I don’t like wiseacre private eyes in detective stories who say things like “What do you think this is, a detective story?” I don’t like it when a character says, “You watch too much television,” and I hated it when a tough quipster of a fictional private eye said to another character, “You don’t watch enough television.” You want to pay tribute to or poke fun at a genre, be my guest. Just don’t hit me over the head with it.
Thus, the following, from Michael Dibdin’s Back to Bologna, made me wince from beginning to end, which probably made it more of a scowl than a wince:
“He knew that he had fired his current girlfriend, but only because he did that to whoever happened to occupy that position on the last day of each month. Private eyes couldn’t have stable, long-term affairs. They were complex, alienated loners who had to walk the mean streets of the big city, men who might be flawed but were neither tarnished not afraid. Above all, they had to suffer.”The first sentence is funny because it’s unexpected. The second is a warning. The rest is cliché, more grating, not less because the author calls the reader’s attention to his awareness that it’s cliché. “Mean streets.” Heh-heh. Good one, Michael. I get the Chandler joke.
And now, readers, you have the floor: Give some clever examples of self-reference, or some examples that drove you nuts.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
English crime fiction
Italian crime fiction
comic crime fiction