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Booth, Stephen 1952–

Booth, Stephen 1952–

PERSONAL:

Born 1952, in Burnley, Lancashire, England; married; wife's name Lesley. Education: Birmingham Polytechnic (now University of Central England), B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, photography, computers, the paranormal, local history, raising dairy goats.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Retford, Nottinghamshire, England. Agent—Teresa Chris, Teresa Chris Literary Agency, 43 Musard Rd., London, England, W6 8NR. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Journalist. Worked briefly as a school teacher before taking a newspaper job in Cheshire, England, beginning 1974; worked for newspapers and magazines, including as a sub-editor for London Daily Express and London Guardian, production editor for Farming Guardian, and for Barnsley Chronicle and Huddersfield Examiner. Full-time freelance novelist, 2001—.

MEMBER:

British Guild of Editors (former regional secretary), British Goat Society, Just Kidding Goat Society, The Toggenburg Breeders Society (president).

AWARDS, HONORS:

Lichfield Prize, Lichfield International Arts Festival, 1999, for unpublished work The Only Dead Thing; Black Dog was named one of the six best crime novels of 2000, London Evening Standard; Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel, 2001, for Black Dog, and 2002, for Dancing with Virgins; Dagger in the Library Award, UK Crime Writers' Association, 2003, for Blind to the Bones.

WRITINGS:

CRIME NOVELS

Black Dog, Scribner (New York, NY), 2000.

Dancing with the Virgins, Scribner (New York, NY), 2001.

Blood on the Tongue, Pocket (New York, NY), 2002.

Blind to the Bones, Scribner (New York, NY), 2003.

One Last Breath, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.

The Dead Place, HarperCollins (London, England), 2005, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Scared to Live, HarperCollins (London, England), 2006.

Dying to Sin, HarperCollins (London, England), 2007.

Also author of mystery novel The Only Dead Thing.

OTHER

Produced, edited, and coauthored nonfiction title The Toggenburg. Contributor to periodicals, including Scottish Memories, Countrylovers, Catworld, and Canal and Riverboat; former editor of the British Goat Society's Year Book.

SIDELIGHTS:

British writer Stephen Booth worked as a journalist for twenty-five years before publishing his first mystery novel, Black Dog. During his early career, he had been a teacher; he then entered journalism as a reporter covering rugby. Later assignments were wide ranging, from reporting on village Women's Institute meetings to coverage of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. Booth has said that working on the serial murder story had a direct influence on his leap to fiction writing. He began to look at the subject in a new light when his wife pointed out that even he could be a suspect in the case, and that she could not provide him with an alibi during the hours he worked the night shift.

In Black Dog Booth writes about a fictional English village, Edendale, which he locates in the Derbyshire Peak District. The story involves the town's upper and lower classes, and reveals the secrets and facades maintained by many of the characters. It is retired lead miner, Harry Dickinson, who gives the police the clue leading to the body of Laura Vernon, the daughter of the area's richest couple—or, rather, it is Dickinson's black dog who sniffs out the teenager's shoe while on a walk. Harry, however, is otherwise uncooperative with the detectives working on the case. The girl's father, Graham, is revealed to be the host of orgies at his mansion. Further complicating the investigation of Laura's murder are the personal problems of detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. Their prickly relationship deteriorates when they begin competing for a promotion. Both bear heavy emotional burdens: Cooper is haunted by his mother's mental illness and his father's murder, while Fry is trying to cope with a terrifying event from her past. All share the "black dog" of melancholy in one form or another.

Booth received encouraging words from reviewers regarding his first novel. In Tangled Web UK Paul Johnston commented: "The characters are very well developed, even the minor ones being given a depth that's unusual." The critic called the book a "notable debut which grips and moves in turn." Booklist critic Connie Fletcher found Black Dog to be "chilling and thought-provoking," with a tone "satisfyingly similar to Ruth Rendell's." Fletcher also saluted Booth's use of the female cop in an unsympathetic role, calling it "a welcome change from most crime fiction." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that readers looking for fast action might object to the book's pace and philosophizing characters, but commended Booth's success at uncovering "secret lives against the seemingly placid background of a country village." Maddy Van Hertbruggen had warmer praise in her review for About.com Mystery Books; she judged that Booth was remarkably adept for a first-time novelist and added: "If I were to assign a star to each of the main writing elements of plot, characterization, pace, dialog and setting, Booth would get 5 stars, hands down."

The success on both sides of the Atlantic of Booth's inspecting team of Cooper and Fry has led to numerous other titles in the series. The second installment, Dancing with the Virgins, "provides another psychologically complex British police procedural," according to Library Journal reviewer Michele Leber. Here, Cooper and Fry continue their strained relationship while investigating a death at a nearby prehistoric stone circle, the Nine Virgins. A Publishers Weekly contributor had a mixed assessment of this work, remarking that Booth is "successful at evoking the desolate moor, with its windswept cairns, stone circles and prehistoric burial grounds," but at the same time fails to focus on a compelling plot. "For most mystery fans, the mix will fail to gel," the reviewer predicted. However, Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher had a brighter assessment, praising this novel for its "clockwork suspense in a riveting setting."

In the 2002 installment to the series, Blood on the Tongue, the prickly relationship between Cooper and Fry appears to be leading to romance, while Cooper becomes involved in solving a possible crime from the days of World War II. Praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who felt "the early promise of Booth's debut novel … is fully realized here, and new readers should scurry to find his earlier books." Marilyn Stasio, writing in the New York Times Book Review, also had lauded Blood on the Tongue, observing that Booth delivers "a properly chilling atmosphere for this bleak winter's tale." Booklist contributor Fletcher concluded: "Booth's way with atmosphere, procedure, and the absurdist comedy of the station house make this another winner."

The lonely village of Withens is slowly becoming knee deep in corpses in Blind to the Bones. There have been three homicides already, and Cooper is on the case, hoping to prevent further mishap. A Publishers Weekly contributor considered this novel to be a "moody, meandering tale" that is "short on suspense and long on melodrama." Other reviewers found more to like in this fourth installment of the Copper and Fry procedurals, however. Booklist writer Fletcher likened it to a mixture of "Stephen King paranoia with Charlotte Bronte wildness of atmosphere and character," declaring it an "absorbing atmospheric mystery."

With One Last Breath Cooper and Fry pursue a case from the past when a convicted killer vows vengeance after serving thirteen years in prison. People close to the original crime begin dying, and Cooper and Fry might also be on the killer's list. Tina Jordan, writing in Entertainment Weekly, commented that this mystery novel is "every bit as darkly intelligent and finely twisted" as the work of Elizabeth George. Further praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who asserted: "A master of psychological suspense, Booth hauntingly evokes the ambiguities of place and the enduring complexity of human relationships."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Black Dog, p. 221; September 1, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Dancing with the Virgins, p. 55; September 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of Blood on the Tongue, p. 61; October 1, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Blind to the Bones, p. 302.

Entertainment Weekly, August 28, 2006, Tina Jordan, review of One Last Breath, p. 69.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2000, review of Black Dog, p. 1073; September 1, 2001, review of Dancing with the Virgins, p. 1246; August 1, 2002, review of Blood on the Tongue, p. 1076; September 1, 2003, review of Blind to the Bones, p. 1100; June 1, 2006, review of One Last Breath, p. 547.

Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Michele Leber, review of Dancing with the Virgins, p. 117; November 1, 2002, Michele Leber, review of Blood on the Tongue, p. 133; October 15, 2003, Michele Leber, review of Blind to the Bones, p. 95.

New York Times Book Review, November 3, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of Blood on the Tongue, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000, review of Black Dog, p. 66; September 3, 2001, review of Dancing with the Virgins, p. 65; October 7, 2002, review of Blood on the Tongue, p. 55; September 8, 2003, review of Blind to the Bones, p. 54; June 26, 2006, review of One Last Breath, p. 31.

ONLINE

About.com Mystery Books,http://www.mysterybooks.about.com/ (September 24, 2000), Maddy Van Hertbruggen, review of Black Dog.

January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (March 19, 2007), J. Kingston Pierce, "Dark Star Rising."

Stephen Booth's Home Page,http://www.stephen-booth.com (March 19, 2007).

Tangled Web UK,http://www.twbooks.co.uk/ (May 14, 2000), Paul Johnston, review of Black Dog.

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