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by Barry Forshaw
Rough Guides, June 2007
310 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 1843536544

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm a big fan of the Rough Guides and instinctively reach for one whenever I go off on my travels. And their music-related books have also found a place on my bookshelves. THE ROUGH GUIDE TO CRIME FICTION is a fun addition to their ever-growing catalogue.

Barry Forshaw has crammed a lot into the dinky little 310-page book. There's a potted history of the genre to get us underway, followed by chapters examining the classic Golden Age mysteries, the hardboiled side of things, PIs, cops, amateurs, serial killers, historical mysteries and crime in translation.

Forshaw has chosen authors to illustrate these chapters, alongside some top five lists of the likes of Morse and Bond. What I know about films can be written on the back of a postage stamp, so I rather appreciated the box-outs with details of movie versions of the various books.

Half the fun of books like these is flicking through and muttering darkly at the author's choices. And there are certainly a few eccentric ones, including a number of distinctly C and D list British writers my rather uncharitable thought was that they were there because they're probably journo mates of Forshaw! And if you're looking to entice people into the thriller market, then Chris Ryan and Andy McNab wouldn't be top of most people's lists.

But it's good to see someone acknowledging the frequently overlooked Desmond Bagley RUNNING BLIND was one of my favourite books when I was in my teens and also banging the drum for writers such as Alan Furst and Charles McCarry.

Inevitably a few errors always seem to creep into reference books. Val McDermid's PI Kate Brannigan is straight, and Ian Rankin's book is THE NAMING OF THE DEAD and not THE NAME OF THE DEAD (bit embarrassing considering Rankin wrote the foreword for the book!)

The book's fairly UK-centric, although Forshaw does bring US and other writers into the mix. The final crime in translation chapter's a bit skimpy, though, considering how that market has gone into orbit the past few years. And Forshaw is fairly dismissive of the gay and lesbian market, mentioning very few aside from Joseph Hansen, Katherine V Forrest and Stella Duffy.

If you're a real crime fiction freak, then there won't be much here that you don't already know. But the book's a good stocking filler for Christmas, and also one of those enjoyable dip into at anytime diversions.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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