Monday, April 09, 2007

R.N. Morris Makes His Mark

Today The Rap Sheet is delighted to welcome its third “guest blogger,” following James Ellroy and Megan Abbott. He’s British author Roger Morris, or “R.N. Morris,” as his byline appears on A Gentle Axe, his new novel, set in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1866 and starring none other than detective Porfiry Petrovich from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment).

Morris was born in Manchester, England, in 1960 and now resides in North London with his wife and two young children. He peddled his first short story to a magazine for teenage girls while he was still a student at Cambridge University, where he read Classics. He went on to make his living as a freelance copywriter, composing text for British Airways, Penguin Books, The Guardian, and even Lexus automobiles. Yet he continued to pen fiction as well, although it was only occasionally published. His story The Devil’s Drum was turned into a one-act opera, which was performed at the Purcell Room in London’s South Bank neighborhood. Another of his tales, Revenants, saw print in the form of a comic book. His novel Taking Comfort, a semi-thriller about a corporate cog, observer, and collector of mementoes from the disasters he witnesses, was published in 2006 (by Macmillan New Writing) under the byline “Roger Morris.”

As we’ve explained before on this page, A Gentle Axe (retitled The Gentle Axe in Britain) sends investigating magistrate Porfiry Petrovich out to untangle the apparent murder-suicide of a burly groundskeeper and a dwarf translator, who’ve been found in a St. Petersburg park by a light-fingered former prostitute. It doesn’t take long for the Columbo-ish sleuth to link these horrors to a dreary whorehouse, a pornography ring, and a starving lawyer-wannabe--and incite resistance from his superiors. Morris’ delving into the squalid corners of tsarist Russia, as much as his quirky players, makes this novel a thoroughly absorbing read.

Roger Morris’ first post will appear here presently. We hope he’ll follow that over the next few days with remarks about the expanding world of historical fiction, his encounters with some of the other crime writers who live near him in London, his future novel-writing projects, and his impressions of the master from whom he has so artfully “stolen” his protagonist, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

Feel free, as we go along, to weigh in on the topics Morris brings up or to ask him questions in the Comments section of each new post.

(Author photograph by Simon Nicholls.)

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