Exploring novels about crime and conflict

This summer, we’re diving into the BBC’s list of 100 novels that shaped our world.

One of the categories is crime and conflict and the BBC panel selected these 10 books:

  • American Tabloid – James Ellroy
  • American War – Omar El Akkad
  • Ice Candy Man – Bapsi Sidhwa
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  • Regeneration – Pat Barker
  • The Children of Men – P.D. James
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Quiet American – Graham Greene
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
  • The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith

Earlier this summer, Gavin Jacobson wrote in the New Statesman about  Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film adaptation of The Children of Men. Jacobson is haunted by the empty playgrounds, planeless skys and silent streets of lockdown Britain. He explores the dystopia of the film, and questions how far off such a future is. If you can bear to wach the film, it’s on Box of Broadcasts.

Another novel from this list that has been adapted for the cinema is Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamenalist. In this journal article from The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Lisa Lau and Ana Cristina Mendes compare the novel and the film, and their approaches to this complex topic.

One character tirelessly portayed and re-portrayed on screen is, of course, Sherlock Holmes. It’s fascainting to look at this lurid book cover of the Hound of the Baskervilles and realise that the name of the fictional Sherlock Holmes is written larger than that of the book’s actual author!

If a large diabolical hound seems implausible to you, the world of American War with its fossil fuel shortages and climate-change fuelled wars seems terrifyingly real. Hear Omar El Akkad discuss his book with Mariella Frostrup.

If the American past seems more tempting than the American past, then jump into James Ellroy’s American Tabloid. This tells the story of three rogue law enforcement officers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. If you want to learn more about Ellroy’s noirish world, check out this BBC documentary on Box of Broadcasts.

Ice Candy Man could easily be the title of an Ellroy book. This novel by Bapsi Sidhwa is also known as Cracked India. That alternate title alludes to the book’s theme, the partition of India. When retelling historic events, authors must contend with the fact that not everyone’s voice was heard or listened to. This article by Sebastian Williams addresses these silences and their role in Sidhwa’s novel.

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