William McIlvanney: "Like a suitcase with doors"
How many crime writers have created single, divorced, or recently split-up police officers or detectives? How many of those writers have given those maritally troubled officers a messy house or apartment as an objective correlative of the character's troubled emotional state? The number is incalculable.
Here's how McIlvanney sets such a scene in The Papers of Tony Veitch, second of his three great Laidlaw novels, now rereleased by Canongate:
"(H)e recognized the inimitable decor of Milligan's poky flat, a kind of waiting room baroque.There's more to McIlvanney than a Chandlerian flair for metaphors, of course, his empathy for all his characters, for one, and his sharp, wry, affectionate portraits of Glasgow life, for another. But the metaphors help. They make McIlvanney's novels into verbal champagne, and they say old things in fresh hew ways. And that's where you come in, readers. What crime or other writers render hoary, obligatory scenes in such fresh and clever ways that they almost make you forget the scenes are hoary and obligatory?
"The walls were dun and featureless, the furniture was arranged with all the homeyness of a second-hand sale room and clothes were littered everywhere. It wasn't a room so much as a suitcase with doors."
© Peter Rozovsky 2013