Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's the capital of Washington?

Here's a clue: Its newspaper has just published a guide to international crime fiction that included a gratifying mention of Detectives Beyond Borders. Viva journalism!

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

28 Comments:

Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Books editor Mary Ann Gwinn of the Seattle Times--a newspaper that actually still has an in-house book reviewer!--(the Olympian picked up her 1 January 2011 column) fairly frequently writes about crime fiction (int'l crime fiction seems to be a particular favorite of hers) and, for example, interviewed John Lawton when he toured the bookstores of the Pacific NW and Canada after Bouchercon.

For more of her columns, just search on her name at the Seattle Times.

(I'm familiar with her column as we spend a fair amount of time in Western Washington and elsewhere in the Pacific NW.)

January 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I know the capital of Washington because when I was a kid, someone gave us these cool pencil sets where the lid somehow had a wheel in it, which turned so that when the state came up, the capitol came up as well. For some odd reason, we tested each other on this all the time.

I'm impressed with the DBB mention, but not all that impressed with the list. Judge Dee?

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth: I realized when I called up the piece that the Olympia newspaper had picked up the article from the Seattle Times. But I first came across the article on the Olympia paper's Web site, and I'd already come up with my headline before I noticed the article's origin, so I kept the capital-of-Washington angle. Gwinn obviously cares enough about international crime fiction to have asked her readers to weigh in on the subject, which was nice to see.

I knew you spent time in Washington, so I had a feeling you might weigh in on this matter.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: A colleague of mine has a son who he was proud to note knew all the state capitals when he was 4 years old. I once threw two of the harder ones at the kid, and he got both right.

Judge Dee belongs on the list, if not for the stories, then for Van Gulik's interesting explanations of why he altered the format of the old, eighteeenth-century Judge Dee stories when he decided to write his own featuring the character.

Judge Dee goes right to the origins of my interest in international crime fiction. I think the first non-Amercan, non-English crime author I discovered was Janwillem van de Wetering who, in addition to his own fiction, wrote a critical/biographical book of his fellow Dutchman Van Gulik. So I knew about Judge Dee early on and have read most of the Judge Dee stories.

January 20, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Seana, well, remember, it's her readers' suggestions; I think the list was fairly well-rounded, considering. And I like the Judge Dee stories! Van Gulik's knowledge of the Chinese language, Chinese culture, etc. gives his mysteries a real sense of place--something readers of this blog often claim is an important element in the crime fiction they like to read.

Peter, now that we're musing about Olympia... Have you read the Raymond Chandler short story, "Goldfish"?. Part of it takes place in and around Olympia. Chandler would have known it from his brief spell in the Pacific NW in the early 1930s when he was (briefly) separated from his wife.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, I did read "Goldfish" early on in my burst of reading Chandler's short fiction. The book rests by my bedside. Of course, so do about twenty-five other books.

What I remember especially about Van Gulik is his thoughtful explanation of why he so radically altered the format of the old Judge Dee stories. He drastically played down the emphasis on the supernatural, for instance, and he inserted an element of mystery; the traditional Chinese stories would make plain from the beginning who had committed the crime, for instance. One can learn much about Chinese popular literature and can be set as well to musing upon differences between Chinese and Western taste just from reading Van Gulik's auxillary material. In fact, Van Gulik vies with Stephen Sartarelli, Andrea Camilleri's English translator, for most informative such material that I've read since I started reading crime fiction.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

Nice plug. Well done.

(Side note: Goldfish has long been one of my two favorite Chandler shorts, along with Red Wind.

January 20, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Robert Van Gulik is superb and unsurpassed at writing historical mysteries. His books are set in T'ang China, a fascinating culture.
And Van De Wetering is a very good author also.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Nothing against Van Gulik, it's just that there is a sense of casting back for authors rather than looking around in the present.

It's a bit like asking for British mystery writers and only coming up with Conan Doyle. Not that I know of many other Chinese mysteries other than the Qiu Xiaolong myself.

January 20, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Oh, well, that's true enough. I note that she didn't list my series for Japan. Maybe just a matter of falling behind in her reading?

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Dana. I've long liked "No Crime in the Mountains," on whose title I used a bit of wordplay to title a post here some time ago. More recently, "Nevada Gas" stood out for me.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., apparently the author of the article compiled a list of Eurpean mysteries as well. I'll look for the list in the Seattle Times, where this article first appeared. Perhaps Van de Wetering made that list. He would belong there.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Van Gulik was a bit more recent than Conan Doyle; he died in 1967, and he was youngish at the time. Some of the article's readers could well have read the Judge Dee stories on their initial publication. Japan's Edogawa Ranpo, who died in 1965, makes the list. In any case, the list appears to have been reader's choice. (I'm not sure whether the authors listed under "other writers" are the reporter's own suggestions, or readers'.) And Van Gulik is or has been recently in print, so his books should be relatively readily available to readers of this newspaper article.

The authors who really ought to grumble are Michael Stanley, who ought to have been mentioned under Botswana.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Also, Seana, since I've waxed enthusiastic about Dashiell Hammett at some length here recently, I have some sympathy for crime writers from out of the past.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I learned all the state capitals because the pub quiz I used to go to always had a state capital question. It was an easy get. Purely by chance we later learned that the guy who ran our local pub quiz on Wednesday nights ran the same pub quiz on Friday nights in a bar on the other side of Belfast. For the next two months under a variety of disguises and pseudonyms we cleaned up and made a fortune.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Disguises, eh? Wigs and false moustaches? Did the the quizmaster or chuckers-out ever get wiae?

I took part in a pub quiz once and helped me team win second prize -- a case of Guinness. Yeah, the stuff is available in cans here. I've also done pub quizzes at conventions, but I've never had to resort to grubby subterfuge.

January 20, 2011  
Anonymous adrian said...

Well disguises is a bit strong, we worth hats and sat in a dark corner during the first quiz and then under our own names in the bright lights in the second. It wasnt peanuts. We were taking home fifty pounds a week minus our petrol money and what we spent on drink.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fifty pounds a week? Your education wasn't wasted.

When did you finally figure out that the jig was up?

January 20, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Peter, I think you are being very generous in thinking that fifty pounds minus cab fare was what actually made it home.

January 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"We were taking home fifty pounds a week minus ... what we spent on drink."

Who said anything about making it home?

January 21, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Exactly.

January 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I admit that, owing to predisposition to think good of my fellow man, I'd read that at first as "plus what we spent..."

January 21, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Ill-gotten gains dissipate fast, is all I'm saying.

January 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's not all that dissipates fast. But hey, our man once drank a beer in all 32 of his home town's licenced establishments in a single day, and I was there!

Well, I wasn't there, but he told me about it.

January 21, 2011  
Anonymous adrian said...

Peter

I keep telling you it was a half not a full pint of beer and in places such as the Railway Tavern and the Borough Arms we barely sipped our drinks because they were paramilitary joints. Still it IS an achievement and unlike Dylan Thomas I live yet...

The jig was up when I had to go back to uni and then when I got back the quiz master was no longer doing the second quiz in Belfast. Shame, but yes I do still remember every state capital in America.

For my citizenship quiz I memorised every Chief Justice since 1804. They asked me who the current CJ was.

January 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew some of them were half-pints. I didn't know you barely sipped at the paramilitary pubs, only that your friend hit on some guy's gitlfriend, put you at peril of death. Or was that at the Junior Parakeet fanciers' Club?

I guess it's harder to get on Jeopardy than it is to become a citizen.

January 21, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Dont mock the Pigeon Club; that was one of the toughest nuts to crack; that and the RAOB which of course is the Royal and Ancient Order of Buffalos club. That one we actually had to join for the evening.

January 22, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, got it. Don't mess with the pigeons or the buffaloes.

Hey, why don't you combine your two favorite pastimes: Drink at every bar in town, including the Bertie Wooster ones, then take a citizenship test?

January 22, 2011  

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