Questions about setting
Sutherland writes about hyperlocalization: “crime writers' practice of rooting their narrative not just in some metropolitan setting, but in one which is loaded with a `solidity of specification’ (as Henry James called it) far in excess of what that narrative strictly requires.” He calls this a distinct trend in U.S. and British crime fiction of the past fifty years. (Once again a writer on crime fiction invokes Henry James, though not, as Clive James did in the New Yorker in April, to beat crime fiction over the head.)
Sutherland’s piece on hyperlocalization is hypershort and, though he cites authors he says exemplify the practice, he gives no samples. That makes it difficult to know precisely what he means. I was surprised that he dated the trend at half a century. I’d have extended it further back, to Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles in the 1940s. Sutherland cites Ian Rankin, Sara Paretsky, J.A. Konrath, among other writers. Whom would you include? Which crime writers do you think fill their work with “`solidity of specification’ far in excess of what that narrative strictly requires”? And how do they do this?
The other essay, by Ingrid Black, focuses more on killers:
“The obsession with geography which inevitably grips any crime writer who claims a city as their own and tries to stamp their own personality on it is not mere self-indulgence or authorly vanity,” she writes. “It’s an essential counterpart to what the killer, that invisible and unknown protagonist who haunts the pages of every crime novel – the ghost in the machine of the narrative, as it were – does too. The only person who knows the city as well as the detective is the perpetrator. They match their knowledge of the city one against another.”Is she right to assert that crime writers who put their own stamp on a city do so, in effect, to have their protagonists match wits with the killer?
© Peter Rozovsky 2007