Thursday, July 19, 2007

And one more thing ...

When I posted about tributes from one crime-fiction author to another, I forgot this example, from Colin Cotterill's The Coroner's Lunch, which I was reading at the time:

"During his stay in Paris decades before, he'd taken his delight in the weekly serializations of one Monsieur Sim in the l'Oeuvre newspaper ... Siri had been able to solve most of the mysteries long before the inspector had a handle on them."
And, recalls Cotterill's protagonist, the proud Siri Paiboun, he solved the crimes without the benefit of the inspector's pipe. Back in Laos, Siri is delighted to find that Monsieur Sim now writes under his full name of Georges Simenon and that his books have filtered from Vietnam into Laos.

Cotterill thus offers a more elaborate tribute than most, spinning it out into an anecdote and giving his readers not just the information that Siri (and, presumably, Cotterill, too) reads Simenon's Maigret stories, but the historical nugget that Simenon once wrote under the name of Sim, and a plausible example of his phenomenal worldwide popularity.

All this gives me the opportunity to ask you another question, dear readers. How do you feel about such references and tributes? Do they add to the story's interest? One the one hand, if you and I read detective stories, there is no reason why a fictional detective should not do the same thing. On the other, this can serve as a mischievous (or intrusive) reminder that when you read a story, you are not entering a real world, you are just reading a story.

OK, I'm done being ponderous. Now it's your turn. Do your favorite fictional detectives read detective stories? How do you feel about this?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Linkmeister said...

Nero Wolfe didn't read detective novels as such, but I remember that he read Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time and subsequently removed Thomas More's works from his bookshelves because he felt More had framed Richard III.

Jane Haddam's Gregor Demarkian occasionally mentions Wolfe as the kind of detective he'd like to emulate, particularly when Demarkian is required to travel.

I think it's amusing; a tribute from one author to another.

July 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Nero Wolfe is a good choice for the question I asked. He was so precise and regular in his habits that any change was bound to make faithful readers sit up and take notice. I imagine that Archie may have kidded him about reading a detective story. And what better detective story for a man who hates to stir from his own house than Daughter of Time, featuring a detective confined to a hospital bed?

I haven't read Jane Haddam, but if her Gregor Demarkian hates to travel, it would make sense for him to admire Nero Wolfe. Thanks for your comment. It makes me want to read Haddam and reread Rex Stout.

July 21, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Haddam is a good writer, and Demarkian is a good character. For one thing, he's approaching 60 and occasionally feels it. Come to think of it, he's about my age. ;)

Try to read them in order if you can.

July 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

My first thought was that Demarkian is another entry in that large catgory of male loner detectives of a certain age, about which I've written and sparked discussion here: But I guess he's a little older than that, moving in the chronological neighborhood of Stuart M. Kaminsky's Abe Lieberman. I also can't think of any other Armenian detectives off the top of my head. I should check to see if he's mentioned in either of Mystery Readers Journal's two recent issues about ethnic detectives.

July 21, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

He ages as the series does, although it's unclear how much time elapses between "cases." One of the recurring characters started out as a Homicide detective and is now Police Commissioner and running for Mayor; that would have to take some time.

He spent 20 years in the FBI, which he joined right after grad school. That would have made him roughly 45 when he left, I imagine, and there are over 20 books now.

July 22, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I'm not sure I've read any long-running series in chronological order, and in the three or four longest-running series I've read, the characters age little, it all. The changes come in other area.

I've recently read a number of Colin Watson's Flaxborough Chronicles novels, which he wrote over about twenty years. I think those books relate to one another on an elastic time scale. A character implicated in some crime in an earlier might reappear in a later one, to which narrator might remark, "but more than ten years had passed since that unfortunate case," or something similar. But the protagonist and the principal supporting characters do not seem to have aged in that time.

I think Joseph Hansen had his Dave Brandstetter age roughly in line with the publication intervals of the novels. This must be a tricky issue for an author to handle, for the obvious reason that it can take a year or more to write and publish a book whose story takes place in a day.

July 22, 2007  

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