CIS: My classics by James Craig

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If you’re a reader who loves authentic crime fiction set in contemporary London, there’s a good chance you’ve been enjoying James Craig’s Inspector John Carlyle series, which started with London Calling in 2011. In fact, we featured it in our very first New Talent November series in that year. Now James Craig has launched his second crime series, this time with Fahrenheit Press, an indie publisher that looks set to shake things up with its ebook schedule. A Slow Death is set in 1990s Berlin, just after the fall of the infamous wall, and it stars Kriminalinspektor Max Drescher, who thinks he’s investigating his final case. But is he…

We invited James Craig to join us here for Classics in September and share his favourite classic crime novels with us, and it looks like he went on a bit of a bargain hunt…


Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr
The first thing you’re gonna do if someone asks you to pick four books is cheat, right? So here’s three for the price of one, because this contains March Violets, The Pale Criminal, A German Requiem. To be fair, I first came across ex-Berlin cop Bernie Günther in this compilation, although my edition has a nifty green cover. Maybe what drew me to it was the cover; I mean, how many crime novels are in green. The second was Bernie himself, trying to stay alive on the streets of 1930s Berlin. Was there ever a smarter idea than to put a cop in the middle of a country actually run by the criminals? Utter genius. Made me want to create my own Berlin detective, which I did.
Buy now on Amazon


The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
This time I’m only going for a 2-for-1. The Power of the Dog is the forerunner of The Cartel, which came out earlier this year – two books which cover the sprawling horrors of the Mexican drug wars while focusing in on the personal battle between trafficker Adan Barrera and US government operative Art Keller. There is a cast of thousands, everyone searching for salvation and no-one getting it. These are visceral stories, ripped from the headlines and all the better for that. It’s almost 50 years since Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs and the craziness just keeps getting worse.
Buy now on Amazon


Ratking by Michael Dibdin
I picked this up in a second-hand bookshop near the British Museum, probably sometime in the mid- to late-80s. It always struck me that Italy was the true home of what I call European crime fiction, all shades of grey, compromise and failure. Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is a fantastic character, although the series got a bit ropey towards the end. The much more recent TV series was a bit of an acquired taste but might have had a longer run. One of my many disappointments during a short and inglorious period working on the Today radio programme at the BBC was to meet Michael Dibdin. He came across as a right sod; yet more evidence that you should never meet your heroes.
Buy now on Amazon


When the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block
Yet another series. When The Sacred Ginmill Closes is the sixth Matthew Scudder mystery and, in my opinion, one of the best. In many ways, Scudder is a bit of a stereotype – like Harry Hole, to cite another example. He has problems with the drink, with relationships, with the world in general. But, like Hole, he is hugely engaging and Block surrounds him with a cast of memorable characters. Another Scudder novel, A Walk Among the Tombstones, was recently made into a movie but, by and large, I prefer to leave Matt where he is, on the page, free to roam around in my imagination at will.
Buy now on Amazon

James Craig’s A Slow Death came out on 10 September and we’ll have a review for you soon.

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