Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What have you learned from crime novels ?

I've learned more from Jeffrey Siger's Prey on Patmos (also published as An Aegean Prophecy) than I have from any other crime novel that comes to mind.

The subject is the politics of succession to the Orthodox patriarchate of Constantinople, (or, if you prefer, Η Αυτού Θειοτάτη Παναγιότης, ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Νέας Ρώμης και Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης), and Siger makes of it a credible and novel thriller plot: The Greeks want the patriarchate, the Russians want it, a priest winds up dead, computer files go missing ...

I learned, for one thing, that Turkish law requires that the patriarch of Constantinople be a citizen of Turkey. For various reasons, according to Siger, including the availability of the necessary education in Turkey, this becomes problematic, and the race is one as to which of the various national Eastern Orthodox churches will be the next home to the patriarchate.

That's one hell of a narrative possibility, and not one I'd have imagined. What crime novels have taught you something about history, art, science ...

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Jeffrey Siger will be part of my "Murder is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon 2012 next month in Cleveland, Saturday, October 6, 10:15-11:05 a.m.

Here's the complete Bouchercon schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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31 Comments:

Blogger Miguel said...

I can't measure how much I learned about history, politics, literature, philosophy from reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Paul D Brazill said...

'Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it. ' i think that was a crime novel.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I think that was one of the Nancy Drew books.

September 18, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

Paul, I think that was one of the Nancy Drew books

My take on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, for example – which I’ve listed a number of times as the best crime novel ever written – makes THE MALTESE FALCON read like Nancy DrewElmore Leonard

Thank god for Nancy Drew books. We wouldn't have really good put downs without them.

This comment coming from some whitey.

Peter, what do you think? Is Paul's use of Whitey any better than some uses of Nigger? Reverse racism, perhaps?

September 18, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Girls learn more from Nancy Drew books, perhaps, than men do...

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I read a Nancy Drew book or two when no Hardy Boys were available. Of more interest is that Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, which I liked very much, shows definite Nancy Drew influence.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

I'd have to go with the Eliot Pattison novels featuring Shan Tao Yun, for vivid depictions and information about Tibet, its current status as a Chinese colony (slave state), Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan people and their traditional ways of life, and the environment.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, what I think is that Paul is taking the piss.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, I've read a few of Pattison's books, and they're a good choice. His wise decision to use a Han Chinese detective as his protagonist only sharpens the lessons one can learns from the books. Whenever I read Pattison's name, I can practically hear and feel wind whipping through snow-covered mountains.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I have got to read that Clare DeWitt novel. First, because I have heard nothing but good things about it, second because I read one of her more horror or Gothic stories and liked it, and third because she actually walked into the store one day and I helped her find our copies to sign. Well, fourth, New Orleans, and now fifth, Nancy Drew references.

And as for that, just to start with, Nancy Drew is a fantastic name for a girl detective.

Fred, Pattison is another who has been recommended to me countless times, and yet I still haven't read him.

September 18, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana (and Fred), here are some DBB posts that mention Pattison. Claire DeWitt reminisces about the time "someone gave my best friend Tracy the Official Cynthia Silverton Girl Detective Fingerprinting Kit. Something happened to us when saw that kit; a deja vu, a thrill of recognition even though we'd never felt it before."

September 18, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Thanks on the Pattison. I'll check out your posts once I finally get to him.

Girl detectives are the best. Enough said.

September 18, 2012  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Not surprising that Jeff Siger's books are educational. He writes very informative posts at Murder is Everywhere about current economic problems in Greece, along with the anti-immigrant, neofascist right wing.

I would say that so much of my global crime fiction reading is educational to one degree or another. Henning Mankell's The Man from Beijing has a lot to it.

And surely, Salvo Montalbano provides an essential service by educating his readers about good Sicilian food, wine, the holdover of organized crime, a bit of Italian history, etc. Steven
Sartarelli helps with that, too.
Always learn from his end notes.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, all those folks at Murder is Everywhere write informative posts. Perhaps I can make this into a question on my "Murder Is Everywhere" panel at Bouchercon.

I always learn from Sartarelli's end notes, too, though I had never thought of Salvo as educational. He's too much fun.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, think of Claire DeWitt as a girl detective grown up. That's what Sara Gran makes of her.

September 19, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

Hi, sorry to intrude but I am looking for mystery stories fans hoping to find someone who can help me in a kind of detective search. When I was a kid, maybe 40 years ago, I read a short story in an anthology my father bought that I could never ever find anywhere again. I don't remember the author or the title, just the story and I thought maybe if I told this story someone could identify it. Can anyone help me? By the way, I apologize for my poor English, I am Brazilian. I read this story in a Portuguese translation but I am pretty sure it was an American tale.
Looking forward to any answer...

September 19, 2012  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

I've learned a little bit about the geography of England and Wales by reading the Cadfael books. At least, it forced me to look things up on a map. I also learned some stuff from the Eco book, but I think I forgot it all. From both books, I learned how to be a mystery-solving monk, in case that skill is ever needed.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eliane, what can you remember about the story?

Obrigado,

Detectives Beyond Borders

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lisa-Emily: A mystery-solving monk who knows something about drugs, if I recall correctly the one Cadfael story I've read. That story certainly offered a credible picture of monastic life, though I don't know enough to be able to assess its accuracy.

September 19, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

Thanks, Peter. The killer is the narrator. He kills a man and puts the corpse in a suitcase. He heads to the train station and takes the first one he gets. The plan is to put the suitcase in the train and run away, but it happens to be a suitcase just like his in the luggage store so he changes the label but the train goes away and he has to sit in a cabin, where he finds a young woman. They start to talk and she tells him the story of her life, a story of Failure, with capital letter. Everything goes wrong in her life starting with her father, a total loser. I can't remember if she runs away or if the father dies, but she takes the train to leave Failure behind her, and she is all about dreams and hopes. The killer kind of likes her and goes with her until the end of the trip. And when they get to the final station and he moves to try something, maybe ask her out, thinking about changing his life either, he finds out that the suitcase with the corpse is hers -- of course.
That's it, it is much more a psychological thriller than a mystery story. I assume it is some sort of classic because it belonged to an anthology, something like the 100 best detective stories, and I've read a lot of them later in my life and remembered, oh, I read it when I was a child in my father's book.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, Eliane's story sounds very much like something Cornell Woolrich would have written. I can't say which one, but the coincidence of the similar suitcases and the sheer bad luck and that the story is more psychological than mysterious sounds typical Woolrich. And he used to be heavily anthologized.

He did use similar ideas and devices over and over again.

The Dilemma of the Dead Lady, has an American conman kill a woman in a Paris hotel (a brilliantly written scene, by the way), and then fearing the guillotine, and afraid the coprse will be discovered before he can get out of the country, decides to put the corpse in a trunk and bring it on the boat back home with him, knowing he can dump it at sea. Which means getting the trunk downstairs, putting it in a taxi to the train station, getting it on the boat at Cherbourg and then finding the right moment to toss it overboard.

I'm sure you can guess how it turns out.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

Hum, there's a sentence on my previous comment that is not in English at all, I think. Let me clarify it -- the killer finds a suitcase just like his in the train and he changes the labels.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eu entendi tudo!

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, solo. Yep, I can imagine Woolrich tightening the screws in a sotry like that.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

Hi, Peter, next time I'll write everything in Portuguese!!!!
Solo, I know Cornell Woolrich; I'll give it a try on Google, thanks a lot! I'll come back if I find something.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If you write in Portuguese, I will have to pray to nosso senhor do bonfim for help.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

I am not a believer, Peter, but let's pray to nosso senhor do bonfim, because I don't think it is Woolrich after all. I've found an excellent review describing if not all, most of his published short stories, and no one fits in. But definitely the author is his contemporary, because the settings of the story are from the 30s, 40s. And what matters and what is making me crazy to find it is the painful and marvelous description of failure; the girl feels it like a real presence in her house, in the living room, in the clock ticking the failing hours... Almost supernatural, although the story never goes this way.
By the way, Peter, where did you learn some Portuguese and about Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (hum, maybe you have one ot those sacred ribbons in your fist; you will be forever cursed if it you take it off, you know)?

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eu aprendeu um pouco portuguese por causas de amor e de musica! Eu tenho um'ex-namorada brasileira, e eu gosto tambem de algumas tipas de musica do Brasil.

And now I am curious about the story, too. I will try to track it down.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

I read this story in a Portuguese translation but I am pretty sure it was an American tale

I guess I took that up the wrong way.

I wish I wrote Portuguese as well as you write English, though.

September 20, 2012  
Anonymous Eliane said...

I sound better in Portuguese, but thanks, solo! It is not a metaphorical American tale, it takes place in US, sorry for the misunderstanding. Peter, Elizeth Cardoso and Ary Barroso -- you're on the right track, keep going! And thank you guys for your patience, I will try not to disturb you anymore with my whims. But if you jump into this story some day, do please contact me at eliane10@uol.com.br.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Feel free to jump in at any time. Your comments are not disturbances, they're blog traffic!

September 20, 2012  

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