Saturday, November 29, 2014

'The Best Thriller Writer in New Zealand' wins South African Books Award

Zirk van den Berg scooped a 2014 KykNET Report Book Prize in South Africa last week for the recent Afrikaans translation of his acclaimed debut thriller NOBODY DIES, which was first published in English in New Zealand ten years ago. 

van den Berg won the film category of the prestigious awards, which offer a total prize money of 500,000 rand in three categories: literary fiction, non-fiction, and book with the most film potential.

When announcing the 'most filmic book' award, Kerneels Breytenbach noted that the visual aspects of novels are often overlooked, and the award was designed to give a boost to books that would work well on the silver screen. The judges were looking for books in Afrikaans with great potential to be turned into a screenplay, stories with strong narratives, especially memorable characters, and could be commercially viable projects for the South African film industry.

Having read the English language version of NOBODY DIES I can heartily agree that it is a book that very well could make for an excellent film, with terrific visuals, action sequences, twisting plot and intriguing hero.

Namibian-born van den Berg moved to New Zealand in 1998. After having written screenplays and fiction in Afrikaans while living in South Africa, he published his first story in English in 2004 (the thriller NOBODY DIES). At the time, van den Berg told Iain Sharp of the Sunday Star-Times that he moved his family from South Africa partially because of the violent crime there; an atmosphere and setting that was very well evoked in a novel 'about identity' that went on to receive great reviews and acclaim. The New Zealand Listener asked if van den Berg's impressive debut made him the 'best thriller writer in New Zealand', and the New Zealand Herald chose the book as one of the best five thrillers, worldwide, of that year. 

Here's the backcover blurb for NOBODY DIES/N ANDER MENS: 

Erica van der Linde has found the perfect way to make sure the witnesses in her police protection programme in Cape Town stay hidden. She kills them. But she hasn't encountered anyone like Daniel Enslin before. You'd hardly call him a criminal. An apathetic loner in a nothing job, Daniel gets his kicks by associating with Frank Redelinghuys, a dealer in all kinds of merchandise, unfettered by the normal rules of morality. But when Daniel witnesses Frank commit a murder, he feels compelled to do something about it. He betrays Frank to his arch enemy, policeman Nic Acker, even though this puts his own life in danger. When the case against Frank collapses, Acker has no option but to put Daniel into the witness protection programme. With Erica to set up a new life for him, Daniel will be safe, at least

It's nice to see, in a way, that van den Berg has somewhat come full circle - from writing in Afrikaans, to moving to New Zealand and getting great acclaim for his debut English-language story, to seeing that story ten years later win him an award for its eventual translation into Afrikaans. The obvious question now: is anyone working on a screenplay for this book? Perhaps Zirk himself?

You can read my 9mm interview with Zirk van den Berg, conducted in June 2012, here.

If you'd like to read NOBODY DIES, and like me your Afrikaans isn't up to scratch, then the book is now available in ebook form in English, with a new cover, directly from van den Berg's own website, Say Books. He has also published a second thriller, NO-BRAINER, a mystery romp featuring sculptor cum blackmailer Jules Dijkstra, which is also available from the same website.

Comments welcome.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A mighty totara has fallen: PD James passes away

Sad news here in London today, as the marvellous PD James has passed away, aged 94. The creator of the Adam Dalgliesh series of crime novels, MWA Grand Master, CWA Diamond Dagger Award winner. A true legend and icon of crime writing. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for her 90th birthday. Just an amazing, intelligent, kind, and articulate woman. Generous with her time and comments. A very, very sad day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Translation of THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR wins first-ever Icepick Award

Icelandic translator Friðrik Rafnsson (pictured) scooped the first-ever Icepick Award at a celebratory dinner for the Iceland Noir crime writing festival on Saturday night, for his translation, from French, of publishing phenomenon THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR by Joel Dicker. 

Dicker's novel about a young novelist visiting his mentor in Somerset, a mentor who then becomes embroiled in a sensational cold-case murder enquiry, has already won several awards in France, sold more than 2 million copies in Europe, received a lot of critical acclaim, and had its film rights optioned. 

It was one of five finalists for the inaugural Icepick Award, which celebrates the translation of great crime novels into Icelandic. Other finalists included the translation of Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL by Bjarni Jónsson, the translation of Jo Nesbo's THE LEOPARD by Bjarni Gunnarsson, the translation of Hakan Nesser's MAN WITHOUT DOG by Ævar Örn Jósepsson, and the translation of Finnish rising star Antti Tuomainen's MY BROTHER'S KEEPER by Sigurður Karlsson. 

The award was founded by the Reykjavik crime festival Iceland Noir, The Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters and The Icelandic Crime Writing Association. 

Speaking to Lilja Sigurdardottir, one of Iceland Noir's organisers in 2014, about the award, she told me that they were keen to celebrate the terrific and important work of translators, who are often overlooked, as there was already a separate award for Icelandic crime writers that is presented each summer. 

The judging panel for the Icepick Award was comprised of Magnea J. Matthíasdóttir, Chairman of The Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Culture and Education, journalist and literary critic Kolbrún Bergþórsdóttir, and crime writers Quentin Bates and Ragnar Jónasson. Bates and Jonasson were part of the organising team for Iceland Noir, and Jakobsdottir was MC for the dinner event at Nordic House, and presented the award. 

It's great to see translators getting their due. Rafnsson, who came across as a humble man, was clearly pleased to win the award, and it was great to witness the first-ever presentation in person. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Kiwi crime: Introducing Grant Nicol

It seems Kiwi crime writing is flourishing everywhere!

I'm in Reykjavik this weekend, attending the Iceland Noir crime festival, and I ran into Grant Nicol, a New Zealand author living here, who has recently published his first crime novel. Over the course of the weekend I've been thinking there are several similarities between Iceland and New Zealand - island nations with ruggedly majestic scenery, volcanic landscapes, remote and sparsely populated outside of the main centres, fantastic fresh produce, and adventurous and active spirit etc.

I can see why people who enjoy the vibe of New Zealand would also like the vibe of Iceland (and vice versa). I'll be sharing more about Iceland Noir soon, but for now I thought I would flag up Nicol and his debut crime thriller, ON A SMALL ISLAND. Here's the blurb:

"In the space of just a few short days, Ylfa Einarsdóttir sees her peaceful existence in downtown Reykjavík turned on its head. Some unexpected news from one of her sisters and a brutal murder that’s far too close to home for comfort leave her wondering why life has turned on her so suddenly.   
When the police fail to take her seriously, her hands-on approach to the investigation soon lands her in hot water. Following a string of biblical messages left behind by a mysterious nemesis she stumbles upon a dark secret that has finally come home to roost. As she is about to find out, on a small island, what goes around, comes around."

Nicol said he wrote the novel while he was in Ireland. He now lives in Reykjavik, having visited several times over the years while based in Europe. Unlike many crime novels, ON A SMALL ISLAND doesn't have a cop, journalist, private eye, lawyer or other professionally investigative person as the hero.  Instead, it is a family member who finds themselves trying to unravel the mystery.

Nicol's debut is available on Amazon Kindle, and his second thriller has been accepted by a London-based publisher, and will be released in early 2015. You can check out ON A SMALL ISLAND here.

Have you read any novels set in Iceland? What do you think of Nordic Noir?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaving, on a jet plane.... for Reykjavik

While many of my fellow crime fiction afficianados have been basking in the sunshine of California recently, at the massive Bouchercon event, later this afternoon I'm taking an opposite kind of tack, heading for the cold wintery-ness of Reykjavik, which is hosting the second-ever Icealand Noir festival of crime writing.

I became aware of Iceland Noir when I met and interviewed Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir onstage at the recent Christchurch Writers Festival. I then met others involved with the festival, including honorary Icelander Quentin Bates - a key part of the organising team - and young Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson at Bloody Scotland in late September. Their passion and enthusiasm for the new event was infectious, and I found myself booking tickets to Reykjavik, even though I wouldn't be involved onstage myself this year.

There are some great authors appearing at the festival, including internationals such as Peter James, James Oswald, Craig Robertson, Alex Sokoloff, and Johan Theorin. I'm very much looking forward to catching up with some old friends, and making some new ones, this weekend, as well as exploring Reykjavik.

I'll be sharing some photos and thoughts from the festival in the coming days, but in the meantime, you can check out more information at its website here.