One of the rare pleasures in life is discovering a new favourite author, or finding out an old favourite has a new book on the way. My Criminal World by Henry Sutton is so good, we felt we just had to share it with you.
Published today, My Criminal World introduces us to struggling crime writer David Slavitt. Living in constant fear that his editor might drop him in favour of the next new talent, David juggles house work and child care alongside plot twists and character development as he attempts to complete Kristine, his new crime book.
But as his wife grows increasingly distant and his agent insists that his new book needs more violence – a lot more violence – David is getting worried. He needs to do something if he is to save his career, and his marriage. But just how far is this most mild mannered of crime writers prepared to go? And who is the person really pulling the strings in this story? In this clever literary crime novel, there is more than one mystery to be solved.
We hope you enjoy this extract from the book. You can read Henry Sutton’s top crime novel recommendations here on Dead Good.
MY CRIMINAL WORLD by HENRY SUTTON
I reckon I’ve always been pretty good at displacement activity.
Walking home,back down and up the streets of squashed terraces, a few other people, women mostly, dispersing among the homes, and with the sun having suddenly shifted behind thick cloud, with more, darker clouds looming to the west, it occurs to me that at least I don’t have to go to some bland office and be subjected to all sorts of corporate or institutional bureaucratic nonsense. I’m heading home, to my study, my work – the house empty of children, and my spouse of course – where indeed I’m the boss.
Not that I’m exactly qualified to do much else. It’s surprising really the number of writers I’ve come across who are as poorly qualified as me (or worse), even the so-called literary ones. And to think I first got into writing because I wanted to be a poet.
The thing is, there are times when it’s good to have a big imagination, and times when it’s not. Back to that old conundrum: there are things you don’t know and don’t want to know. But simply, urgently, have to know.
And there’s so much – from working out how to create ingenious devices that explode in your mouth, to being fully connected, fully up to speed, with every new facet of social media. OK, James P, my old Baltimore chum, whose international popularity, as far as I can tell, is very far from dropping off, notoriously doesn’t do emails. He doesn’t even work on a computer.
But he is considerably older than me – a generation away. Nevertheless that still makes me quite old. Too old for this game? Isn’t that what Julie implied the other evening? Too old to be sprinting up this hill, in a cloudburst, that’s for sure. I pause, catch my breath, rain dripping off my nose
Right now, it seems clearer than ever that a Sabatier carving knife, wherever it’s been stuck, is not going to be nearly enough. Sorry, Clare. It’s what the public want. And they’re not stupid.
* * *
‘Where the hell have you been?’ said Tanya, as Adrian Fonda walked into the hall, shaking the sleet from his overcoat. She was standing there, out in the hall, waiting for him. Had on her purple silk dressing gown, over her pink trackie bottoms.
‘You don’t want to know,’ Fonda said, marching straight past her towards the large kitchen-diner.
He put his leather briefcase on the granite-topped island, next to the waste-disposal unit. Thought for a moment about stuffing the whole thing into the waste disposal, with all the incriminating shit it contained. He was getting sloppy. Talking too much at work, whether it was the holiday season and deserted, or not. Carrying around all this material, these accessories. Besides, he was giving far too much licence to too many people. Like Girts Kesteris for starters. And now the lazy Latvian was too scared to show his face.
But he would, when he realised what had happened to his brother. Bernard Kesteris’ head was no longer attached to his body – that can happen when you slip between a supply vessel and the quayside. The idiot shouldn’t have been drinking. Should have been more forthcoming too.
‘Everyone else is at home with their families, on holiday, but you have to be out working,’ Tanya said. ‘All hours.’
She’d followed him into the gleaming kitchen and was now leaning against the far wall, next to the fake fireplace. She was tall, taller than Fonda, with long, immaculately dyed and maintained chestnut-coloured hair.
Fonda knew that he couldn’t even trust his wife. ‘Where’s River?’
‘In bed. Where did you expect him to be, at this time? Waiting up for you?’
‘You’re not having another go, are you?’
‘It’s late. I couldn’t understand where you were, that’s all. You didn’t say you were going to be late. You could have rung.’
‘I was out with clients, all right? A new lot want to invest in the outer harbour. Bring in some heavy equipment.’
‘Sure. Where was it this time? The Imperial? The Carlton?’
‘The casino, if you’re that interested.’ Fonda walked over to the huge fridge, opened the right-hand door, peered inside – bollocks to eat! He shut the door without extracting anything. ‘You know what those Eastern Europeans are like, how they love to gamble.’
‘I thought they preferred f*cking young girls,’ said Tanya.
‘You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?’
He then walked over to Tanya, who was still casually – too casually, as far as he was concerted – leaning against the wall. Was she pouting or sulking? He could never tell which.
Taking her chin in his right hand, with Tanya offering no resistance, he began to squeeze gently, staring straight into her eyes. ‘Don’t forget where you came from.’
He squeezed harder and harder, but she didn’t attempt to break free. What was she on tonight?
Finally he let go of her face, turned, walked out of the kitchen, heading for his study. One of these days he was going to shut her up for good – mother of his child or not.
* * *
That’s just a taster of My Criminal World which is causing quite a stir with some other brilliant authors:
‘Sutton brilliantly lays bare the life of a desperate writer, lifts the lid on the murky world of crime fiction and throws in a damn good mystery to boot’
‘A deliciously vicious and captivating spin on the crime novel tradition – and the angst of its practitioners’
‘An all-consuming autopsy of crime writing and crime reading. Confirms what readers suspect and writers drink over. Disgusting and hilarious at the same time’
‘The meta-novel for crime fiction lovers, boasting two intertwined mysteries and an unnervingly insightful trip through the mind of a thriller writer: the obsession, the inspiration, the insecurities, and the compulsion to turn every last experience into plot’
‘If Patricia Cornwall and Martin Amis had a book together it would look just like My Criminal World – a wickedly funny novel that dances on the razor-thin line between entertainment and art, crime and punishment… As funny as all hell and as blood-pumping as any thriller, My Criminal World is a love letter to crime fiction’