Why not? For one thing, the literary device in question may have been in greater fashion in 1971, when McClure published the novel, than it is now.
For another, as incisive as the book is in its portrayal of apartheid-era South Africa and the people who live in it, as worthy a winner as it was of the CWA Gold Dagger, it's a first novel. McClure may simply have been in the early stages of developing his craft. And finally, the writing, even in the passage in question, is vivid and compelling.
McClure may remind readers of William McIlvanney, with his breaks in the action for passages of description or reflection. That's a risk in a plot-driven genre such as a crime; the author has better have the writing chops to pull it off. McClure has them.
In his case, the breaks contribute to a sense of ironic amusement and detachment. These form a surprising, dynamic, occasionally shocking contrast with the harsh portrayals of apartheid-era life and hints of police violence. That contrast remains exciting almost four decades after the books' initial publication.
What other older crime fiction remains fresh today? What keeps it that way?
© Peter Rozovsky 2010