The Hard Word Book Club Goes Italian

Hard Word Book Club to discuss: The Night of the Panthers by Piergiorgio Pulixi

9781609452759June’s Hard Word Book Club celebrates International Crime Fiction Month with a discussion of The Night Of The Panthers by Piergiorgio Pulixi. It is a book that is a violent and blunt look at the streets and politics of Italy, full of moral ambiguity. The book reads as if the television show The Shield was dropped in the country.

The novel starts with Irene Pistelli, an ambitious agent for the National Crime Bureau out to put the lid on a mafia war. To do this, she must cut a deal with Biago Mazzeo, the leader of an elite narcotics unit, who was just arrested for being in bed with the mob. As Biago cuts a deal with Pistolli, his unit kill a cop as they try to break another member out of custody. Biago must play his alliances off one another with his own life and those of his men on the line.

This look at dishonorable men trying to keep their honor in a dishonorable and violent world allows for a lot to discuss. The Hard Word Book Club will meet at 7PM, on BookPeople’s third floor, on Wednesday June 29th. Books are 10% off in-store to those who attend. You can find copies of The Night of the Panthers on our shelves and via

The Bouncer, the Patsy, and JFK: Tim Baker talks FEVER CITY

In Tim Baker’s debut thriller, Fever City, a frantic search for a kidnapped child collides with a plot to assassinate JFK. Here Tim talks about an unlikely inspiration for the novel…


The Bouncer, the Patsy, and JFK

Guest Post by Tim Baker

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, my father managed Chequers nightclub in Sydney, which at the time was considered one of the top nightspots in the world, attracting performers such as Sammy Davis Jr, Liza Minelli, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Darin and Trini Lopez. It was a mandatory pit stop for any visiting celebrity, and among the many stars who dropped by for a drink were Sinatra, Bob Hope, The Rolling Stones and the Bee Gees.

But for me it was just a place where my dad worked, and I’d often go there after school, when it was hectic and unglamorous, with dozens of staff preparing for the night: polishing the dance floor, setting tables, unloading liquor in the bar or vegetables in the kitchen. The best part was watching the live orchestra setting up for the evening, tightening cymbals to stands and uncasing gleaming saxophones before the musicians sat down to an early dinner at a table at the back of the stage.

“At night, my father’s workplace was transformed as if by magic. Walking into the club, you’d be greeted with a gauzy haze of cigarette smoke so thick you could almost touch it. It was like a lens through which everything was both blurred and magnified.”

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Rainy Day Reads: The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club takes on Tartan Noir

  • Post by Molly Odintz

Please join us Tuesday, January 19th, at 2 PM as we discuss Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin. Ian Rankin will be speaking and signing his latest Rebus novel, Even Dogs in the Wild, on Sunday, January 31st, at 3 PM. All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. Pre-order a signed copy!

9780312536923Like many novels considered noir, Ian Rankin’s first Rebus novelKnots and Crosses, falls comfortably into the descriptive category of “starts bad, gets worse.” As the novel opens, Inspector John Rebus is divorced, ambiguously religious, living in Scotland, and still traumatized by his experiences training for special forces twenty years before.

Amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke and brooding, he works to solve a series of murders, each victim the same age and description as his own 12-year-old daughter, Samantha. Meanwhile, threatening notes arrive at the inspector’s door, referencing a betrayal clouded by Rebus’ significant memory gaps. As he fights to find the serial killer, John begins to suspect the carefully conducted crimes contain a message for Rebus himself.

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International Crime Fiction: LAIDLAW, by William McIlvanney

Post by Molly
This month in international crime fiction, we travel to the rain-soaked streets of Edinburgh in the 1970s. Europa Editions, through their World Noir imprint, has brought Laidlaw, the first of William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw Investigations across the water for their debut on American soil. McIlvanney is considered the father of “Tartan Noir,” which, admittedly, describes a wide variety of Scottish detective novelists whose main commonality seems to be their country of origin rather than any unified style. Still, before McIlvanney began writing his trilogy of novels starring DI Laidlaw and DC Harkness in the mid-1970s, crime fiction was virtually nonexistent in the highlands or the lowlands, and most detective novelists in Scotland today, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and Denise Mina, have been strongly influenced by these early works.

In McIlvanney’s first novel, simply titled Laidlaw, a young woman has been brutally murdered. DI Laidlaw, a detective of unusual methods and dour visage, must go in search of a killer. To complicate matters, the girl’s father is also searching for his daughter’s murderer. If Detective Laidlaw finds him first, he has the hope of a fair trial and a life in prison. If the girl’s father finds him first, his brief and tortured existence will come to a sudden end.  To complicate the matter, the father has strong connections to the local mafia, some of whom take a moral stand against sex crimes despite numerous other criminal activities and are willing to give as much aid as necessary to make the father’s revenge complete.

McIlvanney has written in many genres and mediums during his lifetime, including poetry and screenwriting. He has an innate understanding of how to use the framework of a murder to draw attention to wider divisions and dysfunctions in society. Laidlaw uses each point in the narrative as a chance to reflect on the wider implications, and McIlvanney deliberately structures his narrative to allow for these moments of reflection. Laidlaw, despite a length of around 250 pages, manages to delve into homophobia, class conflict, drug addiction, religious divisions, and terrible weather, and each pause for thought is more beautifully written than the last. In particular, McIlvanney creates DI Laidlaw – intuitive, working class, and voice of humanistic tolerance – and then writes DC Harkness – college educated, young and handsome, bigoted and superior – as the perfect foil. Their debates contain many of the divisions of Scottish society that still exist today.

Much of what comes to mind when we think about Scotland – rain, lack of humor, depressed introspection – lend themselves particularly well to the noir genre. While reading Laidlaw, I got the sense that noir coming to Scotland was noir coming home. Europa Editions, as they continue to release McIlvanney’s novels, do a great service to the American reading public, and I, personally, cannot wait to read the next one.

If you liked this, check out:

anything by Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Val McDermid, or Christopher Brookmyre

Laidlaw, by William McIlvanney, is available on our shelves and via Molly blogs on international crime fiction every third Thursday of the month. Her last post took a look at Adrian McKinty’s Troubles Trilogy. Look for her next post on September 19.

International Crime Month: Europa Editions

europa editions

~post by Molly

Throughout International Crime Month, we will be profiling our four favorite publishers of international crime fiction: Akashic Books, Europa Editions, Grove Atlantic, and Melville House. It is thanks to these publishers that BookPeople can bring so many translated and foreign works to an Austin audience. I’ve decided to kick off June by profiling my favorite imprint since PM Press’ Switchblade Series  – Europa Editions World Noir imprint.

Europa Editions, primarily known for its translations of the latest in European literary fiction, has long been committed to bringing high quality international crime novels to English language publication. Although crime fiction has always been a part of their oeuvre, Europa launched a special imprint called World Noir early in 2013. This launch has meant an increase in circulating titles and some reissues of defining works. As a long-time fan of literature engagé, the postwar movement aimed at creating politically engaged fiction, I appreciate Europa’s emphasis on publishing socially responsible noir.

You may have noticed these stylish editions in our mystery section before, and their eye-catching appeal is no accident. Europa has worked with the designer Emanuele Ragnisco to create a distinct look for their titles, and they lavish the same care in their attention to quality translation. Each World Noir imprint reads smoothly, but with the lyrical cadences of its original language.

Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri started Europa Editions in 2005 after finding success bringing authors from all over into the Italian publishing house Edizioni E/O. Europa’s Italian origins shine not only through their impeccable graphic design. Much of the World Noir imprint showcases a style called Mediterranean Noir, which distinguishes itself from traditional American Noir by embracing moments of sensuality and philosophical meditations in between the violence and criminality.

The Mediterranean Noir genre has roots in the early 80s and, some would argue, even before, but reached its maturity with the mid-90s publication of Jean-Claude Izzo’s Marseilles Trilogy, as much literature as it is crime fiction. With the launch of World Noir, Izzo is back in print and here in our store. This trilogy serves as an excellent introduction to the World Noir imprint. I would also recommend getting Caryl Férey’s ultraviolent police thriller Zulu before the movie hits the US.

Most of the World Noir releases are set in sweltering places full of simmering tensions and no clear path to resolution. Texas readers should feel right at home.

ZULU Movie Trailer Released

Caryl Ferey’s Zulu has been a favorite of both the customers and booksellers at MysteryPeople since it arrived on our shelves in 2010. The dark police and political thriller will be on screens in France in December.

Forrest Whitaker plays Ali Neuman, the captain of a mostly white police squad in Capetown South Africa, who is of Zulu descent. Orlando Bloom plays a homicide detective alongside him. When the bodies of two white women show up with Zulu markings, he and his team are plunged into a violent nightmare involving different Western interests that exploit his country.

For those who wondered if the book would capture the book’s brutality, this Red Ban trailer leaves little doubt. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. Seriously, don’t watch this around kids.


Get to Know Caryl Ferey

Caryl Ferey is an author who deserves more attention than he’s receiving. A French author, he writes dark, violent books about colonized countries and their colonists’ relationships with the native population. The two that have reached the states, Zulu and Utu, prove him a true and important voice in the genre.

Zulu has sold over two hundred and fifty copies in a little over a year at MysteryPeople. Its hero is Ali Neuman, the head of a Capetown police unit of Zulu decent. Having watched his brother and father killed during apartheid and leading a mostly white group of men, he mirrors South Africa. Old wounds open when the bodies of two white women are found with Zulu tribal markings. The search for the killers and the source for a new drug on the streets have Ali and his men moving through the tiers of criminal society; the Tsotsi gangs that roam the city, the Sicilian Mafia flexing their influence, and Western and corporate interests out to exploit South Africa. What starts out as a dark police procedural moves into the territory of a dark political thriller.

In Utu, Ferey gives us a less heroic lead in Paul Osborne, a self loathing, drug and alcohol addicted, washed up ex-cop. He’s called back to duty in Auckland, New Zealand because of his expertise in Maori society. A mass grave of Maoris has been found, all with their femur’s missing (wait until you find out why). The only other cop familiar with the culture, Osborne’s freind and collegue, committed suicide during the investigation. This is just the first thirty pages. Paul is plunged into the dark side of his country, introduced to its demons and putting him face to face with his own.

Ferey’s books aren’t for the faint of heart. He uses depictions of graphic and many times rough sex to define his characters. Not only is his violence brutal, he has a chilling skill of conveying the sense of victimization. One particularly nasty scene in Zulu, featuring a hibachi and a severed limb, will never completely leave your mind.

Ferey uses these elements and a strong sense of character to look at the double edge of tribalism. It can be a place to find oneself, a place Osborne doesn’t have and one that sometimes battles with Neuman’s role as a police officer. It also creates a social chasm both men have to negotiate. Mainly he looks at how certain powers exploit people so that one half of a society can destroy the other for them.

Ferey’s work is epic noir in both scope and style. He delivers a large tableau where societal and personal corruption meet. His heroes tend to take on a suicidal approach to achieve any power over evil. Caryl Ferey starts at noir and ends the trip close to apocalyptic. For those willing to get on board, it is an insightful emotional, and all together exhilarating ride.