The Alibi: a Booked ezine

Issue 3, September 30, 2005

Watch BOOKED Investigates Peter Robinson's Strange Affair (all times EST):

  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 8PM on ACCESS Television
  • Tuesday, Oct. 4, 12:30PM and 8:30PM, and Wednesday, Oct. 5, 4AM on BookTelevision
  • Friday, Oct. 7, 9PM on CLT
  • Wednesday, Oct. 12, 7AM, 6PM, and 11PM on CourtTV Canada
Booked Television: October 1-12
BOOKED investigates Peter Robinson's Strange Affair Photo

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson ISBN: 0771076088

BOOKED experts engage in a heated and humorous discussion as they share opposing views on what size of gun sends a stronger message.  Criminal stereotypes and police investigation techniques are dissected in the latest installment in the Inspector Banks series. Featuring:

Booked Experts Photos
Killer Reviews with Paul Bergen and Barry Hammond
Paul and Barry Photos
Article Title: A Sense of Place

Paul: In Peter Robinson’s Strange Affair, I think as with all of his books that the focus is not so much the mystery but rather the continuing adventures of Alan Banks. While Banks is a competent and even brilliant detective, what is most compelling about him is the rollercoaster of his life; he ranges from being quite happy and responsible to near alcoholic and bordering on clinical depression.

Barry: Well, as I always say to critics of so-called genre literature, I think that’s true of most modern crime and mystery books. The characters are not two-dimensional cutouts. They’re every bit as rich and complex as any mainstream novel. And sometimes they have an advantage over mainstream novels, as you see these characters over a series of books and under the most trying of circumstances possible. One thing I find interesting about Robinson is that he’s displaced: he writes about Yorkshire but lives in Toronto.

Paul: They say “write what you know”. And generally that holds. With Robinson, he was born in Yorkshire, so that’s where his novels take place. It has something to do with history, too. Time has to pass before you see events in context. Philip Kerr’s Berlin Trilogy couldn’t have been written right after the Second World War.

Barry: What about cultural perspective? Giles Blunt, whose new book is in a later episode of Booked, has said that when he came back to his home town of North Bay after living in New York for years, it made him see it as exotic and as a possible location for his John Cardinal series. Maybe something like that is happening with Robinson. Though comparing those two writers might be like comparing apples and oranges.

Paul: Comparing fruit or writers you might run up against this thing called isomorphism.

Barry: Oh wait, does that mean the author’s fat or thin? No, that’s endo- or ectomorphism.

Paul: It’s when something is identified with just one aspect of it’s properties.  Like oranges becoming associated with vitamin C. It doesn’t matter if oranges have other things going for them or if there’s other things that are a better source of vitamin C. To most people, oranges equal vitamin C.

Barry: Right. Like Carl Hiaasen is the embodiment of Florida (speaking of oranges), just as James Lee Burke is New Orleans, and of course, Peter Robinson is Yorkshire, despite there being dozens of other writers doing equally valid visions of those places.

Paul: There’s also the insider/outsider perspective. Coming from outside to see a place with new eyes, or an insider seeing things that an outsider wouldn’t see. Police and crime procedurals in general are insider perspective books. The reader sees crime through the eyes of an insider, the policeman. Of course, some of these insiders are pariahs, socially, which means they’re actually outsiders.

Barry: Outsider perspective. That’s like the movies, where two of the most American films ever made, Coalminer’s Daughter and The Great Gatsby, were both made by British directors. But, it can also be limiting if a writer is identified with a particular location and they want to change locales.

Paul: Some readers were annoyed when Burke started a new series set in Montana, while most have enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith moving his Russian cop Arkady Renko from place to place, like when he went to Cuba. A great character developed over time can either resonate with a place or be played off against an unfamiliar setting. Even Inspector Banks pursued a case into Canada.

Writer Rap Sheet: Peter Robinson
Author Val McDermid Photo

"I like newspaper stories that are inconclusive, incomplete, that give me room to imagine the rest. It’s no good to me reading about something that’s all neatly solved and wrapped up. That’s why so many of my stories revolve around human psychology…I don’t profess to know the answers, but I like to explore the possibilities."

--Author Peter Robinson


Visit Peter Robinson's two official websites:

Peter Robinson was born in Castleford, Yorkshire, and came to Canada to earn his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor – tutored by none other than Joyce Carol Oates. He earned his Ph.D. in English from York University.

When the character of Inspector Banks was born, Robinson felt closer to his Northern English roots than he did to Toronto, his adopted home. Banks is now a part of the Yorkshire landscape, and although he did wander into Canada in The Hanging Valley, Banks is as firmly English as Coronation Street. Robinson regularly visits Yorkshire, keeping his knowledge of that area fresh, which in turn helps Banks continue to evolve and grow as a character.

Robinson’s writing process has changed with his new level of success. “Touring and meeting readers seems to take up more and more time each year, which can be a problem when you’re expected to turn in a book a year. Pretty soon that book has to be written in 9 months, 6 months, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking.”

“Being a Canadian writer doesn’t necessarily mean writing about Canada. Many successful Canadian writers write about where they come from. Canada somehow frees you to do that. I’ve always thought that if I’d stayed in England I would have been too intimidated by the class system, to persevere beyond those inevitable first rejection slips. Even now, there’s a nagging feeling sometimes that it can’t really be true, and that one day I’ll wake up and find myself back working at the yeast factory or the frozen food plant in Leeds.”

Titles by Peter Robinson PhotoSelected Books by Peter Robinson
(click to purchase from Amazon):

Strange Affair
Playing With Fire
The Summer That Never Was
Cold is the Grave
In a Dry Season
Dead Right
Innocent Graves
Wednesday’s Child
Past Reason Hated
Caedmon’s Song
A Necessary End
The Hanging Valley
A Dedicated Man
Gallows View


Talk about Peter Robinson and Inspector Banks in the Forum.

Case Book: Jonathan Alston, Criminal Intelligence Analyst
Jonathan Alston Photo

"Holding onto a lie is just like holding water in your hands.  You can do it for a little while, but it starts to seep out, one drop at a time, and unwillingly it all comes out.  That’s what we look for in statement and interview analysis: those little drops, those little indications of deception."

--Jonathan Alston

Jonathan Alston is a Criminal Intelligence Analyst with the sexual assault section of the Edmonton Police Service. What exactly does a Criminal Intelligence Analyst do? “The most general way to put it,” explains Jonathan, “would be to say that analysts collect information, they collate and organize it, they analyze it, and then disseminate and present that information.”

Part of the analysts’ job is to figure out whether or not the information that they are getting from witnesses, suspects, and even confessing criminals is true. To do that, they are trained to find verbal, behavioral, and even written cues that indicate some kind of deception in an interview or statement. Deception isn’t quite the same as lying, though. “It’s difficult to lie,” says Jonathan, “but it’s very easy to deceive. People deceive all the time – we do it when we’re presenting a certain image of ourselves, like wearing makeup, or giving ourselves important-sounding job titles. Deceiving is just a question of concealing part of the truth.”

Here are some of the cues that Jonathan would look for when analyzing an interview: “What you’re looking for is a lack of commitment in the story. You may have a long story where the person telling it never uses the word ‘I’. For example, if you ask ‘what did you do yesterday?’, someone who is trying to deceive you would say ‘got up, got breakfast, went out, went to work, came home’. Often people will find ways to avoid committing to stories that aren’t true, and pronoun use is one of those ways.” Jonathan also suggests paying attention to changes in tense. Present tense often indicates a creative process, whereas past tense indicates recollection of memory. Finally, there is the emotional content of the statement or in the interview. People who are inventing a story or event will often leave out any emotional content, like mentioning that they were frightened or angry.

Last Words

Coming up on BOOKED Television:

BOOKED investigates Natsuo Kirino's Out. Expert lineup for this show: Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Jonathan Alston; Journalist and Novelist, Rita Feutl; Literature Instructor, Melissa Jacques; Cultural Anthropologist, Mark Watson.
Check Broadcast Dates and Times

Correction: Our last issue failed to correctly identify the expert lineup for BOOKED Investigates Peter Robinson’s Strange Affair.  The experts should have read Intelligence Officer, Roger Adkin; Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Jonathan Alston; Book Reviewer, Paul Bergen; and Constable Curtis Rind.

Here are the upcoming books, in order, that our experts will be dissecting in the weeks ahead.
Get reading!

Out - Natsuo Kirino
Dark Places - Jon Evans
The Closers - Michael Connelly
Blackfly Season - Giles Blunt
Blood Memory - Greg Iles
The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett
Memory Book - Howard Engel
Shock Wave - James O. Born
Cross Bones - Kathy Reichs
He Who Fears the Wolf - Karin Fossum

For more information about the booklist or upcoming shows, visit

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