My Bouchercon 2013 panels: J. Robert Janes' murky world
Each book in the series, from Mayhem (1992) to the new Tapestry, bears an exculpatory note from the author explaining that he abhors "what happened during these times" and that "during the Occupation of France everyday crimes of murder and arson continued to be committed, and I merely ask, by whom and how were they solved?"
An introduction to the series on Janes' Web site suggests (accurately, at least for Tapestry) that no one in the books comes off as especially pure, ethical, admirable, or even clean:
"It's German-occupied France during the Second World War. Two honest detectives, one from each side of that war, fight common crime in an age of officially sanctioned crime on a horrendous scale. Gangsters have been let out of jail and put to work by the Gestapo and SS; collaborators welcome the Occupier and line their pockets; ordinary citizens struggle to survive; inflation hits 165% while wages are frozen at 1939 levels; but most of all, German servicemen come on leave to Paris, ‘our friends' to some, ‘the Green Beans' to others, the ‘Schlocks, the Boche'.I'm not up on my administrative history of the German occupation of France, so I don't know how much attention the various organs of the occupation and of the French civil authority and population paid to ordinary crimes. But a relatively recent history of the occupation, Robert Gildea's Marianne in Chains, suggests a real occupied France similar to Janes' fictional one:
"Paris, unlike all other cities and towns in war-torn Europe, is an open city, a showcase Hitler uses to let his boys know how good things can be under Nazi rule. French Gestapo are everywhere and definitely don't like these two detectives since St-Cyr put many of them away before the war, but Kohler is all too ready to tell them this and is fast becoming a citizen of the world under Louis' influence and also has no use for the Occupier, even to ridiculing Nazi invincibility. Hated and reviled by the Occupier and often by the Occupied, the two constantly tread a minefield."
"The moral universe of occupied France was notoriously murky. What was right and what was wrong, what patriotic and what unpatriotic, may have been clear in 1944, but not before."Oh, yes. Crime fiction. Tapestry's moral, ethical, and physical environments are the darkest I have ever read in crime fiction. Kohler and St. Cyr are called on to work in a city so darkened by blackouts that characters must feel their way through the streets at night. Plunder, greed, puritanism, lust, patriotism, violence, and luxury in the face of deprivation slip in and out of focus, the reader never sure if any one is staged to cover for another. I'm not yet sure if Tapestry is good history, but it sure is good noir.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013