Thursday, March 25, 2010

D-E-D Dead!, or light makes right

This one got me thinking about a conversation I once had with a pastry chef who said the precision her work demanded made it the hardest of the kitchen crafts.

Geoff McGeachin's D*E*D Dead! is a comic spy thriller, though you might have guessed that from the title and cover. Its tone is light, and the reading is breezy, made so by a number of ingredients added in just the right amounts. But I suspect hard work and careful planning went into that light tone, and don't think it condescending if I call the book a confection.

What makes it light? McGeachin does not linger long over killings. His hero (and a hero he is) questions his profession but does not agonize over it.

Scenes set in Bali make me want to visit, an ambition I'd never had before. I don't know if McGeachin has spent time in Bali, but if he has, I'd guess he loved it. Clues and teasers are planted throughout the novel, obvious enough for the reader to detect them, but clever enough to create suspense. Details of military supply operations and Balinese life and history are folded into the story without ever turning into information dumps. And that includes mention of terrorist attacks in Bali and touching observations about the island's recovery.

McGeachin was a photographer, and so is his protagonist, Alby Murdoch, the latter as a cover for his job with Australia's Directorate for Extraterritorial Defence, or D.E.D. The operation he uncovers is just wild enough to be the stuff of comedy, but rendered convincingly enough to be plausible.

McGeachin's other novels include Dead and Kicking, Sensitive New Age Spy, and one of my favorite titles, Fat, Fifty & F***ed. Like many an Australian crime story from Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab on, D*E*D Dead! is set in part in Melbourne's suburb of St. Kilda, which must be one of the world's great crime-fiction neighborhoods.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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28 Comments:

Blogger Michele Emrath said...

I NEVER pick up humourous fiction...But your review might change that. Sounds like this author does it well. Thanks!

Michele

March 25, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, you have the right number of asterisks in F,F & F, but too many letters. I'm in a nitpicking mood or I wouldn't have pointed that out.

I'll have to check out McGeachin. There's nothing better than humour when it's done well. Coincidentally, I just came across Eudora Welty's humourous story Why I live at the P.O. online. Enjoyed that a lot.

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The distinction I draw here is between crime fiction that incorporates humor effectively, perhaps at surprising times, such as Allan Guthrie's, Declan Burke's or Ken Bruen's, and more purely comic crime fiction. The latter sometimes seems too preeningly proud of its own jokes. McGeachin writes a nice, light, comic (though with one somber undertone) story and does so very well. That's what got me thinking of the means by which he achieves this.

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, thanks for pointing out my ****-up, since repaired. And thanks for the pointer to Eudora Welty, online, no less.

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I still use the email program named after Ms. Welty, two or three years after Qualcomm quit supporting it.

This non-sequitur brought to you by Federal Express.

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I never knew there was an e-mail program named for her.

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

You've never heard of Eudora? It's a very good standalone product (which is why I still use it).

Well, there's also that "Oh man, if I switch to Gmail then I have to notify every correspondent I've ever had or ever will have again" problem.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, the name does not strike a chord, I'm afraid. What are its advantages?

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

From the Eudora webpage. I'm still using it also. As you say, changing would tedious.

-------------------------------
Eudora® is changing!

Qualcomm and other contributors are developing a new, open source version of Eudora which is currently in early beta test, and can be downloaded from our betas page. Older versions of Eudora are still available for download, though we no longer sell registration codes or provide technical support.
--------------------------------

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall take a look. Change is tedious! lacks the inspirational quality of other slogans and battle cries that have invoked the word, but I can well understand the sentiment. Still, this discussion has me curious about Eudora.

March 26, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

It's that exact same story that inspired the programmer to call the program Eudora (which in turn might be the reason why it has been posted on the internet)

http://art-bin.com/art/or_weltypreface.html

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

"mean pavements"?

Somehow it just doesn't conjure the same imagery as "mean streets."

It doesn't echo in the head as well, either.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

"Change is tedious! lacks the inspirational quality of other slogans and battle cries that have invoked the word..."

True, but when the disadvantages, at least in the short run, outweigh the unknown advantages, then the most significant aspect of change can easily be tedium. [g]

vw: blingly

Change should not be undertaken blingly?

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's that exact same story that inspired the programmer to call the program Eudora (which in turn might be the reason why it has been posted on the internet)

http://art-bin.com/art/or_weltypreface.html


That's not a bad inspiration for a computer program. I think our computer operating system at work ought to be called Ballard.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

vw: blingly

Change should not be undertaken blingly?


Change should not be undertaken blingly, lest the bling wind up leading the bling.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I once had a brief moment of confusion in Belfast when someone gave me directions that included following the "footpath." I figured out what he meant, but I still, I took a bus just to be safe.

And I have just discovered the existence of an English movie from 1938 called Sidewalks of London. I wonder if width determined whether the roadside strip for pedestrians is called a "sidewalk" or "pavement," or whether different parts of the UK use different terms. I find no indication that the title was changed to Sidewalks ... for the American market, though I suppose that is a possibility.

March 26, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

I figured out what he meant, but I still, I took a bus just to be safe.


I'm speechless.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I figured out what he meant, but I still, I took a bus just to be safe.

I'm speechless.


Ha! I said I quickly figured out that "footpath" meant "sidewalk" (though I had not known til that moment the term was part of Belfast speech).I did not say I could make heads of tails out of the directions. Folks talk fast over there.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Oh. I thought you'd misheard it as "footpad," which might mean "mugger" in American.

March 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Names for petty criminals were so much more colorful in bygone days, weren't they -- footpad, cutpurse.

March 26, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"And I have just discovered the existence of an English movie from 1938 called Sidewalks of London."

Its UK-release title was "St. Martin's Lane" -- the title's ref to London's theater district would have been lost on most American viewers. It was released in the US in 1940 under the SOL title.

For more info, see www.tcm.com

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So much for cross-linguistic understanding, then. I wonder if British visitors to the U.S. would see the American title, shake their heads, and mutter WTF? or whatever equvalent Brits were muttering in 1940.

The title change is an early version of Fleshmarket Close/Fleshmarket Alley.

March 31, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

The use of the word "sidewalks" may also have had a titillating frisson for US viewers.

Chorus girl Joan Blondell to gold-digging tramp Claire Dodd in the pre-Code "42nd Street" (1933): "As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job!"

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I saw that in a film course once, though I don't remember that line.

Streets get so much of the glamor that is really due to sidewalks (or footpaths or pavement), though I suppose "footpath walker" or "down these mean sidewalks" lack the dangerous edge we've grown used to. I'm glad "42nd Street" corrects that imbalance, though.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

"As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job!"

She is saying this to a "streetwalker," isn't she?

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job!"

She is saying this to a "streetwalker," isn't she?


A line about the mean sidewalks reminds me of Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous Fred said...

Wow, Fergus Hume? Nice to see Hume getting mentioned somewhere outside those classic

April 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, Fergus Hume. I even saw mention recently of one of his books other than "Mystery of a Hansom Cab," and that's not something one sees every day. I don't remember which book it was, though.

April 03, 2010  

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