Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Sophie Masson

1. Your next book, THE CASE OF THE DIAMOND SHADOW, is a YA mystery set in England in the 1930s with Australian characters. You've also started a weblog to promote it. This is rare in Australian literature. What do you see as the benefits of this approach?

As far as the background of the book is concerned, I felt that if I wanted to write a mystery set in the 30's, I'd prefer to set it in England--that whole Christie atmosphere--but with Australian characters and connections(not all the characters are Australian--indeed many are not. Some are English, some French--these are based to some extent on my grandfather and his grandmother--some Dutch, etc). The Australian connection though has that 'fresh eye' feel on what is a very traditional atmosphere for a mystery: rather, in a way, like Christie herself using a Belgian detective rather than an English one--the foreign eye of Poirot (he is an outsider who however knows England well) works really well, I think.

As for the blog, I see it as having several possibilities: obviously, first of all, a direct interaction with readers, both here and overseas; the fun of being able to put up photos, extra associated information, bits and pieces, scraps of research, the kind of thing many readers are interested in but you can't put in a book. Plus, it helps with publicity and general word-of-mouth (I'm planning also to link the weblog later with a little video clip I'm planning to make and upload onto the You Tube channel I have, ).

2. What do you have planned for your next publication?

I'm hoping to write the sequel to The Case of the Diamond Shadow, which I'm provisionally titling The Deadly Widow of Biarritz--and which starts off with an enigmatic letter...and then a trip on a luxury train to Biarritz, where a young Russian prince in exile has disappeared.The same central characters: Daisy Miller, George Dale, and the detectives they work for--will be in it. Lots of fun! I'd also love to do a sequel to my graphic novel, The Secret Army: Operation Loki, which is an adventure story set in 1936, and based on the occult activities of the Nazis and a group of young psychics who are being trained to fight them..It was published in 2006. But I'm not sure if I'll persuade my publisher--graphic novels are expensive to produce.

And I've got several other projects up my sleeve, including a mystery novel set in Venice in 1600--it's called The Madman of Venice and it's been contracted by a British publisher. I'm in the process of massively rewriting it now.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

I read a lot of crime fiction generally, and quite a bit of Australian crime fiction as well. Two majorly stand out authors for me at present are Michael Robotham and Peter Temple--I know Temple's been around a long time, but he is excellent and is only now getting the recognition he deserves. I love Robotham's novels--they are classy, tight, unexpected and exciting and I'd read everything he writes. I also have been impressed by John Harwood's The Ghost Writer (I know that's really on the edge of crime but it is very much a psychological thriller--and chiller).

I think the current state of the scene is that there isn't much of a one--not really, although there's quite a lot of authors working in isolation. When you compare it to the science fiction/fantasy scene though, with which I've had a lot of contact over the years, it seems rather anaemic. Or is that just an impression? It seemed different in the 80's, when there was such a push on Australian crime fiction--I remember subscribing to Stuart Coupe's excellent magazine, "Mean Streets". Mind you, these days, there are great blogs and sites like yours for crime fiction--so maybe the whole momentum will build up again. But wouldn't it be great to have a big Crime Fiction event--festival, conference--whatever!

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

See above--I'd love the idea of a yearly or probably more realistically biennial Crime Fiction festival like the one in Harrogate, in the hotel Agatha Christie holed up in when she vanished..this might not only attract Australian readers but overseas ones too. Something a bit glam too or unusual anyway.

I think the bloggers are doing a great job promoting books and authors..I just wish there was more of a sense of a "scene"--more regular events at which readers and writers can interact.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

Hercule Poirot! I would love my fictional detective Philip Woodley-Foxe to meet him--it would be a true clash of giant egos! Woodley-Foxe, alas, doesn't have anything like the number of grey cells Hercule has..though I'm sure he'd think he'd have much more and would be quite condescending to the little Belgian, reducing him no doubt to speechless rage..and an appropriate revenge. Hmmm...

Sophie Masson is the author of over 40 books for readers of all ages, including The Case of the Diamond Shadow
Sophie Masson's website

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 6, 2008 10:37 AM.

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