Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Matt Rees's top ten novels set in the Arab world

Matt Beynon Rees has lived in Jerusalem since 1996. He covered the Middle East for over a decade for the Scotsman, then Newsweek, and from 2000 until 2006 as Time magazine's Jerusalem bureau chief. He published his first novel featuring Palestinian detective Omar Yussef, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, in 2007, which won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award. A Grave in Gaza and The Samaritan's Secret followed in 2008 and 2009.

The Fourth Assassin, out in February, follows Omar to visit his son in New York's "Little Palestine" in Brooklyn.

For the Guardian, Rees named his top ten novels set in the Arab world. One book on his list:
Let It Come Down by Paul Bowles

Writers look for resonance. You might say Bowles has us with his title alone, which resonates with doom even before he writes his first sentence. It's drawn from Macbeth. When the murderers come upon Banquo, he says that it looks like there'll be rain. The murderer lifts his knife and says: "Let it come down." Then he kills him. Such doom impends throughout this book, yet the main character seems barely to want to avoid it. He's become fatalistic, as have so many of the Arabs around him in the face of political and social injustice. Bowles wrote as he travelled through North Africa. Each day, he incorporated something into his writing that had actually happened during the previous day's journey. I often use that technique, adding details from yesterday's stroll through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem or a refugee camp in Bethlehem.
Read about the other novels on Rees's list.

Visit Matt Beynon Rees' website and blog, and watch The Samaritan's Secret video.

The Page 69 Test: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

My Book, The Movie: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

The Page 69 Test: A Grave in Gaza.

The Page 69 Test: The Samaritan's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue