Thursday, 6 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Gilly Macmillan

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 

It’s so difficult to choose one author but James Lee Burke wins the day. His Dave Robicheaux books pull you into the world of Louisiana crime and rarely let you come up for air. Burke’s prose can be spare and beautiful, sometimes even poetic like the some of the best crime writers, yet he writes unflinchingly about the most brutal of events and takes you right into the heads and hearts of his characters. At his best, his books have a page-turning intensity that’s hard to match.

Fargo. I’ve loved the movie for years and really enjoyed the recent TV remake, too. The combination of top class characterization and performance, brilliant direction, action from both criminal and law enforcement points of view, elements of a classic detective murder mystery and darkest possible comedy is genius.

True Detective (Series 1). It’s ultra-classy. The setting, cinematography and soundtrack are pitch perfect, but what gripped me most was the relationship between the two detectives that played out both past and present. It’s a complex, difficult and fascinating relationship that occasionally feels as brutal as the crime itself.

It’s not strictly a crime series, but when Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, first kills in House of Cards it’s shocking. Frank Underwood is one of the most cold-blooded, ambitious, calculating and, on the surface, surprising killers I’ve ever come across. That he holds such power and will stop at nothing to maintain or increase it provokes a very visceral fear in me.


Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s detective, Matthäi, is a favourite. Matthäi appears in his novel The Pledge which is tellingly subtitled Requiem for the Detective Novel. Matthäi is an exceptional detective but the story of his investigation into the murders of young girls in The Pledge is a tough one. Dürrenmatt felt that crime fiction was too often neat and tidy in offering up a resolution to a case so long as the detective followed a series of logical steps, a bit like doing a mathematical equation. 
Spoiler alert! In The Pledge, Dürrenmatt sets out to provide an alternative type of crime novel. After we follow Matthäi through the years and witness his increasingly desperate attempts to resolve the investigation, the ending of the book reveals it was a freak automobile accident that prevented him from catching the killer. A twist of fate ensured that he never had a chance. Dürrenmatt’s depiction of Matthäi is a brilliant character study of a man whose determination, brilliance, gut instinct and dedication to solving this crime ultimately prove futile and self-destructive. The story is unflinching, very human and gritty with reality. 

Spoiler alert! In Roald Dahl’s short story Lamb to the Slaughter, the victim is killed by his wife who delivers a blow to his head with a frozen leg of lamb. Later the same day, she cooks the lamb and serves it to the detectives investigating the case. They are friends of her husband. As he chews his meat and they discuss the murder weapon, one of the detectives says, ‘It’s probably right under our very noses.’ In the room next door, the killer overhears. She giggles. It’s extremely creepy and a brilliant idea.

The murder scene that’s at the core of His Bloody Project by Graeme McCrae Burnett is horrific. It’s visited and revisited a few times by different characters throughout the book who testify as to what they saw or heard, and ultimately by the murderer himself in a first person account of the scene that’s unbearably desperate and brutal.

It’s not strictly a blog or a website, but I’m addicted to true crime podcasts so I’d like to pick one of my favourites: Australian True Crime. Presented by journalists/authors Emily Webb and Meschel Lauri the podcast claims to: ‘Go beyond the news cycle to find out how people become killers, how people become victims, and what happens next,’ and it delivers. I can’t get enough of it.

Pay attention to all the different elements in a novel. Writing fiction is a craft that needs honing, but remember that only one question really matters whenever you make a creative decision or write a paragraph: ‘Will the reader want to keep on turning pages?’ As an obsessive reader myself, I believe it’s the single most important thing a book can deliver, no matter what the genre.

Lindt pistachio dark chocolate. A square (or two, usually leading to four) when my energy dips low. Rationed (in theory) to one bar per week (never happens).

Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew (previously published as Burnt Paper Sky) and The Perfect Girl. Her third novel, Odd Child Out, will be published in October 2017. Gilly is Edgar Award nominated and an International Thriller Writers award finalist. She’s published in over twenty languages. Her books have appeared on the New York Times, Globe & Mail and Der Spiegel bestseller lists.
Gilly lives in Bristol, UK with her husband, three children and two dogs and writes full time. She’s currently working on her fourth novel.

Find Gilly Macmillan on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @GillyMacmillan

About Odd Child Out

Publisher's description

How well do you know the people you love...?
Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable. But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal, Abdi can't--or won't--tell anyone what happened.
Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident. But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle. Noah is British. Abdi is a Somali refugee. And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol. Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth. Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.
Because the truth hurts. 

Odd Child Out is being published by Sphere on 3 October 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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