Alright. No laborious preamble tonight. Let’s get straight to it.
First – Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn. If you’ve been following this blog (and why aren’t you if you aren’t?) then you should know by now that my tastes in mystery and crime can be a little… random. Much like my taste in music, really. Anyway. Blessed are the Dead is a pretty good one I feel comfortable recommending. Nunn doesn’t go in for flashy sentences or sparkling paragraphs. She just weaves a fascinating little tale about a former WWII Veteran turned detective in South Africa circa 1952. The victim is a beautiful Zulu girl found on a hillside with no apparent injuries, which is really too bad because the Colonel in charge of the homicide was – of course – hoping for a flashy white victim to elevate his status before his big wedding day.
Politics and race play a huge part of this tight little thriller. And when I say politics I mean tribal politics. The way Nunn weaves together Zulu, Africaan and English prejudices is fascinating and vivid. Add to that mixture the desire for status and how to achieve it in various different and competing cultures and you have a fine stew of exotic interests meeting in homicide and intrigue throughout.
Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is perfectly serviceable as a lead detective – driven by inner demons – that sort of thing. It’s a pretty standard back story for him really BUT in Nunn’s hands it’s a got a bit more zip than it has most other places mainly due to his mixed background, the accusation of being half black that nearly derailed his career, and the haunting Scottish sergeant who occasionally makes his spectral presence known. The real kick comes from Cooper’s partner, Native Constable Shabalala. Nunn wisely keeps her narrative closely focused on Cooper and his investigation but the presence of Shabalala is enigmatic, flitting here and there, toeing the line of apartheid rules, silently – and distantly – interviewing witnesses we readers will never be privy to except in his wonderful bits of exposition. We never really get to know Shabalala throughout the story but man did I find myself wanting to.
Anyway. If you’re looking for something a bit different with maybe just a tiny hint of fantasy to it I’d recommend Nunn’s work. Not that there really is any fantasy to it but with her sparse yet gorgeous descriptive flair it can feel somewhat fantastical at times and thrown in a ghostly Scottish soldier popping in now and then and… well…
Second order of business and this one is really exciting. I know I’ve gone on about the Writers Homicide School a few times already but that’s just giving credit where credit is due. I tend to do that when something has filled my head with more material than I really know what to do with. Well I got a bit of great news today that I can’t do anything with so I’m hoping one of you readers will be able to do something about it. April 27th and 28th the Writers Homicide School is coming to Knoxville, Tennessee! If you’re anywhere near the area, fancy yourself a mystery writer, or just have a hankering to get the real inside scoop on how it is from a real former homicide detective you can’t miss it. Oh and did I mention it’s discounted? Yep. If you reserve before April 11th it’s only $199. If that sounds like a lot to you… well… cough it up. It was worth it at the ridiculous price I paid – but then I did get a trip to LA out of the deal. And this one appears to come with EVEN MORE audience participation! Sigh. And I’m damned well going to miss it. Why? Because I’m heading back to LA at the beginning of April for another conference involving LAPD. Ah well…
But before I lament my pitiful state any further lemme just give you a little taste of what you’re going to get:
NEW FOR 2013! – By popular request and demand (threats by some even) I am now including practical exercises to the Writers Homicide School. We will be seeing blood fly in motion, doing some basic experiments and for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, we will be doing some latent lifts with black powder too!
I mean seriously. How can you resist? I can only resist due to some fairly poor decision-making and a woefully empty pocketbook.
Anyway – head on over to the Writers Homicide School blog right now and find out more.
And finally, to toot my own little horn just a tad: Meg Brown Mystery #6 is almost finished in its draft form. It has a long way to go to be edited and ready for publication and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it when that happens (do I self publish again? Do I begin the long, arduous and aggravating hunt for representation?) If anyone has any suggestions I will happily take them. The big thing with this one is that I would like to donate the proceeds (whatever they end up being) to charity. I know. You just heard me say I’m not rich but I want to donate the book to charity. Well… there’s a good reason for it. First, I didn’t really write the thing for me to begin with. And second, I’d do the writing anyway. ‘Cuz that’s what I do. Full stop. It’s not like I’ve been paid riches before and work is work. You know you really mean it when you give it away.
If you haven’t read the other Meg’s please do. I’m pretty proud of them. Even if they didn’t have the benefit of a professional editor and all the good cheese that comes with a major publishing house. Here’s a link to all of them: Here. Don’t let the rather dire cover design fool you. I’m working on that.