Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morality and crime fiction, America and abroad

Eddie's World, Charlie Stella's first novel, has as a preface this angry denunciation of the American federal witness protection program:
"The federal witness protection program is a moral assault on our society. Deals with the Devil are evil by their nature. When people can trade up to nineteen lives for the opportunity to relocate from one coast to an Arizona desert (to ultimately establish a drug business), the government, whatever its original intent, has made fools of us all. Perhaps a more novel approach might be to rethink a Society Protection Program ... where someone who admits to killing nineteen people* might rot away in a cell before they burn in hell."
That reminds me of the ringing, righteously didactic voiceovers you'd get in some 1950s crime movies. But it also reminds me of Three Seconds, the Dagger-winning crime thriller by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, which meditates on the ethical hazards of using police informants — cheap ways of outsourcing intelligence-gathering, as one character says.

Another one of Stella's books has a similarly ringing preface, this time denouncing Enron and Arthur Anderson and wishing upon the perpetrators of that scandal a look at real prisons where real people go.  So you don't need to join an Occupy protest or the tea party. Just read Charlie Stella instead.
* Stella presumably refers to "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, whose testimony helped bring down John Gotti.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Anonymous May said...

The management of society is always conflict-ridden. Whether you're violating individual rights in the name of public health, or insulting the principles of the justice system in the name of law and order...

November 14, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sure. But some writers expose those conflicts a lot more explicitly than others.

November 14, 2011  
Anonymous May said...

Yes, and nothing like a crime committed to bring out all those flaws of society...

November 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

When it works, the results can be thrilling, as with Sjowall and Wahloo, Dominique Manotti, "The Boy in the Suitcase" and "Three Seconds," to name some. But it's difficult to do that and to tell a compelling story at the same time without coming off as a scold.

November 18, 2011  

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