Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keeping it fresh

Sean Chercover and Howard Shrier, the guest authors for "Noir at the Bar T.O. style" in Toronto on March 10, both face the challenge of keeping an old genre fresh. Each writes novels set in a big city (Toronto, principally, for Shrier, Chicago for Chercover), and each has as his protagonist a private investigator who's male, tough but reasonably sensitive, single and unhappily so.

How do these authors keep that well-worn fictional territory fresh? Yesterday I cited one way Shrier does it. Today is Chercover's turn. For one thing, he'll sharpen a traditional P.I. trait just enough to make it stand out. One such example in Big City, Bad Blood is his protagonist's willingness to use violence when necessary. Chercover's guy goes a bit farther than most. You'll recognize the example I have in mind when you read the book.

This protagonist is also comfortable with technology without compromising his toughness, slipping into geekiness, or getting obtrusive about how much research the author has done. I'd flagged one nice example of this, which I'll share with you as I soon as I can find the page it's on.

Now it's your turn. What are your favorite examples of authors' strategies for keeping a traditional genre fresh?

(Whether intentionally or otherwise, Shrier and Chercover have also given their P.I. heroes resonant names: Jonah — as in the whale guy who bounces back to life after being in a pretty tough situation — Geller in Shrier's case, Ray Dudgeon in Chercover's.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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6 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

The only example which springs to my mind right now is the Danish author Susanne Staun whose female detective has had as many plastic operations as Michael Jackson and still turns the heads of young men at quite an advanced age. Wonderful parody of a large number of middle-aged, male detectives. Unfortunately her books have not been translated into English (quite unfair).

February 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A protagonist like that has marvelous comic potential. Are the stories comic? Narrated with a straight face? And what is the detective's own attitude toward her extensive surgery?

February 25, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

One could say that the detective´s long history of surgery is comic relief amidst rather dark plots. The novels often feature hard-boiled serial killers, and the detective handles this quite expertly. She just doesn´t want to grow old and wrinkled. - perhaps it is the author´s comment on today´s beauty ideal?

February 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds that way to me. So, when the detective gets weary of life, does she reach for her plastic surgeon's number instead of for a bottle of rye?

February 27, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

She does! - and when her loyal old surgeon refuses to repair her again, reminding her of a certain Michael Jackson, she tries some of the less scrupulous ones :D

February 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That sounds like a spin on the old device of the unscrupulous plastic surgeon who gives criminals new features.

February 28, 2009  

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