Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Global Crime Fiction: The Coroner in Laos (Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri Series) -- also a bit about this year's CWA DAGGER short lists

Somebody ordered our copy of ANARCHY AND OLD DOGS by Colin Cotterill just a few weeks after Dave put it onto our list of books for sale. That's all it took for me to change my priorities: Number 1 became "read some Colin Cotterill before the books all get purchased."

And I'm reall really REALLY glad that I did.

I picked the first in Cotterill's "Dr. Siri" crime novels, THE CORONER'S LUNCH. Set in Laos, with plenty of ties to Vietnam, some to India, even China, the book features a 72-year-old doctor who, in the "secret war" of Laos in the mid 1970s, finds himself suddenly the National Coroner for the newly liberated and communist-driven nation. Performing autopsies with an old textbook propped in front of him, using contacts with a chemist, a detective, and plenty of determined women, Dr. Siri discovers that he likes the adventure of sorting out unnatural deaths. Of course, threats to his own life come with the new territory, and those aren't such fun. Nor is his blossoming awareness of ghosts of the departed who come as "guests" to his autopsy tables.

This is an amazing "first in series" because the plotting is professional, the character drawings are first-rate, and a sparkle of humor and kindness keeps the pages turning. Dr. Siri has the kind of courage and initiative that most of us would love to identify with (but can't afford to indulge!).

Cotterill, born in 1952, is British, but for much of his life this trained teacher has lived elsewhere: Australia, Japan, and now Thailand, from which he can readily cross the water to Laos to check settings and scents. THE CORONER'S LUNCH (Soho Press, 2004) was followed by DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED and THIRTY-THREE TEETH, which won the 2006 Dilys Award. Then came ANARCHY AND OLD DOGS.

This August, Soho Press brings out CURSE OF THE POGO STICK (yes, it's still set in Laos, this time among the Hmong). A visit to Cotterill's web site www.colincotterill.com will give you his own wacky take on the book, plus a taste of the next one. And there's more good news -- look at this, from The Crime Writers' Association (Britain):

Shortlists for the 2008 CWA / Duncan Lawrie Daggers were announced at a reception at the British Library on 3rd June. This year we have launched an online forum on this site where you can discuss the books in contention for the Duncan Lawrie and Duncan Lawrie International Daggers.

Bookings are now being accepted for the Awards Dinner, to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in London's Park Lane on Thursday 10th July.

The authors shortlisted for the £20,000 Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the world's largest prize for a crime novel, are James Lee Burke (The Tin Roof Blowdown), Colin Cotterill (Coroner's Lunch), Frances Fyfield (Blood From Stone), Steve Hamilton (Night Work), Laura Lippman (What the Dead Know) and RN Morris (A Vengeful Longing).

There are five authors in the running for the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger: Andrea Camilleri (The Patience of the Spider), Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Dominique Manotti (Lorraine Connection), Martin Suter (A Deal with the Devil) and Fred Vargas (This Night's Foul Work). This prize is worth £5000 to the winning author and £1000 to the translator.

In all there are eight awards in contention, the others being the Steel, Non-Fiction, New Blood, Library, Short Story and Debut Daggers.

Congrats, Colin Cotterill!

Looking for more news about the CWA and its Dagger awards? Check out www.thecwa.co.uk.

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