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Protection (Harpur & Iles S.)

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I just read Roses, Roses, my first Harpur and Iles. I liked some of the writing and certainly the plot, but it drove me crazy that all the characters speak in the same voice; Harpur's teenage daughters' conversation is indistinguisable from Iles' except for the subject matter. Also at times the characters seemed to be speaking Pennsylvania Dutch. My two cents. March 03, 2010 Peter Rozovsky said... You’d Better Believe It the first book in a series of police procedural series introduces the reader to DCI Colin Harpur. His area of operation is a small city located south of London, and it is not unusual for the most wanted criminals to consider such a small town as an easy target. Since The Mermaids Singing, McDermid's work has just got better and better, the pinnacle being last year's A Place of Execution - a tremendous piece of fiction, complex and haunting. Killing The Shadows, good as it is, isn't in that class. McDermid's books are always frighteningly convincing, but Killing The Shadows doesn't quite convince in the same way, I think because there is something too 'fictional' about the central conceit of somebody targeting crime writers. Patti, I especially recommend books seven ( Astride a Grave) through sixteen ( Eton Crop). The preceding books are good, but James really finds his themes in the seventh. May 09, 2008 Philip Amos said...

What I was less keen on: the pace is slow and Low Pastures is really a repeat of earlier books in the series, which has not progressed in recent years.Your comment about oneness of style with content shall likely spark further comment from me. May 09, 2008 Steve Allan said... I'm really surprised that James isn't better known. The Harpur and Iles books (at least the four or so that I've read) are so good - and yes, James is one hell of a stylist. he's the Welsh Ken Bruen. May 09, 2008 Peter Rozovsky said...

Dominating all, however, is the relationship between DCS Colin Harpur and ACC Desmond Iles. Harpur and Iles are trapped in a hellish relationship of need and hatred. Each needs the other's skills to work effectively against the crooks. But Iles hates Harpur for having had an affair with his wife; Harpur is trying to keep Iles away from his underage daughter. And Harpur tries to shore up his Chief Constable, who is recovering from a breakdown, against Iles's constant undermining and baiting. By the way, I see from your profile that you liked The Ice Harvest. I've posted some comments about Scott Phillips here. May 09, 2008 Anonymous said... Impish and perhaps hyperbolic, but with a purpose. I suspect that no one on this Earth has read enough crime fiction to make such a judgment. But he is the finest crime-fiction prose stylist I have ever read. Did you have in mind folks like G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene or even Joseph Conrad, if one wants to call The Secret Agent crime fiction? If so, I shall have replies ready.

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The books are not exactly forgotten; the series is now up to twenty-three novels with a twenty-fourth due this year. But James' brand of dark betrayal, darker humor and keen social comedy has remained a connoisseur's taste, beloved of critics for the rich beauty of its prose style, among other features, but never selling in the mass numbers that its excellence deserves. Several books have been optioned for possible film: that is, people pay a fairly minor amount to have the rights of the books for, say, a year while they try to set up finance etc. I think Halo Parade (number 3 in the series) is at present under option. There were also approaches for Split and Astride a Grave. BBC 1 televised Protection (incidentally, setting it in and around Cardiff, since it was BBC Wales who made it for the network). I don't know that I'm an especially 'visual' writer but some of the characters are reasonably strong and make decent acting parts although, as we've said, none of them are through-and-through virtuous or even entirely likeable, so James Stewart wouldn't have been cast.

In 1976 you wrote a book on the novels of Anthony Powell - it has even been suggested that the Harpur and Iles series is a kind of inverted A Dance to the Music of Time. Has Powell influenced your approach to series writing?His novel Whose Little Girl are You, written under the "David Craig" pseudonym, was filmed as The Squeeze, starring Stacy Keach, Edward Fox and David Hemmings. The fourth Harpur & Iles novel, Protection, was televised by the BBC in 1996 as Harpur & Iles, starring Aneirin Hughes as Harpur and Hywel Bennett as Iles. The geographical profiler carries her own baggage. Weighed down with guilt because her sister was the victim of killer who has never been caught, she is also, at the start of the novel, at odds with the Metropolitan police. She used to work with them until they ignored her recommendations and went ahead with a scheme to catch a killer that turned into an entrapment scandal. What Colin doesn’t expect is that one of his juniors is going to go missing- the same cop who wife Colin is having some bit of adultery. Everything else gets complicated for Colin when tipsters get murders as it appears that the gang is getting rid of the loose ends before they can finally stage their major heist. Were you having an impish moment when you wrote that last sentence, Peter? May 09, 2008 pattinase (abbott) said... Writer: Don Shaw / Novels: Bill James / Producer: Jane Dauncey / Executive Producer: Jen Samson / Director: Jim Hill

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