Bookblast

PRESS RELEASE 16 June 2020

THE BOOKBLAST® PODCAST
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: TRANSLATION & THE ART OF EMPATHY
30 JULY to 05 NOVEMBER 202030 July, 5 p.m.  The first two podcasts in a fifteen-part series will be launched, championing independent publishers, their authors and translators, and a guest interview with the publisher behind Nordic Noir.

Bridging the Divide is hosted by editor and translator, Georgia de Chamberet, and journalist and author, Lucy Popescu. The series introduces to readers a selection of new writing in translation by diverse authors, and flies in the face of the perceived view that literary translation is just for the highbrow.

The podcast line-up features award-winning authors from across Europe, including Lars MyttingJ.S. Margot and Tommy Wieringa, as well as interviews with their publishers Christopher MacLehose, Adam Freudenheim and Philip Gwyn Jones. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, 9 of the 11 books featured have been published during the lockdown, so festival appearances, launches and talks were cancelled. With our twinned reviews and podcasts, we aim to generate extra Media exposure and long-term visibility, attracting readers to discover new titles in translation by storytellers popular in their homeland. THE PROGRAMMEThe weekly series kicks off with two podcasts on 30 July
 J.S. Margot, Flemish author of Mazel Tov, translated by Jane Hedley-Prôle, discusses navigating clashing cultures with Georgia de Chamberet, who then interviews Adam Freudenheim, (Pushkin Press);
 on 06 August, Rose Baring, (Eland Publishing), and translator Robyn Marsack, exchange views on So It Goes and the traveller’s tales of the late Swiss author, Nicolas Bouvier;  
 translator from the German, Jamie Lee Searle, and editor Anne Meadows, (Granta Books), discuss The Great Homecoming by Korean author Anna Kim with a focus on love, war and the riptide of history, on 13 August, (15 August is Korean Independence Day);
 translator, James Womack, discusses death in the sun and Heaven, by Spanish author, Manuel Vilas on 20 August with Georgia de Chamberet, who then interviews Michael Schmidt (Carcanet);
 on 27 August, translator Lulu Norman and Lucy Popescu explore the desert hell endured by Moroccan author, Aziz BineBine, who writes about it in Tazmamart: 18 Years of Morocco’s Secret Prison, (Haus);
 bestselling Norwegian author, Lars Mytting, discusses The Bell in the Lake (MacLehose Press) and tradition vs. modernity with his translator, Deborah Dawkin, on 03 September, followed by Georgia de Chamberet interviewing Christopher MacLehose, the publisher behind Nordic Noir;
 on 10 September, Georgia de Chamberet interviews Moroccan author, Tahar Ben Jelloun, whose latest offering On Terrorism: Conversations with my daughter is published by Small Axes/HopeRoad, (in French and English);
 Dutch author, Tommy Wieringa, discusses his novel, The Blessed Rita, (Scribe), and voices from the margins with his translator Sam Garrett, and Lucy Popescu, on 17 September; then publisher Philip Gwyn Jones (now at Picador) gets “lost in translation” with Georgia de Chamberet;
 Lucy Popescu and translator, Natasha Lehrer, talk about brides on tour: peace not war and The White Dress, (Les Fugitives), by French author Nathalie Léger, on 24 September;
 Slovenian author, Goran Vojnović, and Lucy Popescu, examine families living between empires, and his novel, The Fig Tree  (Istros Books), translated by Olivia Hellewell, on 20 October;
 on 05 NovemberTamara Japaridze and Beka Adamashvili, Georgian author of Bestseller, (Dedalus Books), discuss how well bestsellers travel and the Caucasus in the literary imagination.

A NET OF GOOD AND EVIL

https://www.crimetime.co.uk/to-cook-a-bear-by-mikael-niemi-a-net-of-good-and-evil-by-michael-scott-cain/

Courtesy of CRIME TIME UK

A Net of Good and Evil by Michael Scott Cain

The post-war communist witch-hunt which underpins this murder mystery is pretty dark and that’s the way most novelists spin it. Cain takes an original approach drawing on the farce and absurdity of the times to create a blackly comic tale. He captures the prevailing gloom but is always playful, not labouring any points about the rabid obsessions of the times. Consequently A Net of Good and Evil is light and wickedly entertaining. Like a lot of fiction, the stuff you imagine to be real is probably made up and vice versa.

The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) was set up in 1938 to look at threats to American democracy: Nazis? After WWII the focus was on the Communist Party of America, even though that was a legal organisation. Paranoia ramped up, anyone with a red tie or a pink skirt was suspect. So, paradoxically, the HCUA, the FBI and Sen. Joe McCarthy managed to create the biggest threat to the American way of life since the Salem Witch Trials.

A Net of Good and Evil is set in New York in 1949, pre-McCarthy’s list of ‘enemies within’, business and government organisations are just joining the red hunt bandwagon, getting organised for the coming purge… [Disclaimer: some people actually we’re Communists! Including a couple referred to here].

Damon Taylor, Crime Scene Magazine, is not happy, the other guys in the newsroom seem to be banging away at their typewriters on some story or other and all he’s got is a weasel faced guy standing in front of his desk bugging him about his neighbour. Russell Wallace may be a creep but he’s used to being taken seriously, Taylor could care less. Wallace gets to the point, he’s a “journalist” for Counterattack, as soon as he says it Taylor’s hackles rise. Counterattack is a reds-under-the-bed rag that smears and insinuates anyone it can’t actually pin evidence of communist affiliation on – nothing like Crime Scene. Taylor makes it clear Bob O’Bradovich, the neighbour, is a friend.

“Mr. Taylor, I’m afraid we may have gotten off to a bad start here.”

“It’s not going to get any better,” Taylor said, “so maybe you leave before it actually gets worse.”

The man scurries off with his tail between his legs, it won’t be the last time he gets short shrift in the remaining hours of his life.

This little contretemps in the office gives Crime Scene managing editor Lou Marsczyk an idea. John Rankin, Mississippi congressman, is on the HCUA, he blocked any attempt to investigate the KKK. He’s the reason people like Wallace are crawling out of the woodwork. Somebody powerful is behind Wallace and Counterattack, someone with money and influence. Taylor’s new assignment is to find out who. Crime Scene will be ready if these guys come for them.

Taylor goes to see buddy Bob at the NBC studios, (he works in TV), he warns him about Wallace, there’s probably nothing to worry about but just in case. Zero Mostel overhears, he knows Wallace, he knows these people are dangerous, it’s not over. Everybody supported Russia during the war but now that’s stick to beat people with.

Anthony Hayden owns one of the biggest ad agencies in America, he also owns Counterattack but he’s not ready for a face off with Crime Scene Magazine just yet so he carpets Wallace for drawing attention to the cause, shutting his investigation down. Wallace gets a new target an organisation called People’s Songs in Times Square, that’s where Russell Wallace gets his third roasting of the day. The door to People’s Songs is opened by a small wiry angry looking man who only gets more angry when he finds out who Wallace is. Meet Woody ‘This machine kills fascists’ Guthrie. This land is his land and no gutter press creep like Wallace is going to change that. When Guthrie threatens Wallace he runs off again, he heads home for the safety of his own bedroom. Which is when the gorgeous red head turns up demanding Wallace hand “it” over. She’s not buying when he says he hasn’t got it anymore. There are plenty of people who don’t like Wallace but Taylor, Guthrie and the mysterious red head are the main suspects when he turns up dead, (tortured and murdered).

Homicide cop Danny Murphy would like it to be Taylor, that would be nice and easy, but Taylor has an alibi, next best bet Guthrie. Taylor’s own investigation and Murphy’s don’t have a lot in common, (guess which one is more thorough). This is a story of folk music, blackmail, red bashing, police corruption, political conspiracy, a dangerous red headed femme fatale, money and murder. The pastiche of noir/hardboiled is a lot of fun, there’s enough mystery for it to be intriguing and enough humour for a breezy entraining read. This novel makes a serious point about tough times without being too serious. Cain has fun with tropes and pays respectful homage to the age of pulp. There’s more than a nod to Damon Runyon, his journalism and his New York stories, which adds to the fun.

Cain’s own hinterland infuses and enriches the novel, it’s clear he had a deep love of American music’s rebellious soul; jazz, blues, country. Cain sadly died in 2018, in his long literary career he was a poet, academic and journalist. This is the second Damon Taylor novel following Damon Runyon’s Boys.

Stark House Press, paperback, ISBN 9781951473082, 21/9/20

FIFTY FIFTY

Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh.
5th October, 2018. Two 911 calls are made at roughly the same time, from the same house in Franklin Street, New York City. 23.35pm – Alexandra Avellino reports that her father, Frank, has been murdered, her sister Sofia did it and she’s still in the house… 23.36pm – Sofia Avellino calls, her father has been murdered by Alexandra and she’s still in the house…
It’s a bold assertion but Cavanagh is rapidly becoming the go to guy for legal thrillers, his novels matching the best of Grisham and Turow. The latest Fifty Fifty is about two women accused of murdering their father, one is a sadistic killer the other innocent, but which is which? Alexandra or Sofia. The DA doesn’t care, he’s looking to send them both down for the crime but, if not, either will do, as long as he gets a conviction. The women’s defence attorneys, Eddie for Sofia and Kate for Alexandra, are both disturbed by the idea that the truth will get lost in the circus of a high profile case, Frank Avellino was mayor of New York until November last year. The crime was brutal and frenzied and there’s a fortune in inheritance on the line, not to mention the possibility that a dangerous killer who could get away with it. Fifty Fifty is hugely entertaining, there’s plenty of drama, jeopardy and tension and Cavanagh directs his wry humour at some of the absurdities of the law. Reader becomes jury siding with one defendant, changing allegiance, before switching back again. Cavanagh manipulates the evidence as a good defence council would in court. Fifty Fifty is a heady mix of brutal murder and judicial shenanigans – delicious and thrilling. Cavanagh has the reader in the palm of his hand.
‘They’re back’
No, not an alien invasion just the most terrifying words in the world for an attorney – the jury is coming back with THE VERDICT. Eddie prides himself on knowing what a jury is thinking, he knows whether a client is guilty or innocent:
‘My biggest problem as a lawyer is I want the guilty to get punished and the innocent to go free.’
Sergeant Bukowski, NYPD first Precinct, calls Eddie Flynn when the murder occurs. Other cops are likewise call their go to lawyers – information for a consideration, (bribe). When Eddie arrives the front desk is like a lawyer’s convention; each gets to pitch the suspects for the right to represent them. Eddie manages to convince Sofia to hire him. Meanwhile, Theodore Levy is mobilising the full weight of his leviathan law firm behind getting Alexandra to take him on. Levy tells his junior Kate that the victim, Frank, was:
“Stabbed fifty-three times, my dear. And we are going to represent his eldest daughter. Both his daughters were arrested at the scene, and each of them is blaming the other for the murder. One of them is lying, and our job is to prove that it’s not our client. Understand?”
That casual sexism and lack of moral compass infuse the story. Kate has her own on going battle, she faces bullying and harassment from Levy. The problem is he can sink her career without a trace but she might just have one way to save herself and her client and screw over Levy. It’s a big play.
The novel is told from multiple perspectives; Eddie, Kate and “She” the anonymous voice of the killer. Sofia is damaged and has problems which won’t play well in court, Alexandra was daddy’s golden girl and she confident and composed. What both lawyers begin to suspect is that one of these women planned to be here and has been manipulating the whole thing from the start. “She” is prepared to kill again if anyone gets in her way. “She” didnt just kill her father she eviscerated him. “She” may be evil incarnate. There are plenty of revelations about the past as the tension and darkness in the story gradually ramp up.
Fifty Fifty is the return of Eddie Flynn, likeable and easy to get on with, a former Brooklyn con artist turned lawyer, (some might argue a natural progression). Eddie has a healthy disregard for his current profession; ‘For a lawyer, every case is a game.’ He loved exploding the pomposity and the insider privilege with his pointed cynicism.
In the novel the pursuit of justice is one tiny part of the process. This is a game where money and reputations can be made, securing a conviction matters more than securing the right conviction. The truth is obscured, if not buried, by process and prejudice in a way that should trouble readers, even if you’re not planning a murder right now! It’s easy to see how this system could chew people up. Cavanagh expresses a concern for how the law operates in America through his characters, from the plea bargaining that ensures innocent people plead guilty to corporate railroading of the process at trial to issues of racism and sexual harassment. There are plenty of thought provoking issues along side the fun here but the touch is always light.
Fifty-Fifty puts the reader at the heart of the dilemma the two lawyers, Eddie and Kate, face as they believe/disbelieve/believe in their clients. Naturally, clues, red herrings and sleight of hand pepper the story. I see why readers flock to Cavanagh’s novels you will too if you read Fifty Fifty.
Orion 9781409185864 paperback, 3/9/20