Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Many Names of Mystery Author John Harvey

John Harvey will be the international guest of honor at Bouchercon this October -- reason enough to get acquainted with his work. He's best known for his Charlie Resnick series of crime novels, and recently began the Frank Elder series, with FLESH & BLOOD, which immediately won for him the British Crime Writers' Association (CWA) Silver Dagger Award. I picked up the sequel, the second in this dark series: ASH & BONE. A clear-eyed look at the consequences of buried guilt, this moody and often intense police procedural also portrays class and location as if they were characters themselves.

I like this segment from page 30 of ASH & BONE, as good an introduction to Frank Elder as there could be:

Other farmers pastured their cattle on the fields, paying dues. Stray walkers aside, Elder scarcely saw a soul from one week's end to the next.

It suited him to a tee.

Three years now since his marriage to Joanne had imploded and he had retired from the Nottinghamshire Force, off with his tail between his legs, almost as far west as it was possible to go. More than a year since his daughter Katherine had been abducted by Adam Keach. Abducted, raped, and almost killed. Katherine, sixteen.

What happened to her, Frank, it's your fault. You nearly killed her. You. Not him.

Joanne's words.

Because you had to get involved, you couldn't let things be. You always knew better than anybody else, that's why.

Of course, he had dreams.

But none so bad as Katherine's.

Harvey has been relentlessly productive, leaving a ten-year career as a teacher to turn to both writing and music. Like his American counterpart John Lescroart, he weaves jazz through both his work life and his crime novels, plays in a band, even publishes music.

He now has notched up more than 90 novels; browse the lists as his web site. Obviously, he's been writing under several names. Here's the short version:

He taught English and Drama in secondary schools for over ten years, stopping in 1975. Since that time, he has made his living primarily with his writing. He has written over 90 novels, for both adults and young adults. He has also been involved in writing poetry, television and radio scripts. From 1977 until 1999, John ran Slow Dancer Press, and edited the Slow Dancer magazine until 1993. Slow Dancer Press continues to publish poetry and fiction, with a focus on crime fiction, short stories and writing dealing with jazz and blues.

He has been published under a variety of pseudonyms, including James Mann, Terry Lennox, John J. McLaglen, William S. Brady, J.D. Sandon, L.J. Coburn, J.B. Dancer, William M. James, Thom Ryder, Jon Barton and Jon Hart.

From 1980 until 1986, he taught Film and Literature at the University of Notthingham, part-time. He acted as a regular tutor for residential writing courses run by the Arvon Foundation, and was on the teaching faculty of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fiction Workshop (Northern California).

His work has won numerous awards, including the Sherlock Award for Best British Detective (1999) for Last Rites, Grand Prix du Romain Noir Etranger du Cognace (2000) for Lumière Froide (Cold Light).

Harvey isn't done with the Charlie Resnick series -- and there's another Frank Elder volume soon to come, also. It could be a full-time job to keep up with this author. Hmm, sounds like a good assignment, come to think of it.

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