Friday, November 16, 2007

If you make a revolution, make it for fun

There’s plenty of humor in The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill’s first novel about Dr. Siri Paiboun, sole coroner in Laos. Some of the broadest jokes are at the expense of communist officials and functionaries. There’s plenty of humor in the fourth Siri novel, Anarchy and Old Dogs, as well, but the humor is directed more at politics than politicians and thus dugs deeper.

Some examples:

In this idealistic state, Civilai had chosen to ignore that absence in Laos of one of the fundamental components for a successful communist revolution. There was no rebellious Lao proletariat. There were no factories in which to organize unions, and hardly any working class. ... But by the time the two young men arrived back in Asia in 1929, the seeds of revolt had been planted in their fertile minds. Communism would save their repressed countrymen whether they liked it or not.
and

Haeng held out the book.

“What is it?”

“It’s Chairman Mao’s `Little Red Book.’ We’ve had it translated into Lao.”

“What on earth for?”
and

“A good socialist is not a dustbin, with a closed lid. He is a letter box, always open to receive news.”

“Well, that explains everything. I’ll do my best to keep my slot open.”
That’s all delightful, I think, and it edges Anarchy and Old Dogs closer to satire than the earlier book.

What other crime fiction does this? What other crime writers are satirical, aiming at serious targets, while retaining their sense of humor?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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4 Comments:

Blogger Barbara said...

Shane Maloney comes to mind. I suppose Carl Hiassen would also fit the bill. Peter Bowen, definitely.

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Christopher Brookmyre probably belongs in that group as well. Shane Maloney is an interesting case. As much fun as his books are, and as much as he loves to make fun of the venality of Murray Whelan's Labor colleagues, for some reason I think of his books more as comedy than as satire. Or maybe he's so funny that the mirth sometimes make me forget the satire.

Hiaasen's brand of yuck-it-up slapstick has never attracted me, which means I reserve judgment on him. I know he writes about environmental politics in Florida, so he takes on the big targets that political satire probably calls for. I once did read an interesting article that took Hiaasen to task for an alleged misportrayal of how environmental politics really works. If I ever find an online version, I'll post it.

Thanks for the heads up on Peter Bowen. I don't know his work. What should I know about him?

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Barbara said...

Well ... he's not really satirical either, but he's funny and healthily skeptical of received wisdom. He writes the Garbiel du Pre series set in eastern Montana featuring a metis cattle inspector who plays the fiddle and drinks while driving (too fast) and oh yeah, solves crimes. The main distinction of the series is its voice - it's unique. If Ken Bruen grew up half Indian in Montana he might sound like it.

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks. That sounds very much worth reading. The description of the protagonist is irresistible.

November 17, 2007  

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