Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bill James

I've raved about his Harpur & Iles novels before, and I'll rave about them again. For now, the opening words from two of the books:

from In Good Hands:

"If you knew how to look, a couple of deaths from the past showed now and then in Iles' face."

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from The Detective is Dead:

"When someone as grand and profitable as Oliphant Kenward Knapp was suddenly taken out of the business scene, you had to expect a bloody big rush to grab his domain, bloody big meaning not just bloody big, but big and very bloody. Harpur was looking at what had probably been a couple of really inspired enthusiasts in the takeover rush. Both were on their backs. Both, admittedly, showed only minor blood loss, narrowly confined to the heart area. Both were eyes wide, mouth wide and for ever gone from the stampede."

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Rob Preece said...

Hi to a fellow Bill James fan. I find his works thoughtful, disturbing, and darkly funny. Iles is one of the most memorable characters I can think of. The way James uses dialogue is, I think, unique.

Rob Preece
Publisher, www.BooksForABuck.com

October 01, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note. Iles is a memorable character. In the context of the stories, so is Harpur. Jack is a terrific supporting character, as are Panicking Ralph, Denise and, especially, Harpur's daughters. And some of the set pieces between the villains are comic gems.

I've made myself a bit of a Harpur & Iles evangelist, since the books are not as widely read as books so rich and unusual and dark and funny should be. The thirteen novels from Club through Naked at the Window, well, I can't imagine that any crime-fiction writer has ever produced a more impressive sustained body of work. Not many writers of any kind, for that matter. I stand by the claim I made in my opening post
http://detectivesbeyondborders.
blogspot.com/2006/09/detectives-beyond-borders.html#links
that Bill James is the best prose stylist who has ever written crime fiction in English.

James has kept the Harpur & Iles series going for twenty-two novels now (twenty-three in a couple of weeks), so I know he has readers. Still, I truly cannot figure out why the books are not more widely known and read than they are. In addition to the fine dialogue and characters, they play into so many contemporary concerns -- urban decay, moral boundaries, even family issues, with Harpur and his hilarious daughters. You just know that if the Harpus & Iles books were a television sitcom, the two daughters would have their own spin-off series.

October 01, 2006  

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