An Evening with Lee Child – Past Tense – WORD Christchurch

I am well into the morning-after glow of having spent an evening in the company of Lee Child, Paul Cleave and 750 of his Christchurch fans – and what a night it was! This is my first WORD Christchurch event – this one presented in association with Penguin Random House New Zealand – and I couldn’t have asked for a better author to kick off with. Lee Child is funny, intelligent and relaxed as he responds to Paul Cleave’s questions. He looks every bit as he does on the back cover of his books too. Now don’t worry – there are no spoilers for Past Tense in here – nor were there any in the interview, thankfully. I am still only part way through the book so I would have been gutted if it had been discussed in depth.

Have you ever wondered if Lee Child is channeling any of himself into our favourite character? Turns out that he is. He has gone out and experienced moving around the States as Jack does and has a similar dislike for technology. He also told us that other than the leather jacket and boots that he was wearing on the night; everything else will find itself in the bin in a few days and he will leave with new clothes. The basics aren’t expensive – he’s tried expensive clothing and found that they look the same anyway. And yes his jeans go under the mattress at night!

So which of you didn’t like Tom Cruise in the big screen role of Jack Reacher? No? Me neither! Quite simply because he doesn’t have the requisite traits that we all know Reacher to have – if anything, Tom Cruise is the antipode of Jack Reacher.

But this isn’t something that we will have to continue to grin and bear for any future films. That’s because there won’t be any. It was in Lee’s contract with the studio that he could opt out of any future movies once two had been made. So he has. Instead we have something much more worthy to look forward to. A TV series! He has just signed the paperwork to put Jack Reacher onto the little screen and I for one will be happily bingewatching it. If luck has it, there will be 8 seasons which will incorporate 24 books – 3 per season. One book will be chosen as the main theme and the other 2 will be cannibalised to round out the episodes. Can’t wait to see the result.

It was nice to see Lee graciously accept the book of a first-time author from the audience, when he was offered it. I had the impression that he genuinely supports up and coming talent. He does however, heartily disapprove of a well established author who quite blatantly kicks off a series with a character who is a bit of a dead ringer for ol’ Jack. David Baldacci… you know who you are! Amusingly, Lee didn’t take this affront lying down and is openly disparaging of such behaviour. He even went as far as to name a couple of his minor characters Baldacci and made sure that Reacher got a chance to punch them in the face. It seems that was enough to assure the absence of David Baldacci at some book events that he and Lee Child were due to attend together. Better watch your back DB!

So, ‘how does he remain as thin as he does?’, was one audience member’s question. Lee has discovered that stoking the fires of his creativity is as simple as keeping himself hungry. He writes better like this. He puts it down to some primal part of his brain that is activated when he is hungry – and it’s no doubt trying to imagine what it will have to do in order to hunt and forage to fill this need. Deep stuff.

So even though food doesn’t play a huge part we can rest assured that he is consuming copious amounts of coffee. This stuff must be running through his veins as it’s not unusual for him to consume 36 cups of coffee in a day! 36! Mind blown! How on earth does he sleep at night, I wonder?

So that was my night with Lee Child. It was a very entertaining time that was had by all. And no I didn’t hang around for my book to be signed, because I didn’t have a couple of hours to spare! Maybe next time.

Time to immerse myself back into Jack Reacher’s world – Past Tense here I come!

Find more books in our collection by:

An Evening with Lee Child – Friday 23 November, 7pm – WORD Christchurch

CoverLee Child has just released his 23rd Jack Reacher book – Past Tense – and I can hardly wait to get my hands on it. The only thing that could possibly be better, is attending ‘An Evening with Lee Child’ – but you also won’t be surprised to hear that this WORD Christchurch event is already sold out. With a drawcard like bestselling author Lee Child having a chat with local author Paul Cleave – it’s no wonder! There was much seat bouncing and skiting to anyone who would listen when I heard that I would be going to see the creator of the Jack Reacher series in the flesh. It is almost like being in the same room as the great man himself – and who wouldn’t want to be up close and personal with someone like Jack?

Lee Child is one of an elite group of authors of whose work I have read in its entirety – and eagerly anticipate his next offering. This doesn’t sound like too big of a deal, I agree; but I am actually one of those librarians who don’t read many books. Blame the alluring pull of technology, being time-poor and feeling like it is taking my work home with me. But for another tale about Jack, I will always make an exception.

With 23 books under his belt and more than 40 short story anthologies, Lee Child has been giving his imagination and typing skills a serious work out over the last 21 years. His books have been bestsellers and he’s sold well over 100 million of them all over the world. From a librarian’s point of view I can honestly say that they are rarely back in the library long enough to actually get shelved.

Now I can see how this is a wee bit like teasing you all given that the event is actually sold out – but don’t despair. You can put your name on the waitlist according to the WORD Christchurch website – so you might be in with a chance! I on the other hand will be there with bells on and will let you know what you missed from the comfort of your lounge room – so watch this space!

CoverCoverCoverCoverCover

 

Catherine Chidgey and Paul Cleave: WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

Catherine Chidgey signs my books.

It’s my first day at the fest and it’s a full morning for me with two events one after the other: Catherine Chidgey (Transformations) and Paul Cleave (Crimechurch). Both Kiwi writers and both well known in their respective fields. But how similar/dissimilar are their writing styles? The lights dim, lets find out!

They are both first and foremost writers: This sounds like a really obvious statement to make, but many other participants at festivals are not. They are first adventurers, sportspeople, chefs, politicians or comediennes who later write about those experiences. But Chidgey & Cleave (sounds like an upmarket boutique store written like that) are both individuals who started writing young, and when asked their occupation would be totally justified in replying:”I am a writer”.

Cover of The Wish ChildThey are both internationally known: Catherine Chidgey has strong German roots and has won several UK book awards starting with her first novel In a Fishbone Church (1998). Her well-known novel The Wish Child is due for publication in the States this year. Paul Cleave is an international best selling crime author who divides his time between Christchurch and Europe. He has a receptive readership in both France and Germany and is also (with his next novel) due to break in to the American market.

They both like the creepy and the quirky: Chidgey is drawn to the weird – phrenology, wigs and the weird half-life status of hair, the religious Procession of the Snails in France, her collection of evening bags. Cleave specialises in unforgettably creepy shiver-up-and-down-your- spine characters like Joe in his first novel The Cleaner (2006).  He likes quirky settings too and finds that Christchurch has those aplenty.

But in other ways these two authors are oh-so different.

Research: Cleave hardly does any research. Maybe ten minutes on Wikipedia tops. He does however need to keep an eye on his own writing and research, in a way. This is because he repeats characters in his books, so for the sake of good continuity he needs to check up on exactly what he said about them before. Nowadays he keeps detailed notebooks. Chidgey is a self confessed obsessive. Once she has decided to write on a topic she researches it to the exclusion of all else. Many is the time she has teetered on the brink of the Google Hole fearing that she would end up researching but never actually writing. Now she tries to research and write at the same time.

Personality: Chidgey is an introverted eyes-and-ears person, not that big a contributor to conversations. Cleave is a terrific talker with great rapport with his interviewer and I’d peg him as a high end extrovert. Chidgey draws heavily on family and friends for her inspiration. Cleave never uses the characteristics of friends in any of his books. His family was barely mentioned.

Cover of Joe Victim by Paul CleaveWriting Style: Cleave writes quickly and loves some of his characters so much that he repeats them, like Joe in The Cleaner (2006), who re-appears in Joe Victim (2013). Although his books are stand-alone reads they do loosely form a series. Chidgey writes slowly and contemplatively, sometimes she reworks a sentence 20 times before she gets it right. She had a 13 year gap between Golden Deeds and The Wish Child. Her latest novel The Beat of the Pendulum (2018) was a relatively fast write by her standards because it was written to cover one year of “found events” in her life. If she left long gaps in the writing she could not keep up. It is a challenging but highly creative book.

Here they are in their own words:

Paul Cleave:

My novels are about the characters in them. That’s what you’ll remember long after you’ve finished the book. There are characters that I love so much I want to repeat them in later stories. But I would kill any one of them to progress the story-line. I’m ruthless that way.

Catherine Chidgey:

I want to create something whole and beautiful out of all the white noise, the static, of everyday living.

My first day at WORD 2018, and two very successful writers show that you can never generalise when it comes to writing. There are as many different ways to be an author as there are stories waiting to be written. It was a very good start.

Find out more

Paul Cleave wins the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award

Cover of Five Minutes AloneCongratulations to Paul Cleave who on Sunday 4 October was revealed as the winner of the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for his book Five Minutes Alone.

Cleave beat a strong field of 4 other finalists – Barbara EwingPaddy RichardsonTina Shaw, and Paul Thomas – and is a fitting winner in many ways:

  • he is a Christchurch local; what could be more appropriate for a prize named after Christchurch’s own Queen of Crime?
  • his books have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated in several languages;
  • he is the first author to have won the gong twice. He first won in 2011 for his book Blood Men and has been shortlisted every year since;
  • he has the perfect name for a crime writer. Proof? Check out the title of the post on the Kiwi Crime Watch blog: “Contenders get Cleave-d in historic Ngaio Marsh victory“.

Yet, interestingly, Cleave was apparently surprised to win and has been reported as having said in his acceptance speech that New Zealanders hold Kiwi writers to a higher standard than they do international authors.

As a lily-livered reader of only the coziest of mysteries (Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is my Goldilocks measure), I have not been brave enough to sample any of Cleave’s nine novels. Therefore I would really love to hear your opinions. Do you think that Kiwi crime writing, and Cleave’s specifically, is on a par with the best in the field internationally? What attracts you or puts you off reading New Zealand crime novels?

Previous winners of the Ngaio Marsh Award:

Cover of Cut and Run Cover of Blood Men Cover of Luther The Calling Cover of Death on Demand Cover of Where the Dead Men Go

Chatting with the locals

IMG_1038
With Laurence Fearnley in Christchurch

Have you ever fantasised about having a chat with any of our local authors?

Whether this would be a dream come true for you, or your worst nightmare, you might enjoy having a look at some of the interviews that intrepid librarians have already conducted with local authors on your behalf.

What’s it like to get up-close-and-personal with an author whose work you love?

First read that author’s books! Sounds obvious, but… interviewers have been caught short before. You’ll start to feel confident. At this point, don’t be tempted to read other interviewers with their super cunning questions, it will crush you. The day of the interview dawns and you walk with boots of lead to the venue thinking all the while: Why, why, why do I do this to myself? The interview starts and amazingly, the esteemed author is a lovely, interesting talker as well as a gifted writer. At some point there is interview lift-off and you feel high. Back home, you transcribe the interview (this is so much easier to do if you remembered to switch on the recorder). And then it is all over. Until next time.

I counted at least twenty interviews with New Zealand writers at this library link; here’s a couple to get you started:

  • Paul Cleave Christchurch-based author of taut, psychological thrillers who has achieved international recognition
  • Sarah-Kate Lynch and Bronwyn talk food, drink, love and white pj’s in this fun interview
  • Laurence Fearnley  and I love the same book – one of hers – so that was a good start!
  • Fiona Kidman talks friendship and writing with Rachel

Top of my list of Kiwi writers to interview in the future would be Lloyd Jones and Shonagh Koea. How about you? Any New Zealand author you’d like to chat to, and what would you really like to ask?

Blood men – New Zealand e-book month

A week out from Christmas, Eddie’s world is turned upside-down. Suddenly he’s going to need the help of his father, a man he hasn’t seen since he was a boy. Is Edward destined to be just like his father, to become a man of blood? Edward Hunter is a family man with a beautiful wife and daughter, a great job, a bright future, and a very dark past. Edward’s father is a man of blood.

He’s been in jail for twenty years and he’s never coming out.

Edward has struggled his entire life to put that all behind him, but it’s hard when everybody knows you’re the son of a serial killer. Then, a week out from Christmas, Eddie’s world is turned upside-down. Suddenly he’s going to need the help of his father, a man he hasn’t seen since he was a boy. Is Edward destined to be just like his father, to become a man of blood?

You can read Blood men as an e-book from our Overdrive collection.

Blood men is also available as a paper book.

Fatal Attraction: Murder, mayhem and bunny boilers

Fatal Attraction: A manly panel of Michael RobothamJulian Novitz, Ben Sanders and local lad Paul Cleave at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival talking about writing crime fiction. Host Craig Sisterson noted the abundance of testosterone and I can also report lots of hairy bits. Beards, stubble and sideys are IN with the crime scribes. I don’t think the issue of what to wear on-stage had been filling the panel’s every waking hour, minute or even second, but slightly rumpled casual is oh-so-wearable and bang on-trend for Spring 2012. Likewise the shoes were solid, macho and in need of a good polish. No flak jackets or commando trews which I was disappointed by but points perhaps to the fact that these guys write crime not thrillers. I was amused to hear one festival helper/author wrangler had chided 22 year-old Aucklander Ben Sanders on wearing just a cotton shirt for a day in chilly Christchurch. No layers. The madness!

Now, the questions:

Why write crime?

For most of the panelists this was not a conscious choice. Michael Robotham didn’t initially see his novel Suspect as crime writing. However his publishers marketed it as such and his book-deal stipulated that he had to write subsequent book in a similar style. So crime it was. Likewise Julian Novitz’s Little Sister has a murder at the centre of the novel but it was his publishers who wanted to promote the literary crime elements. Paul Cleave wanted to write horror but his publishers marketed The Cleaner as crime. Only Ben Sanders identified crime as his target genre, wanting to emulate his favourite writers such as Lee Child, Michael Connelly etc. Michael Robotham and Julian Novitz were respectively prosaic and intrigued by the marketing decisions around genre but Novitz added he was “happy to be in any section, in any bookstore”.

Is genre fiction perceived as inferior?

Yes and erroneously seemed to be the consensus. Ben Sanders pointed to the misconception that crime writers have the same goals as literary novelists, he sees them as different creatures entirely. Michael Robotham said it was important to compare like with like and that often he sees the worst of crime being balanced against the best of literary. Julian Novitz wanted any novel he read to be fresh and not formulaic regardless of genre, while Paul Cleave felt that the general standard of crime writing was rising all the time. Host Craig Sisterson used Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels as an example of crime fiction using real-life themes and providing valuable social commentary. Likewise Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave have used a variety of real themes is their work: People trafficking, the global financial crisis, racism, youth drinking etc

Can you write a crime novel without a murder?

Ben Sanders’s gave an emphatic no, adding “homicide lends crime fiction its sizzle”. If nobody died in one of his books Paul Cleave would expect a lot of concerned calls from his friends and family about what was up with him. He added that the choice of victim not the murder per se was the critical issue in writing crime. Michael Robotham’s wife finds his tendency to bump off characters she likes infuriating, she’ll put the book down and punch him saying “bring them back you bastard”! Like Sanders he sees murder as the ultimate transgression and one that most crime novels must address.

Fun and relaxed, this session had a skimpy audience. It deserved more.