I spent decades travelling for work. I did so much of it that getting on a plane, staying at yet another hotel in yet another foreign city became a chore. In 2018, I stopped. I came home to England and was pleased when a whole year went by without me entering an airport. By 2020, I was getting restless. I wanted to be in places that had a culture that wasn’t mine, formed by a history I didn’t share, speaking a language I either didn’t know or barely grasped. Then COVID-19 arrived and my life was locked down.
I’d still like to travel but I can’t see it happening any time soon. So, I’m reaching for surrogates. I’m watching TV series and movies that have subtitles. I find myself fascinated by the grimy, very familiar, Paris that is on display in the crime series ‘Spiral’ and losing myself in those polished scandi-noir series.
Recently, I’ve been trying to add books to my list of surrogates. I’ve been very disappointed to discover how hard it is to get English translations or genre books. Oddly, I’ve found it easier to get crime books from Japan in translation than crime books from Germany.
One of the things I wanted to be able to do was revisit Switzerland, where I lived for a long time, via crime books not written by British Ex-Pats (although JJ Ward’s books are very good). I didn’t expect to find any. Then I came across Bitter Lemon Press from Wilmington Square Books. They are dedicated to finding good crime books and translating them into English.
You can sort their catalogue by country, with twenty-four countries on offer, including four English-speaking ones. They offered me eight books from Switzerland and seven from Germany.
I’m going to start with ‘The Basel Killings’. It’s a town I know well and, for all its faults, I miss it.
If you have places you’d like to travel to, pick a country in the Bitter Lemon Press catalogue and send you imagination on a trip.
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