Saturday, November 23, 2013

A tale of three cities, or: No crime fiction, please; this is Philadelphia

Since I'll soon be in Chicago for a few days and then Los Angeles, this is a good time to bring back an old post about Chicago's decision a few years ago to honor Raymond Chandler, who was born there, though he will be forever associated with Los Angeles. That post, in turn, reminds of another I made about the high-mindedness of my own city's One Book ... program. No Chandler or Hammett or David Goodis here; this is Philadelphia.

 Julia Buckley is one of several bloggers to note Chicago's decision to feature Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye in its One Book, One Chicago program, complete with discussions, readings, seminars, screenings and other events of various kinds.

A number of American cities run similar programs under such names as "One City, One Book", and I've never felt entirely comfortable with the concept. Why? Because I'm not sure uniformity of reading choices or of anything else is a good thing. Even the slogan "One City, One Book" has disquieting historical overtones, unintended though they may be. Still, Chandler is a refreshingly unhigh-minded choice, for which Chicago deserves a hearty clap between its broad shoulders.

All right, readers, you've just been elected mayor of the municipal jurisdiction where you live. What's your choice for One City, One (Suggested) Crime Book?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008/2013

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Blogger Linkmeister said...

Hmm. If it's to be the first book in the program, I think I'd pick Diamond Head by Charles Knief. It obviously takes place on and around Oahu, which would hopefully keep the less-frequent readers interested.

Knief won a "Best First Private Eye Novel" award from St. Martin's Press for it. He's only written three more with the same character, none since 2001.

The lead character's an ex-SEAL who lives on a houseboat and does favors for friends (yes, there's a McGee resemblance there).

I read this one and liked it; picked up the remaining three and got sidetracked by something else. I'll go back to them.

March 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.

The Oahu angle might indeed be a way of attracting less-frequent readers -- as one supposes any crime fiction would be. I don't know to what extent the Chicago organizers are playing up Chandler's having been born in Chicago.

Philadelphia's choices have been relentlessly high-minded: What is the What this year, for example. I think Chicago chooses two books each year. Perhaps that lets organizers choose one book that NPR listeners can love and another that is actually fun.

I have thought of starting an event called "1.5 Million Philadelphians, 1.5 Million Books." The goal would be to get everyone in the city to read a book, including helping those who might have difficulty choosing or reading. The book could be stimulating, thought-provoking or pure fun. It could even be, as Philadelphia's organizers so earnestly hope in their hierarchical, we-know-what's-good-for-you-way, what the Victorians used to call an "improving book." The one criterion would be that it could not be the "One Book, One Philadelphia" book.

March 28, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

My old college roomie was from Chestnut Hill, but I don't think we ever discussed crime fiction (those rooms were too small for bookshelves!). I should e-mail or tag him through Facebook to see what he'd suggest. Then you two could argue ;)

March 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Criminy, I didn't think I was going to be asked to make a suggestion. David Goodis would be an obvious choice among crime fiction with a Philadelphia connection. I've read little of his work, but what I have read is ripe with potential discussion questions for young people -- questions about alienation, for example.

March 28, 2008  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Well although I have not read any of the books the Crowner John series is set in Exeter and the surrounding hamlets. The blurb from Amazon says about the latest:

In the ensuing murder investigation, Sir John is frustrated by what appears to be a conspiracy of silence among the seamen and townsfolk. Just what is the local population trying to hide? As Crowner John is to learn, there are many inhabitants of Axmouth who will go to any lengths to ensure the shocking truth remains hidden. And the coroner will have to draw on all his resources of courage, cunning and determination if he is to escape from the town with his life

It is nice to know Devon has not changed that much in 800 years.

March 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a good suggestion that could stimulate discussions. I suspect that real-life promoters of such an event might rephrase your last point, perhaps as: "What has changed in Devon in 800 years?"

Michael Jecks also set mysteries in and around Exeter. It appears lots was happening there in the Middle Ages.

March 29, 2008  
Blogger R.T. said...

Having spent so much of my life on naval ships (cities afloat), I nominate The Caine Mutiny as my "crime" novel. While it may not measure up to the criteria you set for this strand of comments, I would insist Wouk's novel remains one of the best in its class--crime and punishment on the high seas.

November 24, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. The star of the movie adaptation would get crime fans interested, too.

November 24, 2013  

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