verlags angekündigt hatte und dann in der letzten Sekunde (dank eines Investors) das Ruder herumreißen konnte. Ein echtes Jahreshighlight!

jarü denker NWS2017_Flyer_webIch freue mich auch sehr darüber, dass die »Talk.Noir«-Reihe im »Mastul« mit Sonja Hartl, Wolfgang Franßen und Thomas Wörtche (und mit Robert Rescue als ständigem Stargast) sich so schön entwickelt hat und nächstes Jahr (erstmal im »Froschkönig« in Neukölln) fortgesetzt wird.

Mein Lieblingsbuch des Jahres: Virginie Despentes: Das Leben des Vernon Subutex.

Oh, und dann war da noch John Niven im »Pfefferberg Theater«, sein neues Buch Alte Freunde habe ich mit dem größten Vergnügen weggeputzt.

Mein Serienhighlight: 4 Blocks.

Mein Gutelaunehighlight – wie jedes Jahr: Der Jahresrückblick der »Brauseboys«

Gerne hätte ich das Ganze hier jetzt mit der Freude über die Freilassung von Deniz Yücel beendet. Die Geburtstagsfeier ohne ihn vor dem Kanzleramt war hoffentlich einmalig.


Claudia Denker ist die Gründerin der Krimi-Buchhandlung Hammett in Berlin.

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