Saturday, December 01, 2012

Another famous Philadelphia first

"Oleg had found out that the expression 'junkie' was more than a hundred years old, from the time when the first heroin addicts stole junk metal from the harbor in Philadelphia and sold it to finance their consumption."
— Jo Nesbø, Phantom
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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37 Comments:

Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Ha, neat when your hometown turns up in unexpected places. I remember being shocked when Knoxville turned up in the movie Pulp Fiction.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have had three home towns, and none of them is New York or Los Angeles. I always get a kick when any of them turns up in crime novel.

I haven't seen Pulp Fiction, but Knoxville?

December 02, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Off topic, but Tennessee is suddenly turning up everywhere I look and here is yet another example.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Are any of the Tennessees in crime fiction?

December 02, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, not the ones that have cropped up, no. But The Firm is set there, and Cormac Macarthy, who borders on crime, has a few there. There are also many mystery writers, a list of some being here.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aha! I have a link to that site on my blog roll.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Quentin Tarentino lived in Knoxville, so the reference was likely an homage. Cormac McCarthy was born here and lived here. In fact, my favorite bookstore is in a building that used to be a bar where McCarthy drank. The bookseller left the actual old, curved wooden bar in place as the checkout counter.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's another attempt to post the comment Blogger just ate.

That sounds like a bookstore I'd like to visit. And the idea of Quentin Tarantino getting personal enough to render an homage to his home town is odd. Personal feeling is not the first thing one associates with his work.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Well, it's in an anecdote about a guy with a pocketwatch up his a$$, so the sentimentality is light.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, that reminds me. I have an old pocketwatch lying around somewhere.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

I have always felt as though wasting or losing time when reading lousy books could be a huge pain in the ass. A recent example was my reading of Parker Bilal's latest. And I have previously tried Nesbo, but never persisted beyond 40 or 50 pages.

So, I try to seek out and read only the worthwhile books. That is why I so much appreciate the efforts of bloggers because of their critiques and reviews--yeah, that includes you, Peter, and a select corps of others who have so generously offered their opinions, comments, and time (though I would rather not know anything about where you find the time).

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nesbo is prone to sprawl, but that's less a problem with his current book than with some previous ones. But I'm reading it because I was asked to review it. It's not bad, but it's not McKinty or Burke or Leonardo Sciascia or Giorgio Scerbanenco, either.

Thanks for the high compliment. As for finding the time, you;d be surprised what neglecting domestic responsibilities leaves one time for.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

Actually, I'm not surprised about the trade-off between domestic responsibilities and other diversions. I have a wife who does not hesitate to remind me of the issue. Undeterred, though, I continue with my teaching responsibilities, my reading, and my occasional reviewing, even while letting the house fall down around me. Of course, life is too short to (1) worry about the small stuff, (2) read lousy books, and (3) miss out on good books, and (4) give too much attention to domestic matters. Even now, while I am poking away at the keyboard for this comment, I am not consumed with the guilt that my lovely bride would like me to wear like a hair-shirt. But, enough of all that, and back to reading William Kent Krueger's new book, Ordinary Grace, which is a quite good departure from his previous offerings. Part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, and 100% compelling, this one is, I think, a winner. Oops! "She who must be obeyed" has just returned from outside. Adios!

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger is eating comments again, so let's hope this time works.

I wish I were asked to review more good books and fewer books that people are talking about. When I review a crime novel, whether by a Swedish author or one from Norway, I often try to sneak in mention of better crime novels as counterexamples. IN fact, I did that even when I wrote about one of the Benjamin Black books.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

I get stuck reading some real stinkers for a couple of magazines. Bilal's was one. Occasionally, there is a diamond among the stench. Krueger's in one.

I ought to have my wife's approach. She is constantly reading murder mysteries in the evenings, but she considers them to be self-help/how-to books instead. Should I be worried?

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Content yourself with the thought that if she is reading Scandinavian murder mysteries, you will be dispatched in spectacular fashion.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

She devours mass market paperback cozies with dreadful puns in the titles, so I imagine a more or less cozy departure, which will then be explained away by someone posing as a sleuth whose day-job involves being either a librarian, gift shop owner, hairdresser, chef, cookbook author, or dog groomer.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tell her that the title of Julie Hyzy's "Affairs of Steak" came from me!

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Better a cozy death than some of Nesbo's execution methods (or Henning Mankell's, for example).

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

As for myself, I prefer murder mysteries and crime novels that foreground the detection and character development rather than allowing the crime itself (and subsequent blood and guts) to steal the show. I guess that makes me more of a traditionalist (i.e., a reader of Holmes and his progeny). Moreover, I very much dislike murder mysteries and crime novels that use over-the-top thriller gimmicks to reel in the more lazy readers who are more comfortable with cinematic thrills than well-crafted exposition and development. The last decade--to my mind--has become a marketplace in which blood-thirsty excitement has left little room for cerebral detection and compelling character study. As an example of some of my latter day favorites I would include Arnaldur Indridason's novels.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of Nesbo's novels -- The Leopard, I think -- opens with a method of death by torture so over the top that Nesbo has to be poking fun at himself. Phantom also has a gang dispose of its victims in a way that seems needlessly elaborate. And, unless I'm missing something, one instance of its application contains a physical impossibility.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As for my latter-day favorites, the only common element I can see is that all are written well and none seem to be the next big thing. My recent year's-best sampling is a fair representation, and you can add Arnaldur to the list.

I wonder if the over-the-top violence on Nesbo's part is a calculated bid to maintain reader interest in his dark series, the notion of a dark crime series being problematic, as has been pointed out from time to time here and elsewhere.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger R.T. said...

Why do you suppose the readers' market has evolved into one in which such decadent homicide provides such vicarious interest? The golden age of detective fiction--and even the early noir novels--did not wallow so annoyingly in the grisly details. Perhaps I an simply an over-the-hill, curmudgeonly old-schooler who makes too much out of too little. Point me in the direction of some of the new and compelling authors who eschew grotesque details, write coherent sentences, and tell compelling stories. Obviously Nesbo ain't one of them.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nesbo is odd with those grotesque murders. They don't overshadow the rest of the action, at least not in The Phantom, but I'm not sure that add a real dimension to the story either. He likes ghost stories, so baroquely evocative killings might play into that tendency. But he also has a living to make and books to sell. And he can tell a story better than Stieg Larsson could.

As for new and compelling authors who write not just coherent but sometimes funny and beautiful sentences, you already know Adrian McKinty, which means you probably know Declan Burke and John McFetridge as well. Those are three good places to start. Allan Guthrie will sometimes inciude a grotesque detail but to good effect.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I can't think of one in the McFetridge I've read so far, but Adrian and Declan have included an over the top element in their day. But in neither case is it anything like the whole point of the book, which I think is what makes the difference.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I can remember one in Eightball Boogie and others in Falling Glass and The Dead Yard. The question is the same as with the old joke about nudity in movies: Is it necessary for the plot?

December 02, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Ditto Slaughter's Hound, and can you say "Belfast Sixpack"? I won't reveal where I learned that one from, for fear it might less someone's, uh, enjoyment.

December 02, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think I remember where I learned that one. But what is a Belfast Sixpack called in Derry?

"Belfast Sixpack" is a marvelous expression, horrifying and funny at the same time, with each quality magnifying the other. So yes, it belongs in any serious book about the appropriate time and place. But I don't think the author in question ever describes a Belfast Sixpack in slow, voluptuous, loving detail.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

No, I don't think these guys write gratuitous violence but some of it's still fairly shocking all the same.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As it happens, I wasn’t thinking of those guys when I put up this recent post about violence. Yes, some of their violence is shocking, even apt to make me queasy. But the one scene of violence that has turned me off in a crime novel in recent years, a bit of digital dismemberment, did so not because it was so shocking or extravagant but rather because it was so unnecessary and so out of keeping with what had gone before.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

I'm not really sure where I stand on violence in fiction. I don't actually enjoy reading it, but if I respect the rest of the writer's work I will assume they have their reasons.

I definitely think there's a fair amount of sensationalism, which is easy to sell, in a lot of it. It is aimed at a very different audience than mine.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One can't avoid violence in the kind of reading most often discussed here. But there ought to be a good reason for it.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Or a bad one.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, yes, but you know what I mean. But the choice must be tough for authors. On the one hand, we've all read stories about how the mob will leave sighs on a corpse of the reason the person has been executed. But put that in a novel, deal with it the wrong way, and you look exploitive. I suppose good violence scenes are as difficult to write as good sex scenes.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Click on the violence post to which I link above, and you'll see that the first comment came from Christa Faust. For an example of shocking but effective use of violence, go to the last sentence
of this excerpt from her novel Money Shot on the Hard Case Crime Web site. It's neither graphic nor titillating, but it is swift, sudden, and, er, violent, as much of a shock to the reader as one can imagine being treated that way would be in real life.

December 03, 2012  
Anonymous Anne - Le French Boo said...

This is a really interesting conversation. For me, the issue of violence comes down to whether it serves the story or not, which is the basic principle I apply to just about everything in a book anyway.

December 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anne, that is substantially identical to the Christa Faust comment I mentioned above. Of course, violence (or anything else) can serve the story any number of ways, but that's a separate discussion.

December 03, 2012  

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