Keeping watch on writers
Craig Sisterson is a crime fiction reviewer who grew up in Richmond.
Working as deputy editor of Auckland magazine NZLawyer by day, Craig critiques New Zealand's favourite book genre for publications that include the New Zealand Listener, the Herald on Sunday, Wild Tomato magazine and his own busy blog, Crime Watch.
The Leader spoke to Craig about his life.
How did you get into writing Crime Watch?
I worked as a lawyer for a few years, and then went overseas for a couple or three years. I started writing while I was away for the Nelson Mail, Wild Tomato and a couple of others. When I came back, I got this job and ended up doing a couple of book reviews on New Zealand crime writers, one called Paul Cleave and one called Vanda Symon in 2008.
Those reviews got a good response, so the next year I reviewed a book by a Nelson lady called Lindy Kelly named Bold Blood.
I thought, "I've got all this cool stuff about these authors," and I couldn't fit it in the articles. I was doing a few other author interviews and some reviews that were only in print, and also I found it really hard to find out anything about New Zealand crime writers.
There were all these things and I started going, "Oh, well maybe I should do a crime writing blog." It started in August, 2009.
Do you consciously focus on Kiwi authors?
I try and make sure that if there's decent stuff about Kiwi authors out there then I share it, and then I try and do other stuff that I'm involved with. Through all of this, I've ended up chairing crime fiction sessions at arts and book festivals and running the New Zealand crime fiction awards.
All of those things have kind of happened in the interim.
Tell me more about the functions you do.
Last year I was chairing crime fiction sessions at the Auckland Writers and Readers festival, the Christchurch Writers Festival, the New Zealand International Arts Festival, the Hamilton Garden Arts Festival, the Going West Festival in Auckland and a few little other things as well.
So you're quite happy to travel around New Zealand for these things?
It's nice to be invited to interview an author on stage. They look around for people to do their on-stage interviewing and since I've done interviews for a lot of outlets, it just grew from there. There was never a plan or anything, it just kind of unfolded.
A lot of people think crime authors would be really scary or a little bit psychotic, or they've got to be a little bit strange to think up all these dark, strange things but I actually find them a lot more normal than other authors.
It's like they vent and get it out on page and then it's just like chatting to your neighbour.
Do you have a favourite book or series?
It's too hard to choose. I guess the easiest thing to say was that I started with The Hardy Boys back when I was at Richmond Primary School.
Did you ever write any fiction of your own?
Just stuff for school when I was at Waimea College. Actually, I only found this out a few years ago when I was visiting Mum and Dad, but when I was at Richmond Primary I wrote some mystery stories where Santa was the detective. I was about 8 or 9 at the time. I think I knew Santa didn't exist at the time but I still thought he'd make a great character.
Have there been any other notable Nelson authors that you can name?
There's an author in Dunedin named Paddy Richardson who went to Waimea College.
We discovered we both went there when we were chatting a couple of years ago. Matt Hammond wrote a book called Milkshake.
There was a lady called Carol Dawber who wrote some books that are set in the outdoors around Nelson and Marlborough back in the 1990's.
Maurice Gee has lived in Nelson on and off through a lot of his life. Several of his books are blatantly crime or mystery stories, and his last adult book Access Road was up for the Ngaio Marsh award.