Monday, 10 December 2012

GUEST BLOG: Ali Karim's picks of the year 2012

It's that time of the year again, folks, when we look back at the great and the good of the last twelve months. In the best Pulp Pusher tradition we'll be posting the views of a host of writers and reviewers soon but to kick us off is a round-up by ever erudite, man in the know, Ali Karim.

Debut Novel 

The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats by Hesh Kestin Mulholland UK

This oddity was first published by independent house Danzc Books in the US, but since Stephen King wrote that ‘The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats may just be the best book you never read…’ it was picked up by Mulholland in the UK and issued as mass market paperback this March. I have to say that King’s hyperbolic comment is pretty close to the truth, as for pure reading pleasure, Kestin’s understated and amusing debut is a New York Jewish gangster epic, is just that – epic. This little book is a very fast read, and one that makes you chuckle with its insights, witty reflections on life at the time as well as dialogue that at times was reminiscent of Raymond Chandler at the height of his powers. A remarkable find, and worthy of Stephen King’s praise.


A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez [Faber and Faber]

In the hands of a lesser writer, the premise of a British police procedural set in London featuring a troubled, maverick Detective, who is in perpetual conflict with his superiors could rapidly slip down the cliché gradient. A Dark Redemption however does the opposite due to the literary ability of Sherez. Establishing a series upon the thread-bare carpet that is the police procedural subgenre is a risky endeavor, but one which Sherez has mastered creating a page-turning and thought-proving story which seems torn from the troubling reality that the media chose to ignore.

Trust your Eyes by Linwood Barclay [UK Orion Publishing/ USA NAL]

In the simplest of terms, Trust your Eyes is a re-working of Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ [which was based upon Cornell Woolrich’s story ‘It had to be Murder’], rebooted to our digital age. Like opening up a series of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, there is much hidden all leading to a shocking reveal on the very last line. Looking at Google Street View will never seem the same again.

Black Skies by Arnaulder Indriadson [translated by Victoria Cribb] Harvill Secker / Random House UK

There is no finer writer working the literary police-procedural as the melancholic thriller that is - Black Skies is evidence of that statement. Featuring the Icelandic detectives uncovering the personal tragedies hidden behind the global economic crisis make for a compelling and insightful peak into the darkest edges of human nature.

Not Dead Yet by Peter James [Macmillan UK]

Despite the density of the plot in the 8th Roy Grace Thriller which features James’ trademarked multi-viewpoints, reptilian like plotline that snakes toward an unseen climax as Hollywood converges upon Brighton.  It reads remarkably fast due to close to 150 ‘clipped’ chapters, many very terse, but all leading to a scary finale in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.

Safe House by Chris Ewan [Faber & Faber August 2012 UK /St Martin's Press December 2012 USA]

Ewan leaves his ‘Good Thief Guides’  comic capers to explore something altogether darker and claustrophobic set on the Isle of Man A thrilling departure for Ewan into something darker, something bolder, and something that is not funny, but chilling.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [Crown Publishing US/ Orion Publishing UK]

Gillian Flynn’s work is very disturbing, featuring unreliable narrators that weave a narrative that is as disturbing as any reader tired of convention could wish for. If Patricia Highsmith were writing today, she would have fierce competition from fellow American, Flynn, as both these writers share a common strand in their stories – understanding the amorality and darkness that lies just a few millimetres below the veneer of the reality we observe. Gone Girl her third novel is a very tough book to review, as it reads like a bad drug experience, or a lucid dream that one wakes from in sodden sheets, making you run for a note pad as when daylight breaks the dream evaporates into the recesses of the mind. Unsettling entertainment that really disturbs.

Disgrace by Jussi Adler-Olsen Penguin UK [US Title ‘The Absent One’ Dutton]

Following on from the English language translation of last year’s Mercy which featured the English debut of Adler-Olsen’s Danish Department ‘Q’ novels, we now have the second in series ‘Disgrace’. Though I would add that the theme of ‘Disgrace’ is shared with Richard Connell’s highly influential 1924 short story ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ [aka ‘The Hounds of Zaroff’] that has been reworked into countless Film and TV work, though Adler-Olsen’s take is one that is as disturbing as it is entertaining with social introspection into the madness of our times, and how power and wealth corrupts – Ali Karim

Defending Jacob by William Landay [Orion UK]

The third novel by US Lawyer Bill Landay is a remarkable and emotional journey that puts this work right up at the apex of legal thrillers, rubbing shoulders with names such as Turrow, Grissom and Michael Connelly, though it will reside in the reader’s mind like a broken dream with its startling dénouement. The plot though appears a cliché, but is far from that due to the insights that Landay brings to play into the white picket normalcy that is middle-class, suburban America.

:: Ali Karim - is Assistant Editor at Shots eZine, a contributing editor at January Magazine & The Rap Sheet and writes for Crimespree magazine, Deadly Pleasures, Strand Magazine and Mystery Readers International and is an associate member of both The Crime Writers Association [CWA], International Thriller Writers [ITW] and the Private Eye Writers of America [PWA]. Karim contributed to ‘Dissecting Hannibal Lecter’ ed. Benjamin Szumskyj [McFarland Press] a critical examination of the works of Thomas Harris; The Greenwood Encyclopedia of British Crime Fiction [ed. Barry Forshaw] and the Edgar and Anthony Award nominated ITW 100 Thriller Novels ed David Morrell and Hank Hagner [Oceanview Publishing]. At the Anthony Awards held at Bouchercon St Louis, Karim was presented with the 2011 David Thompson Memorial Award for Special Services to the Crime and Thriller Genre.

Karim is a Board Member and Secretary to Bouchercon [The World Mystery and Crime Conevntion] and programming chair for Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina