Crime Scene Britain and Ireland by John Martin

Delighted to share a Friday guest post from John Martin. I met John at Crimefest at the weekend, and his book sounds like the definitive reference volume for all fans of UK crime fiction. As Richard Cox says: “It’s what crime fiction readers have been looking for – probably without even knowing it.”

Blurb: This book is for all readers of crime fiction. Dividing Britain and Ireland into twelve regions, the author describes the work of contemporary and historic crime writers and their novels where the setting of the novel is crucial, giving the story context and local relevance. While regional crime novels go back to The Hound of the Baskervilles, identifiably regional crime within specific cityscapes and landscapes only came into its own twenty years ago with Ian Rankin, John Harvey and Val McDermid. Their work, together with hundreds of others, and thousands of titles are described in this volume which will be essential for the serious crime reader.

Over to you, John…

I have spent most of my working life around books. For almost 30 years I was a librarian in public libraries, specialising in stock selection and reader development, and I have been a lifelong crime fiction reader. Since 2002 I had been giving talks on crime fiction to library groups, and arranging author visits to libraries to encourage reading. When I was a victim of county council cuts and forced into retirement in May 2012, I had little idea of what I wanted to do, but I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to turn one of my talks into a book, despite never having written anything longer than a University dissertation. I shall always be grateful to Ross Bradshaw, radical bookseller and publisher at Five Leaves Bookshop/Five Leaves Publications in Nottingham, for giving me that chance – taking a punt on an unknown, if enthusiastic, writer.

For the discerning reader there is a huge variety of British crime fiction to choose from, and my career in libraries had shown me that readers were often uncertain as to what to read next. Readers want to have some empathy with the characters in a novel, and they also want to picture the setting in their mind. For crime fiction, perhaps more than most genres, the setting of the book is crucial. A crime is often the product of the society around it, and that in itself is heavily influenced by the environment. The setting evokes emotion and knowledge in the reader, which helps to give the narrative a framework. Colin Dexter’s wonderful Morse novels used the backdrop of Oxford, it’s Colleges and architecture to give the murder mysteries a certain air, a certain mystique which would have been quite different if the setting had been urban Manchester, or the Scottish highlands.

The book is divided into thirteen regions (7 in England, 3 in Scotland, 2 in Ireland plus Wales on its own). I have had to make some contentious decisions as to boundaries, and so The Cotswolds are included in the West Country, Bedfordshire is in The Midlands and Aberdeen has been added to the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It covers the whole history of crime fiction from 1860 (the earliest book included was published in 1862) to 2014 and contains mini-essays (400 words or less) on more than 500 crime novelists, who between them have written over 5000 crime novels during the last 150 years.

Crime Scene Britain and Ireland: A Readers’ Guide is a book of which I am very proud. It was published by Five Leaves in October 2014 (£9.99) and has received wonderfully positive reviews from Martin Edwards and Barry Forshaw. It was shortlisted for The Keating Award at CrimeFest 2015.

* * *

John Martin is an author and speaker on crime fiction. He will be appearing at the “Lowdham Book Festival” & “Leicester Writes” in June, and at “Everybody’s Reading” (Leicester’s Festival of Reading) in October. Find him on Facebook:  John Martin –  Crime Fiction Connoisseur.

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