The protagonist of Off-Street Parking, a 2008 novel not part of James' Harpur and Iles series, takes an even bigger step into alternating hubris and self-doubt, jumping so wholeheartedly into intense observation of herself and others that I whispered, "Hamlet!"
James being James, the self-contemplation is leavened by satire. Here's the protagonist, a young police detective named Sharon Mayfield, at the scene where a man, possibly a police informant, has been found dead and horribly carved up:
"`This isn't the kind of thing we expect in the Avenue,' another woman said. `I was devastated.'I'd read thirty or so pages before I realized what made this introspection more intense than that in the Harpur and Iles books: It's written in the first person — heady when combined with James' customary ironic detachment. But for now your assignment is simple: Think of your favorite or most memorable first-person crime stories. What does the first-person viewpoint add? Why do you like it? Or why don't you?
"I could see into the car by then and thought of saying, `Not as devastated as he is,' but didn't. Many people took their crisis vocabulary from bystander remarks made to TV news cameras. `Devastated' figured often. Perhaps TV reporters handed out a list of suitable words to vox pop for their response to a disaster/crisis. In a minute, I'd probably hear someone tell me, `They kept themselves to themselves but seemed a very pleasant couple.'
"`No, it doesn't look too good at this juncture,' a man said."
"As I prepared to leave, a very cheerful grandfather-type grappled with me, evidently keen I should stay and help make his night a time to remember and cherish, against his looming Eventide Home future. He wore an excellent flame-coloured toupee ..."(Read the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Bill James.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2011
Labels: Bill James