Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mukasey warns of global crime; Detectives Beyond Borders asks a question of readers

This article has been rattling around in the files almost five months, and God knows Americans have plenty of newer problems to worry about. Still, it offers one of my two favorite takes on globalization. (The other was an article that pointed out the irony of anti-globalization protesters mobilizing via the most powerful, visible and widespread example of globalization — the Internet.)

WASHINGTON — Organized crime has emerged as a top global threat as mobsters conspire worldwide to prey on everything from energy markets to victims of identity theft, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said yesterday.

No longer just the stuff of mafia lore, organized-crime groups are particularly dangerous when they hook up with terrorists to turn a profit, Mukasey said in touting a new government focus on mobsters.

Speaking to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, he said that the “United States faces a new and more modern threat, from international organized crime. We can’t ignore criminal syndicates in other countries on the naive assumption that they are a danger only in their homeland.” Earlier this year, Mukasey convened the first meeting of the U.S. Organized Crime Council since 1993. — AP

With your indulgence for reproducing an old article, I'll ask two questions: What current crime fiction best explores phenomena made possible by globalization, and what opportunities, as yet unexplored, does globalization offer crime authors?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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16 Comments:

Blogger Ali Karim said...

I guess a story seaped in 'Oil' would kindda be fun, but then again the weird, surreal and scary finacial markets....but then again it will age rather fast as surreal news comes in each day

-But great blog

Ali

September 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note. Yep, it's hard to come up with new thrillers in a world where yesterday's ally is today's member of the Axis of Evil. In the world of international thrillers, how about an alternative universe in which Liechtenstein, San Marino and Luxembourg are the dangerous, belligerent and immoral powers?

But what about crime stories of the more stay-at-home kind, as opposed to thrillers, though still made possible by globalization? Identity theft and trafficking of prostitutes from Russia are two crimes that would seem to offer rich possibilities to crime novelists. Bill James' Girls is one example, with its gangs and girls from Albania vying for power in the UK. And then there's Henning Mankell's Firewall, a small-city plice procedural set in motion by a plot out of the era of globalization.

September 28, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

The aspect of organized crime I find most interesting is that it is kind of a parasite that relies on a host - a legitimate economy.

For all the talk of new technology, identity theft and so on, the vast majority of organized crime in the world is still primarily involved in drug smuggling, small arms sales and counterfiet commodities.

What's great for crime fiction is that although these gangs often co-operate, there's still plenty of conflict.

The globalisation of organized crime isn't going any more smoothly than any other globalization.

The terrorist angle seems unlikely as most acts of terrorism in the western world are really low budget affairs and there's just not enough profit for organized crime.

As it was in The Godfather, organized crime is the ideal metaphor for capitalism and these days capilalism is most concerned with globalization.

September 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"The globalisation of organized crime isn't going any more smoothly than any other globalization."

John, I had not thought about this before, but I wonder how setbacks in the "legitimate" economy resonate in globalized organized crime. When the economy booms in one country and tanks in another, for example, fewer people might want to move from country one to country two, which could mean fewer opportunities for smugglers of illegal immigrants, for one.

I wonder who the pioneers of globalized organized crime were. The IRA and Libya have to be part of the story, not to mention the IRA's American supporters.

Rivalry among gangs is just the sort of thing I had in mind when I asked about new opportunities for crime fiction in a time of globalization. That's the sort of thing Bill James does in the example I mentioned above, and he does so in rather touching and funny fashion in a a few scenes from Girls.

September 29, 2008  
Anonymous Karen C said...

Because my brain is mostly lost in a fugue of lists and things I should have done last week - I can't think of any particular instance, but when I read your article I was immediately struck by the thought that many of the books from Bitter Lemon Press address so many issues that you could regard as global. But then I can't dredge a specific title from the mire at the moment. I guess we have to expect something based around the global credit crisis eventually - but I hope above hope above hope that whoever tackles it manages to make it interesting - which finance frequently isn't.

September 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, The Russian Passenger, perhaps?

Another possibility for crime fiction in the era of globalization might focus less on technology and finance and the like, and more on "human" issues that have been around forever but have been brought into sharper focus by globalization: loneliness and dislocation, for instance.

September 29, 2008  
Anonymous Karen C said...

The Russian Passenger - thank you thank you thank you :)

September 29, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

There's a good book out now, non-fiction, by a journalist named Misha Glenny called McMafia: the Globalization of Organized Crime.

He makes a good case for a lot of organized crime rising up in Eastern Europe after tha fall of the Soviet Union. Glenny says the end of communism, combined with the, "liberalization of international finance and commodities markets" - what we'd call Reagonomics and Thatcherism, created an "significant worldwide upsurge in trade, investment and the creation of wealth. The latter, however, was distributed very unevenly."

It made for a terrific development ground for criminal activity - especially with all those secret police and military guys out of work.

There's also a line in the book that says something about professional criminals developing a very good ability to seek out other professional criminals - because only the ones who are good at that rise up in the criminal world.

It's probably not that different from politics or the business world at all.

September 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome, Karen. I was actually thinking of another Bitter Lemon book, The Snowman. I checked my hazy recollections against Bitter Lemon's list and found that The Russian Passenger might be a likelier candidate. Globalized or not, I recommend both.

September 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John: And then a boom in criminal activity fuels growth in jails, calls for more police ... a prosperity cycle!

In the matter of what to do with unemployed former paramilitary men, the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast of 2004 must be a landmark of socially progressive crime, if the widely held belief about the robbery's purpose is true: £26.5 million to set up a pension fund.

September 29, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll merge my answer to this post and the " All the news that's not fit for newspapers to print"one.
I have already mentioned the theory that crime fiction has occupied in Italy the space once inhabited by investigative journalism.
In recent years one of the biggest successes has been Gomorra by Roberto Saviano,a fact/fiction book about the economic organization of Camorra (the Neapolitan Mafia).
The book drew extensively from previous newspaper investigations, yet it captured the imagination in a way they failed to do.
The biggest Italian environmental NGO,Legambiente,who every year publishes the Rapporto Ecomafie (a report on all kinds of environmental crimes ) has started a series of noir novels about environmental crimes, Verdenero (verde=green nero=black,or in this case,noir).
The case of Ilaria Alpi,killed in Somalia while she was investigating the dumping of toxic and radioactive waste into African countries,demonstrates how this kind of crimes have today a transnational aspect.
Many Italian crime novels explore the new forms crime in the globalized world:Carlotto,for example,has dealt with trafficking of women,the conflict between the old and new mafias,illegal waste disposal and food adulteration on International scale,the recycling of Croatian and other Balcanic militias into smuggling and drug running,etc.

Ciao,
Marco

October 01, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What a comment! Thanks.

I had known a number of Italian crime writers either combined investigation with their fiction or carried out investigations in other forums.

Verdenero is the hippest, sharpest and cleverest crime-fiction idea I've heard in some time. Do the novels live up to the exciting idea that gave rise to them?

October 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say yes,but I've read only a few,and by authors I already liked.
It helps that many of them had demonstrated an interest in environmental issues even before,both in their fiction and in real life activism.
Ciao,
Marco

October 02, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall have to investigate the subject further. What an intriguing idea this series is.

October 02, 2008  
Anonymous Ronson said...

Globalization and cheap flights have brought an unprecedented amount of tourists to Barcelona. This site has a bunch of stories by Larry Kovaks, a "tourist detective" who solves scams on tourists in Barcelona's city centre. Campy but good reading if you haven't seen it!

http://kovakspi.com

October 04, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like the idea of a tourist detective. Thanks.

October 04, 2008  

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