Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Robin Blake

Robin Blake is the author of the Cragg & Fidelis series, including A Dark Anatomy and Dark Waters, in addition to acclaimed works on the artists Van Dyck and Stubbs. He has written, produced and presented extensively for radio, is widely published as a critic.

Blake's latest novel is Skin & Bone, the fourth Cragg & Fidelis mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading:
I’ve got three books on the go at the moment. One is So Pretty a Problem, a crime mystery by the British author Francis Duncan. It was first published in 1950, during the period known as the Golden Age of crime fiction – i.e. the time when Queen Agatha was in her pomp. The bookshop shelves were infested with Christie-esque amateur sleuths whose interference in police murder investigations was accepted by the Constabulary (as they tended to be called) with unbelievable tolerance. Duncan’s hero is typical of the genre: a meek retired tobacconist called Mordecai Tremaine who wears pince-nez instead of regular glasses, reads for preference romantic fiction (and certainly not crime) yet happens to possess a mind that cuts through a murderer’s lies and obfuscations with the sharpness of a cut-throat razor. To magic this kind of character into a believable human being can be a hard trick to work and Duncan’s magicianship has not really stood the test of time. Compared to the American hard-boiled fiction of the same period, I’m finding this book a very soft egg.

I’m also re-reading Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, which was published in 1749. It was a very famous novel in its time, and although very long it remains a wonderful read partly because it is a rollicking story (brilliantly filmed in the 1960s with the young Albert Finney as Tom) but also because Fielding is a fantastic stylist with a keen eye for the ridiculous and a notably humane attitude towards moral frailty. Fielding is also of interest to all fans of crime fiction since, as the chief magistrate in the criminal milieu of London’s Covent Garden, he set up the city’s first professional police force, the Bow Street Runners.

My third book is The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us whose author is, appropriately, Bee Wilson. The story I am writing at this moment has a beekeeping leading character, so I am boning up on the subject. Yet, like so much historical research, the book is nothing but a huge pleasure. It not only explains the organization of bee society (completely fascinating) but also the reciprocal relationship between humans and bees, which stretches back into the mists of time. The thought that bees as a species are now under threat of extinction by new and devastating agricultural pesticides is an unbearable one.
Visit Robin Blake's website.

The Page 69 Test: Skin & Bone.

My Book, The Movie: Skin & Bone by Robin Blake.

--Marshal Zeringue