Crime Scene Britain and Ireland by John Martin #BritCrime Festival

Former librarian John Martin talks to BritCrime about his guide to crime fiction in Britain and Ireland.
Crime Scene Britain and IrelandThis book is for all readers of crime fiction. Dividing Britain and Ireland into thirteen regions, the author describes the work of contemporary and historic crime writers whose settings are crucial, giving their stories context and local relevance. While regional crime novels go back to The Hound of the Baskervilles, regional crime fiction within specific cityscapes and landscapes only came into its own twenty years ago with the work of authors such as Ian Rankin, John Harvey, PD James and Val McDermid. Their work, together with that of hundreds of others, is described in this volume which is essential for the serious crime reader.

Thanks for joining us, John. Can you tell us about yourself and why you decided to write the book?

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 retired 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 looking for new authors. 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.

What is the scope of the book?

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) though it concentrates on the period from 1960 to 2014. It contains mini-essays (400 words or less) on more than 400 crime novelists, who between them have written over 5000 crime novels during the last 150 years.

I see you've got a great endorsement from Barry Forshaw as well as other reviewers and bloggers. What made you think readers would be interested in a guide to crime fiction?

Well, my major inspiration was Barry Forshaw's Encyclopaedia of British Crime Fiction. This is a wonderful reference book, but at £90 for two volumes I felt it was out of reach for most readers. I wanted to come up with something which was as comprehensive as possible but more accessible pricewise, and my publisher agreed.

Is Crime Scene Britain and Ireland currently available as an ebook or is it only in print? 
It's available in paperback and ebook editions.

Thanks, John!

Twitter:  @fl0ydfan
Get Crime Scene Britain and Ireland from Amazon

"A splendid, much-needed book"

"Enthusiasm and scholarship shine from every page"
Barry Forshaw, broadsheet reviewer and author of Brit Noir

"It's testimony to the strength of British crime fiction that there are such interesting reference books to dip into and savour".
Sarah Ward, author and blogger (Crimepieces)

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