Thursday, October 05, 2006

Learning From Lovejoy

Jonathan Gash (with some help from you) has already given me lessons in English as spoken in England. But that's not all one can learn from The Rich and the Profane. If Lovejoy's knowledgeable asides on antiques don't grab you, perhaps his paragraphs about the techniques of charcoal-making or the social history of drill halls will. The man and his creator are walking librarians who, in the engaging manner of librarians everywhere, love to share their knowledge.

Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine taught me a lot about life in 1990s Shanghai, and Lawrence Block taught me a little about stamp collecting. I learned from Janwillem van de Wetering about the interesting structure of Dutch police departments. And don't even get me started on what Robert van Gulik taught me about law and public administration in Tang Dynasty China.

That's some of what I've learned from crime fiction. What about you? What crime novels and stories taught you, transported you, made you feel that you knew a place or a subject -- or even that you had just picked up some weird but memorable piece of information you didn't know before?

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Stuart said...

Nicholas Freeling's Van der Valk novels provide wonderful insights into Dutch life and culture (good on food too; Freeling was a chef for a time). Sjowall and Wahloo's procedurals are excellent primers on Sweden. Several of Pierre Magnan's crime novel have now been translated and there is no-one better to give you a real feeling for la France profonde: this is not Peter Mayle territory.

October 06, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for what look like some excellent suggestions. Freeling was a chef for fifteen years, from what I read in my ever-at-hand Good Reading Guide to Crime Fiction. I recall being intrigued by the entry on Freeling. Thanks for making me think of him again.

Sjowall and Wahloo are classics, of course, and one review offers this tantalizing assessment of Magnan:

"While British readers remain condemned to a dour world of Rebus, or Dalziel and Pascoe, the French have for many years been able to enjoy Pierre Magnan's extraordinary, eccentric crime novels set in Provence."(http://enjoyment.
independent.co.uk/books/reviews/
article310469.ece
) I'm sold!

October 06, 2006  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

The Tony Hillerman books are a very good introduction to the Navajo and Hopi culture and the geography of the area.
David Liss is master of his subject the 17th and 18th century financial markets.
Stephen Booth's Dancing with Virgins inspired me to visit the Peak District National Park one of the most beautiful areas of England.
And of course Simenon, and Freeling gave us a taste of continental Europe before it was fashionable or financially viable to visit.

October 06, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Hmm, I'd forgotten about Liss. Maybe that's because I thought of The Coffee Trader less as a crime novel than as a novel that happened to have some shady dealings somehere near its center. I don't remember any novel off-hand that bespeaks so much learning on the author's part and yet conveys that learning so effortlessly. It's a marvelous book.

October 06, 2006  
Anonymous crimeficreader said...

Peter, I think I may have a long list here when I get to think about it. Perhaps I ought to make a post on my own blog, when I have collected my random thoughts into some semblance of order!
Thanks for the provocation!

October 06, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

You're quite welcome. When one can't create, one should at least provoke -- a blogger's motto, I'd say. By all means, come up with your own list, and let me know when you do.

Obviously such a list will be of special interest to readers of international crime fiction, so I'll be sure to link to it.

October 06, 2006  

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