Friday, January 27, 2012

In sight or out of sight: What's the best way to be a fictional detective?

"You have to be able to walk around in plain sight. What I’m talking about is being invisible in front of everyone’s eyes. You have to learn to be a ghost, and not like Casper. I mean fucking gone. ... Only your words will make you invisible. You got to make people uncomfortable, make them want to look somewhere else. And I’m not talking about the ‘Fuck you’ shit you tried. When you want to stay invisible, you have to use remarks that put people on the defence. Put something mean and uncomfortable out there, then fade back. People will be glad to ignore you then."

— Mike Knowles, In Plain Sight

"Yes, and your office should be in a Georgian or very modernistic building in the Sunset Eighties. Suite Something-or-other. And your clothes should be jazzy, very jazzy indeed, Steve. To be inconspicuous in this town is to be a busted flush."

— Raymond Chandler, "The King in Yellow"

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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23 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Two different times and two different places. I often wondered about some of the clothes Chandler described, but, if everyone is wearing them, a detective might stand out more if he didn't.

As for Knowles, every time you write something new about him, he bubbles a little closer to the top of my list of new writers to try.

January 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, I don't expect serious answers to the question the post's title poses. I was just amused by coming across the two passages in the same week of reading.

Oh, yeah Knowles' stories move fast and hit hard. You might well like them.

January 27, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

To be inconspicuous in this town is to be a busted flush

Is it coincidence that Travis McGee lived on a bost called The Busted Flush? Probably.

Can Mike Knowles reasonably be compared with Raymond Chandler? Probably not.

January 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John D. MacDonald might have been paying tribute to Chandler, but I suspect the name of the boat wad an homage to the hard-boiled milieu rather than to any given story?

Can most painters reasonably be compared to Giotto or most hurlers to Henry Shefflin? Probably not.

January 27, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

A Canadian throwing Henry Shefflin at me?

Doggone it. I fold my cards.

January 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Heh! I keep my eyes open when I travel.

January 27, 2012  
Anonymous Mike Knowles said...

All this praise is going to go straight to my head. It's a good thing we have Solo around to keep me grounded. Kidding aside, thank you so much for the kind words, Peter. I have been a huge fan of your work for a while. You have introduced me to some seriously wicked stuff. It's an honor to be included.

January 27, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My pleasure, and thanks for the comment. I feel like taking a detour to Hamilton the next time I visit friends and relatives in Toronto.

January 27, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

McGee's boat was named after the hand he was holding when he won it in a poker game. No suit was mentioned nor type of poker being played (five-card, seven-card, Texas Hold-em), at least as far as I can remember.

January 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He won holding a busted flush? Was he a good bulffer?

January 28, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

McGee? Sure. It didn't hurt that his opponent was drunk at the time. I may be mixing it up with a different story and a different character, but I think the first offer to call McGee's bet was the guy's girlfriend and McGee suggested the boat instead.

January 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Now, that makes me want to read the books.

January 28, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

They're now culturally a little dated, at least if you come to them for the first time, but there are plenty of nuggets to be found therein.

January 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd still like to take a look. John D. is s gap in my crime-fiction reading. Besides, I read some Craig McDonald, so I'm on a Mc/MacDonald run.

January 28, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

If that's the case, don't neglect Philip MacDonald. His best-known work is The List of Adrian Messenger, but he wrote others. He was also a screenwriter, Wikipedia tells me.

January 29, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

John D. wrote about 40 other crime novels besides the McGee books, you know. Many of them are absolutely brilliant (he wrote Cape Fear, originally titled The Executioners). He also wrote three sci-fi novels.

January 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have a copy of the book at home. I bought it on the recommendation of one of my previous editors. The editor is gone, but the book remains.

And don't forget Fletch author Gregory McDonald.

January 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, it might be a fair cotnest between the Mc/MacDonalds and the James as to who had given the world more good crime fiction.

January 29, 2012  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Both film versions of Cape Fear are very very good. Terrifying, but good.

January 29, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't seen either. I wouldn't mind seeing both.

January 29, 2012  
Blogger May said...

The quote from Knowles is the detective speaking?
It's chilling... sounds like it comes from the mouth of a man who positively counts on good people doing nothing.

January 30, 2012  
Blogger May said...

Ah... just read the previous post, and I see he is an investigator for criminals... makes sense now.

January 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

May, Wilson is a fixer who works mostly for criminals who act against other criminals. He also works for cops sometimes when the police need something done in a not entirely above-board manner.

The speaker in the excerpt is his uncle, who taught him everything he knows.

January 30, 2012  

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