Friday, October 19, 2007

Disjointed (me, not Colin Cotterill’s book)

I’m reading three or four or five books, including non-crime, so posting may be less cohesive than unusual the next few days. Feel free to respond coherently if you’d like to, though.

First, I may have to retract some of the spleen I vented this week at self-reference in crime fiction. The cause is an exchange from Colin Cotterill’s Anarchy and Old Dogs that includes the following:

“`Very well. In that case, I suspect what we have here is a message written in invisible ink.’

“Phosy raised one eyebrow. `And how would an old bush surgeon know a thing like that?’

“`Inspector Phosy, allow me to reintroduce you to Inspector Maigret of the Palais de Justice. I became very involved in a number of his cases as they were outlined in the pages of l’Oeuvre while I was in France. Unlike ourselves, Inspector Maigret has the very good sense to be fictional, and thus can dispense with such human annoyances as inefficiency and budget restraints… ’

“`I’m impressed. And all this time I thought there was nothing positive to be gained from reading mysteries.’

“`You’d be surprised.’”
Why does it work? The exchange is almost a full page long, which helps. The conversation is believable, and it’s allowed to develop, as a real conversation would; why shouldn’t two colleagues chat about mysteries?

Further, I suspect that many readers are complicit in the sentiment that Cotterill’s Dr. Siri expresses. We indulge his gentle acknowledgment that Maigret is not quite real because it accounts for our love of Maigret. (And that in itself is nice work on Cotterill’s part. Attempts to explain author Georges Simenon’s fantastic popularity are generally far weightier than Cotterill’s sensible observation.)

Third, the exchange is nicely paced, a gentle comedy sketch in miniature, a little story, and not a string of annoyingly self-referential quips.

Fourth, some of the lines are funny – gently so, of course.

I hinted strongly at incoherence, so here's a non-crime-fiction note: In a possible first in its years-long history, the comic strip Sally Forth was mildly amusing yesterday.

End of note.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous Maxine said...

I'm jealous that you've got a copy of CC's next book to read! Lucky you.

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Have you read all three of the previous ones? I don't know the U.K. vs. U.S. publication schedules, but my copy of Anarchy and Old Dogs was an advance readers copy from my newspaper's office.

I have a copy of Thirty Three Teeth, but I had a perverse desire to read the series out of order. And here's another thing about Cotterill: His titles are clever.

October 19, 2007  

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