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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Brit Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of the British Isles by Barry Forshaw.

Published by Pocket Essentials,
21 April 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-640-8

Forshaw has followed his previous Nordic Noir and Euro Noir with this similar format volume on British crime. This handy book is subtitled “A definitive investigation of the contemporary crime field”, and that’s a well-earned description. In his introduction, Forshaw speaks of a ‘new Golden Age’ of crime, and the variety of genres, detectives, themes and authors he then gives details of certainly bear that out. He’s interpreted ‘noir’ loosely to include contemporary writers he feels meet his criteria of the key four elements: strong plotting, literate, adroit writing, complex characterisation and vividly evoked locales. This means non-noir writers like McCall Smith and other ‘cosies’ are included, so it is a real snapshot of crime writing in Britain today. The only crime genre not included is historical crime, although a number of writers who are usually historical are included for their contemporary novels.

The guide is roughly organised by region, so if you enjoy researching your favoured holiday spot with a look at their crime scene, you can do that. However, as Forshaw points out, writers like McDermid and Cleeves are known for several locations, so the easiest way to find a particular author is through the index. All our favourites are here, along with many less well-known (I’m honoured to be included). Each author is then given a paragraph describing the work, the series detective, locale, writing strengths, and a recommendation of a representative book. These paragraphs are descriptions, rather than reviews, as Forshaw points out in his introduction, but he can’t help his enthusiasm breaking through when he talks of his particular favourites. England is divided into regions, with Wales and the Borders part of this section, and Scotland and Ireland each have a section of their own. The Irish section includes the whole of Ireland, because, as Forshaw says, he wanted to celebrate as many interesting and talented writers as he could. This is followed  by ‘A World Elsewhere’, with British writers who set their novels abroad. Finally, there’s a list of films and TV series, with a paragraph of description of each.

A must-have for crime fans: for reminding yourself about old favourites, for finding new authors, and for that ‘What shall we watch?’ moment as you contemplate settling down on the sofa for an exciting evening of TV. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Barry Forshaw's latest books are British Crime Film and Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Other work includes British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and Guns for Hire: The Modern Adventure Thriller, along with books on Italian cinema and the first biography of Stieg Larsson. His next books are British Gothic Cinema and a study of Thomas Harris and The Silence of the Lambs. He writes for various newspapers, edits Crime Time, and broadcasts for ITV and BBC TV documentaries. He has been Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' Association.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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