Written by Henry Sutton

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung

Harvill Secker
RRP: £12.99
Released: 18th April 2013
Trade Pbk

Does everyone have secrets? Are the contents of each person’s head secret? Well, if you are a writer then what is inside is not only going to come out, it is going to become public as well.

If you are the agent for a writer such as David Slavitt then you going to want that product to become very well known. David Slavitt himself may not want to admit it, but his books are not doing as well as they might, and he is having difficulty in moving with the times. David Slavitt is a crime writer and the demand is more blood and more grue; those who can supply it win the awards while those who cannot are pitied as also-rans. Not only that but other events are not working to his advantage: he thinks his wife is having an affair with one of her students.

The Slavitts live in an East Anglian city like Norwich but David never notices the history and attractions, and he sets his mysteries on the coast. He probably wrote novels similar to Raymond Flynn’s Eddathorpe series, but his agent and publisher want him to write like Val McDiarmid, and out of the banality of his life his fiction now bursts like a sort of aneurism or rupture. That is his one advantage. Henry Sutton is able to show us the author at his job, and as Slavitt recounts his day to day existence, suddenly some pages of his work in progress will intervene. Not obvious at first – we simply think we are seeing what he is writing – gradually it becomes clear that Slavitt’s inconveniences and (ultimately) disasters metamorphose into fiction. The climax of which is Slavitt in a police station as a murder suspect unable to answer the questions put to him, his own worst enemy, yet when returned to his holding cell able to plot the conclusions of his murder mystery.

Some readers may think they are getting two mysteries for their money, as they get Henry’s new novel along with his own story. Rather than allusions to other novels, as Henry’s plight became worse, I couldn’t help thinking of the way that characters burst out of the screen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in excited over-reactions. Christopher Brookmyre has already called this “the meta-novel for crime fiction lovers” and I found that the more I read the more I liked My Criminal World.

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