It looks like the formation of a new galaxy, but it's just neighborhood fireworks
© Peter Rozovsky 2014
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"
"The difference appears if we compare two famous writers of detective stories, Mr. Erle Stanley Gardner and Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. It is impossible to find any personal note in Mr. Gardner’s enormous output ... His prose style varies between the incompetent and the nonexistent; for the most part, there is just no style, either good or bad. Like Mr. Gardner, Mr. Poe was a money-writer. (That he didn’t make any is irrelevant.) The difference, aside from the fact that he was a good writer, is that, even when he was turning out hack work, he had an extraordinary ability to use the journalistic forms of his day to express his own peculiar personality, and indeed, as Marie Bonaparte has shown in her fascinating study, to relieve his neurotic anxieties. (It is simply impossible to imagine Mr. Gardner afflicted with anything as individual as a neurosis."He's willing, that is, to accord respect to "detective stories." (That's what he calls them. The term crime fiction was not in wide use in 1960, which leads to the question of then and why it became popular. Did crime writers begin writing stories about characters other than detectives? Did crime fiction sound more respectable than detective stories to the producers and marketers of the stuff? ) Anyhow, here's Macdonald, from a harsh assessment of Ernest Hemingway that, nonetheless, acknowledges his stylistic influence:
"The list of Hemingwayesque writers includes James M. Cain, Erskine Caldwell, John O’Hara, and a school of detective fiction headed by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. It also includes Hemingway."That last sentence is just one example of the wit that makes Macdonald so much fun to read.
"the recent discovery —since 1945 —that there is not One Big Audience but rather a number of smaller, more specialized audiences that may still be commercially profitable. (I take it for granted that the less differentiated the audience, the less chance there is of something original and lively creeping in, since the principle of the lowest common denominator applies.) ... The mass audience is divisible, we have discovered— and the more it is divided, the better. Even television, the most senseless and routinized expression of Masscult (except for the movie newsreels), might be improved by this approach. One possibility is pay-TV, whose modest concept is that only those who subscribe could get the program, like a magazine; but, also like a magazine, the editors would decide what goes in, not the advertisers."Had he lived on into the age of cable television, Macdonald would not likely have lamented, as some did, the decline of the television networks as unifying forces in American life. Since the book's subtitled is "Essays Against the American Grain," though, I suspect he'd have been skeptical of the frequent claims in recent years that this is a golden age of television. But what would he have thought of the incredible stylistic fragmentation of rock and roll music, a form for which he had nothing but disdain?
"Since in a mass society people are related not to each other but to some abstract organizing principle, they are often in a state of exhaustion, for this lack of contact is unnatural. ... But people feel a need to be related to other people. The simplest way of bridging this distance, or rather of pretending to bridge it, is by emphasizing the personality of the artist."© Peter Rozovsky 2014
"`I talk when I want. Who knows? In five minutes, maybe not want to. Better ask quick before I change my mind, police man. Someone tell me once I am volatile. I like that word. I am volatile."
"You are peckerhead, Doc thought, kept it to himself."Make this a Shamus Award-nominated Dana King summer!
|American P.I. fiction|
from the late 1950s.
|Late Antique art|
"The door was opened by a maid with a face like half a walnut . You may think it’s impossible for a face to look like half a walnut, and I suppose it is, if you want to be literal. But half a walnut is, nevertheless, all I can think of as a comparison when I think of the face of this maid."
"Nine times out of ten, when someone tries to describe a woman who is fairly tall and has a slim and pliant and beautiful body, he will say that she is willowy, and that’s what I say. I say that Faith Salem was willowy."
"I woke up at seven in the morning, which is a nasty habit of mine that endures through indiscretions and hangovers and intermittent periods of irregular living."In the last two examples, especially, Flora has his hard-boiled P.I. narrator/protagonist question standard scenes of P.I. fiction (the description of the beautiful female client, the narrator/protagonist's description of himself) even as he lives those scenes. I'll save the rest for a dissertation, but for now, suffice it to say that a novel that questions itself and its conventions on every page (so far) is a compelling but hardly restful experience.. Here's the novel's opening:
"A woman wanted to see me about a job. Her name, she said, was Faith Salem. She lived, she said, in a certain apartment in a certain apartment building ... "Now, let's go see what the rest of the book is like. In the meantime, what crime writers, novels, or stories have reminded you of a period or a genre from another art form?
|My street, tinkered with so it looks contemporaneous with the|
paperback originals I've been reading from the 1950s and '60s.
(Photos by your humble blogkeeper)
|The Lit Brothers Building, Philadelphia.|
"The bright yellow of the Caddy made it stand out like a banana in a bowl of grapes."or
"His pale eyes, excited by the anticipated kill, had the translucent quality of seedless grapes, yet seemed more shiny, as if oiled by hate."
|From my newspaper's office|
looking across Market Street,
"You can almost see the improvement happening in Ozaki’s steady progression up the ladder of paperback publishers. He started at the bottom with Phantom and Handi-Books, moved to Graphic, then to Ace, and finally to Gold Medal."And now I'm off to learn more about the pulps and hacks who wrote for them.
DOWN AT THE EDGE of Mexican town, where the pavement gave out and the yellow dust drifted ankle-deep over the hard-packed adobe, a radio was moaning a dreamy beat into the night. It was the kind of music that needs two people, but only one was listening ...
That's the opening of the first novel I'm reading by Helen Nielsen, and I hope you'll agree that it demonstrates the woman had chops.— Obit Delayed, Helen Nielsen
"Now that Mitch noticed, the man did have a newly wedded look— but he didn’t fit. He was too common, too Mr. Average Man. Not that a man couldn’t look like a grocery clerk and still be a murderer, but how, Mitch wondered, could he be married to a number like the blonde?"And then there's this description of a man who, from a young age, did not maintain himself in top physical shape: "Even in so old a photo Frank Wales showed sighs of an impending bay window." That is the most creative synonym I've ever seen for "spare tire," and it makes me want to read more by the mysterious Helen Nielsen.
Labels: Helen Nielsen
|(The graphically brilliant |
and thematically relevant cover
of the Canadian edition of
"‘We’re not doing a runner, Vee.'"
"Mace had watched her taken away to the Membesh camp. Nights of rape ahead of her as the big boys had their way. The big boys now MPs, government men, oligarchs. Was hardly a wonder he and Pylon went off to run guns. The camps weren’t a picnic."One could discuss that passage at some length. For now, suffice it to say that Nicol avoids the easy temptation of making her horrible past an easy pop-psychological excuse for her evil present. Oh, and has any villain ever had a better name, with a more resonant first syllable, than Sheemina February?
"a cliff of expensive caves owned by film stars, rich business machers, trust babies, highflying models with too much money too soon."6) The reference to "Government men, all the old strugglistas" who "get fatter by the minute with their deals and schemes." Strugglistas is my word of the week.
"‘That’s your name? I call you Dancing Rabbit?’"
"‘That’s what I answer to. Also Veronica.'"8) The humor at the tensest moments, as here, when Mace and Pylon confront Dancing Rabbit and her husband who, it turns out, are Native American casino entrepreneurs eager to swing a deal in South Africa:
“‘Maybe you should have told us. Sort of thing puts you in a different category for us … `In our books,’ said Pylon, ‘you were rich and famous coming here for a good time. Just needed the edge taken off the street life. No big deal.’”
“‘Still not,’ said Dancing Rabbit. ‘In our experience people say they’re going to scalp you, they’re generally blustering.’
“‘Not here,’ said Mace. ‘People here say that’s their intention, most often it is exactly.’”9) A comic set piece that does extra duty as local color and entertaining lesson in how vernaculars mix in a multi-ethnic country:
"He rapped his knuckles on the lid. ‘Ja, hell man, this old biddy, this’ – he shook his head – ‘I’d say, hell man, I’d say, ja,’ – he folded his arms – ‘I’d say the way it is with your car, ag man, short and sweet like a beet, the fucking fucker’s fucked, ek se. Finish ’n klaar. Know what I mean. End of story.’"In short, if you like your thrillers drum-head tight, sharply observed, with a keen satirical edge, thoroughly entertaining even as they offer serious commentary on the countries of their setting, you want to read Mike Nicol.