Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mining for crime fiction in Mongolia

I don't normally read interviews with general secretaries of people's revolutionary parties, but Michael Walters links to one such interview, from the Moscow News, with Yondon Otgonbayar of Mongolia, that might be of interest to crime-fiction readers of an international bent.

Potential crime and crime-thriller stories fairly jump out: about resentment over incursion of foreign investment combined with eagerness for such investment; about natural resources, and not just of a mineral kind; and all with the looking presence of Mongolia's huge neighbors, China and Russia. There is an unexpected bit of wry humor, too, when the secretary remarks apropos of another of Mongolia's trading partners that Ulan Bator is probably the only capital city in the world with more Korean than Chinese restaurants.

Economic upheaval is in full force in many places, and that's always good for crime fiction, if sometimes uncomfortable and worse for those who live through it. Read the interview and spot the potential Mongolian crime stories in it. While you're at it, what other crime fiction trends or stories may have been sparked, a la Ireland, by money and economic success? What countries and regions are fertile ground for such stories in the future?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Anonymous Michael Walters said...

Thanks for the link, Peter - it's a fascinating interview, I think, with some quite unexpected insights. And, as you rightly point out, plenty of food for future books...

March 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

For some reason, I found the part about Mongolia's plummeting meat exports to Russia of special interest. That and the reminder of Mongolia's distance from any coast, with the implications that has for the country's import and export trade.

March 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about Poland? England has been inundated for some years now with excellent plumbers, builders, nannies and cleaners from that fair land. But now they are on balance moving home, as the zloty is doing OK and England is less economically attractive in comparision.

The above is not related to any particular crime novel, but I have provided someone with news of a "coming trend" if someone would now care to write the book!

(Peter, not sure if you have read Gene Kerrigan, forgive my memory, but he covers the Irish aspects well, as does Declan Burke of course).

March 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

It's interesting that some of the Poles are moving back, especially if they are doing so in considerable numbers. That could give rise to some intriguing stories.

I haven't read Gene Kerrigan, but I have The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes, and it has to be signifcant that that novel opens with its protagonist returning home from a long sojourn in the U.S.

March 07, 2008  
Blogger Barbara said...

Arnaldur Indridason addresses economic boom times in Iceland in his series. His detective is not happy about the change from an isolated, hard-scrabble rural life to urbanization and the money flooding in from their financial enterprises. He also dines on authentic (and rather gruesome-sounding) local cuisine.

Now... drop everything and read Kerrigan. The ending of The Midnight Choir is devastating. Actually, the whole book is.

March 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note. I don't remember that sort of criticism from the one novel of Arnaldur's that I've read, Jar City. I know he tends to set scenes at construction sites, which could be relevant.

Maybe I'll start Kerrigan from the third chapter. I've started The Midnight Choir twice, but I've been unable to get past the gimmicky wisecracks with which Kerrigan ends the first two chapters. I'm perfectly willing to consider that my own impatience may be to blame, rather than any fault of the author's.

March 09, 2008  
Blogger Barbara said...

Arnaldur's main character, Erlendur, grew up in a rural area and he laments (in subtle ways) having to live in the modern world. His daughter is a heroin addict, his son is estranged, the language, which is closer to the language of the Sagas than to other Scandinavian languages, is endangered, and nobody else eats traditional foods. (I wouldn't either, but then, I'm not and Icelander.)

That said, the old days aren't viewed nostalgically. Silence of the Grave has two narrative layers, one set in post-WWII Iceland and the other in the present. The isolation in the past is dreadful; the book is one of the most honest and upsetting depictions of domestic violence I've ever read, and it's portrayed as something that was more tolerated in the past than now. It's a brilliant book.

I can't say I loved Kerrigan's book - but it's one that I keep thinking about. See if it works by skipping ahead. There's a lot going on in that book.

On a different note, Tana French's In the Woods also offers some commentary on the Celtic Tiger and its cost.

March 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks again for a thought-provoking comment. You make me want to read and reread Arnaldur even more than Kerrigan. I’d always understood that Icelandic made a conscious effort to preserve old words, so Erlendur’s worries on that front would hit home. (I’ve made a few posts here about Njal’s Saga, by the way.)

In re Kerrigan's book, I'm reminded of Clive James' comments in his New Yorker article about international crime fiction:

"With respect to crime books that show a genuine literary gift, my pick of the current batch would have to be Gene Kerrigan’s The Midnight Choir ... Kerrigan’s prose ... is luxury stuff: brief, funny descriptions, phrases that give you the speaker’s age (“Every move totally ace”), and a complete financial analysis of a city whose property prices are going up like a flock of flamingos off a lake of money.

"I would gladly believe it all, except that Kerrigan doesn’t. Synnott, his man of integrity, spends the first half of the book being incorruptible, and the second half trying to frame the perps. Serpico turns into the Prince of the City, and finally we have no hero. Down these mean streets a man must go who is as mean as the streets are? Genre fiction that gets too far into the ambiguous tends to remind us that if we had a hankering for the quasi-meaningless we could have stuck with le nouveau roman. It would be nice to think that Kerrigan had got himself lost in a genuine search for complexity, but I fear that he just became impatient with the form."

James, who looks down on crime fiction, thinks Kerrigan grew impatient with the form. That might be another way of saying that he was incapable of executing it well. The clumsy wisecracks with which he ends the first two chapters might support such a contention.

March 09, 2008  

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