Monday, September 26, 2011

Martin Limón, or How do authors' voices change over time?

I read two of Martin Limón's novels for my “PASSPORT TO MURDER” panel at Bouchercon 2011, of which Limón was a member. Now I'm reading his first book, Jade Lady Burning, and I've noticed (or thought that I noticed) some slight shifts in tone between it and the later books.

All the books feature George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, a pair of free-wheeling U.S. Army investigators in Korea in the 1970s. But this book seems a bit more explicit about the two protagonists' sexual adventures with Seoul's "business girls" (though well short of X-rated). Its language is a bit saltier than I remember from the later books, and its attitude toward Korean business practices and the Americans who investigate them a bit more, er, jaded.

I have no idea what significance this has, but it does raise this question: How do crime-fiction series change? I've asked this question before, but this time I don't mean obvious devices, such as aging the protagonist or getting him or her married or divorced. This time I'll focus on authors and narrators rather than on characters, and I'll ask How do crime writers' narrative voices change over time in a long-running series? 

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

Labels: , , ,

8 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

This kind of question always makes me think of Margery Allingham, whose Detective Campion books spanned quite a wide range of intent. It seems she originally conceived of Campion as a bit of a fop who was nevertheless able to solve crimes, but as I've heard it, the war years deepened her idea of the whole thing. Campion may still present as a bit of a fop, but we know different. She was always a good writer, but I think the writing itself immproves as well.

I ran across a very nice piece by another hero of mine, A.S. Byatt here on whyshe loves Allingham.

September 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Allingham's name often comes up in these discussions. I should read one of the earlier books, then one of the later ones. Any suggestions?

My v-word: grail

September 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I would probably read The Crime at Black Dudley and then Tiger in the Smoke.

September 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

First one early, second one late?

September 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yes. Originally, I was going to suggest reading them in reverse chronological order, but it's your call.

September 27, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Just an observation: one would hope for changes not only to the protagonist, but also to the focus (theme?) in the books. And perhaps to the narrative style. I suppose that would affect voice at some point.
The reason one hopes for change is that a writer grows over time, preferably in a good way. It's possible, though, that the demand for more sales may propel the development in another direction.

September 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I think chronological order will be the way to go -- unless it transpires that I like the fop so much that I resent his gathering depth and maturity.

September 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I suppose a series can change in any number of ways for any number of reasons. The small changes I found in this case were of a kind I had not thought of before, which makes this an eye-opening question, at least for me.

September 27, 2011  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home