Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crime in Ireland, crime in the wider world, and a question

Declan Burke, author of The Big O and keeper of the Crime Always Pays blog, sets his sights on the dimensions and foundations of the Irish crime-fiction boom here. He offers a lively review of the theories, and one might surprise you: "Money is the great leveller, and in an Ireland where the vast majority of the population have benefited from the economic boom, the erstwhile great and good can no longer depend on deferential treatment, while the moneyed classes are no longer deserving of their pedestal."

Further to the south, I've finished Solea, final volume in Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles trilogy. The novel is just as romantic as its predecessors, Total Chaos and Cheops, just as besotted with the light of Marseilles and just as pained by the memory of lost love. But this novel thinks globally, too. The narrative is punctuated with U.N. and other data about the hellish intermingling of the criminal and "legitimate" economies and with harsh criticism of governments, especially France's, for failing to act.

Izzo presents the information as research by a reporter whom the protagonist, Fabio Montale, is trying to find and protect. The excerpts are sprinkled throughout the novel, set it in italic type in chunks sometimes a page or two long. The presentation, set off narratively and typographically from the main action, functions like a play within a play, making its impact precisely because of its distinctive presentation.

And now, a question: That's how Jean-Claude Izzo presented blocks of factual information; how do your favorite writers do it? What thrillers make history or diplomacy come alive without making the story die? What police procedurals do a good job with forensic detail? What mysteries taught you much about an unfamiliar city or a new field of endeavor?

Or tell me about some novels that failed to do the job.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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6 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

Well, there was Advice and Consent, which won a Pulitzer in 1960 for Allen Drury. It was the first book I ever read which purported to show how sleazy the inner circles of Washington DC actually were.

Sadly, its sequels were all much worse; they mostly reflected Drury's increasing hatred for the liberal masses.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a good choice, the first to show something that has since become a cliche. But think of a couple of examples from the book, compelling scenes that, say, taught you something about Senate procedure. How did Drury manage to make factual data exciting?

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I don't remember it detailing Senate procedures. What I remember is the depiction of the fine art of Washington character assassination with rumor and innuendo, ultimately leading to a suicide.

I imagine that back in 1960 that was startling. 47 years later it's not surprising at all, particularly after the Whitewater and Swift Boat episodes. It might even be considered legitimate behavior now.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Might be considered legitimate? Hell, there are highly paid "opposition research" consultants in Washington.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Grins. I'm a visitor, thus polite. I get much more vehement at my blog, as you may have noticed.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Yes, I did notice. I didn't know Drury had kept writing after his big success. He did, but his work was shunned by critics -- part of a liberal conspiracy, of course.

One thing I like about Jean-Claude Izzo's invocation of politics is that he wrote about the results and consequences of policies and attitudes -- of economies becoming inundated with illegally gained money, of people dying because such activities go unchecked, of immigrants, other recent Frenchmen and how they live. He didn't get bogged down in party rivalries or that silly conservative/liberal duality the way we in the U.S. do. Sure, the National Front was anathema to him, but beyond that there is little talk of petty political squabbling. He got to the heart of the matter, which I like to think would be refreshing irrespective of whether one agrees with him

Of course, inter- and intra-party squabbling can be fun, too, as in Shane Maloney's novels about Murray Whelan.

August 13, 2007  

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