Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Outcast reviewed

I'm pleased to see that the first couple of reviews of The Outcast have appeared.  Maxine Clarke, who's been a great supporter of the series, has reviewed it for Eurocrime...very positively, even though she would have preferred more development of the characters in the second half.  It's an interesting question.  In writing the series, I've tried to balance the central events of each novel (which typically happen in a very tight timeframe) against the slower-paced evolution of the characters and their stories across the three books and beyond.  I don't know if I've always got the balance right, but I hope Maxine will be reassured that,  in my plans for the fourth Nergui book, some of the central characters will be facing some dramatic (and possibly traumatic) challenges... 

Thanks also to the astoundingly well-informed and ever-helpful Dave Lull for drawing my attention to a review in the Coventry Evening Telegraph.  I don't think it's available on-line but it describes The Outcast as 'a thriller which boils gently up to an explosive climax'.  Which is pretty much what I was aiming for.

Thanks as always to all those who've contributed or commented on here over the past year.  I'm planning to write a more considered round-up of my various thoughts about 2008 over the next few days (and what a strange year it's been...), including, for what it's worth, my own list of the crime books I've enjoyedmost over the year.  In the meantime, I hope you all have an enjoyable Christmas (or appropriate festive alternative) and I wish you every good wish for 2009. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cold and raw and by far the highlight of dining-out

I don't know anything about Kirril Shields except that over the past year he (?) has been writing various articles for the UB Post.  During that time, he's contributed a series of idiosyncratic restaurant reviews which have become one of my favourite on-line reads.  The reviews have been terrific - mainly because of Shields' witty enthusiasm in the face of even the most unpromising cuisine.  

Shields is now back off to his native Australia, apparently, but as a parting gift he leaves us with one final column, highlighting what he believes to be the best eating and drinking available in Ulaan Bataar.  Blessed is the Italian cheesemakerParavicini, for example, alongside the German brewer who oversees the Chinggis Brewery (which gets a passing mention in The Outcast, incidentally), the North Korean restaurant, Los Banditos, and Sacher's and Anandas cafes.  Perhaps not a great haul compared with many cities, but, as Nergui notes in The Shadow Walker, the Mongolians are a nation of warriors, not chefs. 

Still, Shields has made the best of it and I'll miss his contributions.  One of the attractions of his writing is that it's often not easy to spot where the serious reviewing stops and the jokes creep in. What do we make, for example, of a cheesemaker appearing in The Mousetrap?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hard times and herding

Times are hard even in Mongolia, and some of the stories sound eerily familiar.  It's all relative, of course - I imagine the UK or US would be fairly happy with a predicted 7.5% growth in 2009.  But it's out on the steppes that the impact of the credit crunch is really being felt...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In constant contact with people’s heads

Every now and then, the ever-fascinating UB Post takes me through the looking glass.  In this case, it's a looking glass held to the back of my head, as the Post introduces us, in a quite extraordinary interview, to J.Dovchinsuren, Head of the Association of Mongolian Hairdressers and Beauticians.  I didn't even know there was such a word as 'cosmetologist', but now I know better. 

Mr Dovchinsuren has some interesting, possibly even unique, opinions - for example that hairdressing is 'as responsible a job as a doctor, because hairdressers are in constant contact with people’s heads'.  He also provides a remarkable insight into what was really going on behind the Iron Curtain:

"During the Socialist period, I designed many hairstyles which I took patents for. At that time, there was a special ministry for giving patents. My design named “Zolboo” has its own patent. But now the ministry doesn’t exist anymore, and people are no longer seeking patents for individual hairstyles."


Snow joke

If, like me, you've had a few travel problems this week as a result of the UK's tendency to grind to a screeching halt in the face of half a centimetre of snow, spare a thought for the plight of Poland's President Lech Kaczynski