The Germans love crime fiction. Probably every culture loves crime fiction, but the Germans love home-grown crime fiction with a passion. There's something about reading a crime novel where the mutilated corpse is found in your local park and the detectives drink strong black coffee on your local station forecourt that makes you happy. There are market stalls and poky little shops that do a roaring trade in used crime paperbacks. There's the TV crime show Tatort, which has been running since 1970 with the same opening theme, which is not unlike Doctor Who in its nation-building ubiquity and which features police detectives in all sorts of German, Austrian and Swiss regions. People meet up to watch it in bars on Sunday nights, and canteens across the country resound with conversation on Monday lunchtime over whether it was a good one or not.
Of course there are several prizes for crime fiction, reflecting just how important it is to the nation's psyche. The longest-running award is the Deutscher Krimi Preis, and this year it has gone to Friedrich Ani for his novel M. Ani is a big name; I can't count the number of times he's been recommended to me. I just looked him up and found he's won an astounding twenty-one prizes for his work. He sets his crime novels in Munich; M features the popular missing-persons private detective Tabor Süden. Not unlike a certain other famous detective, Süden retired for a while but was brought back by popular demand – now in his nineteenth book. Ani also writes young adult novels, poetry and screenplays, including for the Tatort series. A few of the Tabor Süden books have been adapted for the screen too.
So the most amazing thing about this prolific and talented author is that his books have apparently been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Korean, Chinese and Polish – but not English. Publishers! What's the matter with you? M is set in a city Brits and Americans have heard of, has won a big fat prize, and features neo-Nazis. What else do you need? Good grief.
I'm hoping that someone somewhere is actually translating all these books as we speak, and will publish them all at once to surprise us. Wouldn't that be nice?