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Crime Beat

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High-five for international krimi blogger Peter Rozovsky

bad companyA Crime Beat hotspot: by special arrangement with award-winning US crime fiction blogger, Peter Rozovsky (of Detectives Without Borders fame), here are two notices of Bad Company that he posted to his blog recently. It seems that while at the Bouchercon crime fiction festival – one of the must-do calendar dates for crime fiction fans – he was cornered by Stanley Trollip who convinced him that buying a copy of the anthology would be good for his continued health. Here’s what Peter thought of his enforced purchase:

The first days after a crime-fiction convention are a strain on the mind; one never knows what to read first. Compounding the Bouchercon plenitude, I’ve done a bit of secondhand shopping at Philadelphia’s Whodunit Books since I got back.

One of my favourite Bouchercon pickups, and one not easily available in the U.S., is Bad Company, a collection of short stories by South African crime writers. I got my copy from Stanley Trollip, one half of the writing team known as Michael Stanley. Trollip was a jovial presence on Bouchercon’s “Murder at the Edge of the Map” panel, a fashion hit in his stylized-hippopotamus T-shirt, and an enthusiastic promoter of South African crime writing who had brought ten copies of the collection to sell.

Stanley’s own story, “Neighbours,” is an intimate tale of death in a village, relations among neighbours, and the strengths and dangers of living in a community where everyone knows everyone else. Among other things, it makes elegant, unobtrusive use of cliffhangers.

Deon Meyer’s “The Nostradamus Document” is a police procedural with a real punch, something like Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct stories, but with greater focus on the dangerously intertwined personal and professional lives of one cop, Detective Sgt. Fransman Dekker. The story contains bursts of hard-hitting, elliptical dialogue, all the more impressive since what we read is a translation; Meyer writes in Afrikaans. A high vyf to his translator, uncredited here, as near as I can tell.

More to come the more I read.

For this post, I revisit my old friend self-reference. My guide is Richard Kunzmann’s story “If Nothing Else,” from the Bad Company anthology of South African crime stories.

Kunzmann is a youngish author, born in 1976. I don’t know how much death and violence he has seen, but his story confronts a difficulty that must plague many serious crime writers: How does one write about death without having seen it up close?

“Rarely are we treated to the spectacle of what is guaranteed to one day happen to all of us,” muses the first-person narrator, a crime writer named Sam Engels excited to be joining police at a murder scene. “Modern society robs us of a unique experience on a daily basis, and this is why I wanted to relish the moment.”

The story is a bit talkier than I’d have liked, but I like Kunzmann’s sly use of the difficulty mentioned above. And I like the rhythm of the story’s opening even more: “It was a desperate death to look at.”
***
Fiction from Africa is bound to have a bit of the allure of the strange and new for North American readers, and that can be a good thing. One Bad Company story’s passing reference to an officer’s being the only Xhosa on the force is a reminder that the possibility of ethnic tension need not be limited to black vs. white – an especially salutary thought for those of us who live in the United States. (A similar light goes on above my head when Helene Tursten writes about tension between Swedes and ethnic Finns in her Göteborg-based Swedish crime novels.)

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://www.joannehichens.co.za" rel="nofollow">Joanne</a>
    Joanne
    November 3rd, 2009 @08:28 #
     
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    It's so great that Bad Company is getting good coverage - really nice for helping put SA crime-thriller witers more firmly on an international map - for show-casing just some of the loads of great story-tellers here on the dark continent.

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