Sunday, October 29, 2006

A no-crime zone -- Tunisia

Crime fiction has yet to make an impact in this land of splendid Roman mosaics, old mosques, Punic ruins, and fine couscous. One Tunisian of my acquaintance speculates that this may be due in part to the high cost of books relative to many Tunisians' wages. Whatever the reason, I found no crime fiction on visits to one bookshop in Tunis and another in Sousse.

On the other hand, my tour group did include an expatriate Australian now living in England who used to work with Peter Temple at the Sydney Morning Herald. She said she had no idea he had gone on to success as a crime novelist. She did say he was a generous colleague and ¨a fabulous writer."

(To the right is a Punic figure found on the Byrsa hill in Carthage that archaeologists believe may be the oldest known depiction of Sideshow Bob.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A new kind of protagonist and a familiar kind of blurb

I posted a while back about amateur sleuths in unusual professions. I have just started Shane Maloney's The Big Ask; Maloney's Murray Whelan is the first political-operative crime-fiction protagonist I know of -- and he has a sense of humor.

Here's a detail I forgot to mention earlier. Stop me if you've heard this before, but a cover blurb compares Maloney's protagonist to Ian Rankin's:

"Whelan is like an Aussie Rebus."
Sunday Herald

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Passport to crime

I've neglected to mention a regular source of international short crime fiction: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine's "Passport to Crime" section.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

A world of noir anthologies

You may have read Dublin Noir or either of two London Noirs. If you missed Brooklyn Noir, perhaps you picked up Brooklyn Noir 2. But how about Miami Noir, Paris Noir, Havana Noir or, from that hotbed of crime, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Twin Cities Noir? Are all available or soon to be published, many from Akashic Books.

The heads-up on many of these noirs comes from Maxim Jakubowski, that busy writer, anthologist and proprietor of Murder One bookshop. Jakubowki, editor of several volumes of Best British Mysteries, among other collections, reports that his Paris Noir should be out in the fall of 2007, with stories from French, British and other European writers, all of whom live or have lived in Paris. Jakubowski also reports that contracts have been signed for Rome Noir, with publication possible in 2008.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Catalan dog?

Crime Scraps expresses vague dissatisfaction with Manuel Vazquez Montalban's An Olympic Death. Scraps thinks a certain diffuseness of plot may be to blame. His comments got me thinking about my own vague dissatisfaction with the novel. I realized then that the the author says curiously little that is memorable about his setting -- is surprising for a book whose title presents it as a story of a changing Barcelona.

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No full review of "Total Chaos" yet, but ...

It's coming, it's coming, maybe. Circumstances will conspire to make my blogging spotty for the next week or so, and I don't even have my copy of Total Chaos handy for reference.

For now, though, I have one more comment relating to music. Jean-Claude Izzo seems to have had music very much on his mind as he wrote Total Chaos. This shows not just in the frequent invocations of music to set mood and define character, but also in a small aspect of the book's construction. The protagonist and two friends who figure prominently are of Spanish or Neapolitan stock. The milieu of the novel is 1990s Marseilles, which has new minorities, some African but mostly Arab. Throughout the novel, the protagonist/narrator, Fabio Montale, compares and contrasts the older immigrants with their newer counterparts. These observations ae commentaries on the main action, something like a secondary theme recurring in a symphony and responding to the main theme.

As in a symphony, the observations build to a climax. As Montale's world reels into total chaos (bodies pile up, killers and victims turn out to be connected in unexpected ways, and fascists of an especially evil kind turn up in high places — or dead), the comparison of poor white Italian and Spanish immigrants with poor dark-skinned Arabs intensifies into identification. In one of the novel's numerous flashbacks, Montale and friends comtemplate with grim amusement the situation of Spanish and Neapolitan immigrants to Marseilles. "What are we, after all?" one friend asks, to which the other responds "Arabs!" and all burst into laughter, the climax and the realization of all that had been implied first by comparison and then by identification.

And this may be the taking-off point for a post about politics in crime novels. Cheerio!

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Jean-Claude Izzo's "Total Chaos": Music and Poetry

I'm nearly through Total Chaos, the densely atmospheric and downbeat first novel in Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles trilogy.

A few notes before a full-scale comment in the next day or two:

1) Too many noirish writers these days use a protagonist's musical tastes as shorthand for his or her state of mind. I'm not sure when writers started doing this in a big way; maybe Ian Rankin's John Rebus popularized it, with his taste for the Rolling Stones. In any case, the device has become a cliche, and it can seem cheap. You know, the author is too lazy to write how his hero feels like a boozy piece of crap, so he types the words "Tom Waits" and feels that he's done his job. (I wonder if writers picked this up from the by-now stereotypical moody saxophone soundtrack of countless crime movies and TV shows.)

Two things set Izzo apart from this group. The first is that his Fabio Montale's musical tastes are better and more varied than those of most modern noir protagonists. He listens to Paco de Lucia and lots of Michel Petrucciani, for example. French singers. Italian singers. Other characters listen to Marseillais rap or to rai. This music is different enough that it serves as a real character marker and mood setter rather than just an easy label.

The second is a frequent poignance of presentation. Montale hears music coming from another room or from inside an apartment. Outside, he muses on the music and the person playing it, and on his separation from her. This, I think, contributes to the sense of wistfulness and fatalism that some have seen in the trilogy.

2) There's poetry here. Characters recite it, read it, talk about it, reminisce about it. The poetry is usually intense and romantic, and so is the effect. In only one scene does the poetry seem an affectation, because there is too little poetry, and too much talk about poetry. I felt torn from the novel's fictional world and plunked down in a lecture from Izzo about what he liked. When reading a novel, I care nothing for the author, everything for the characters.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Teaching crime fiction in schools?

They do it in France. An article at on the history of crime fiction in France offers this:

Its cultural value can be judged by the fact that the genre is not only taught in primary schools using guided anthologies with short extracts from a wide variety of French and other authors. But also from November 2003 to the end of February 2004, there was an exhibition targeted specifically at young readers at the specialist crime-fiction library in Paris (Bilipo) ... The accompanying book, co-produced by the Parisian library services and La Joie par les Livres, a Ministry of Culture and Communication organisation, contains interesting articles and suggestions for further reading for both children and adults.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An accolade for one of my favorite crime novels

I've praised Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu Xiaolong's debut novel about Shanghai's Inspector Chen Cao. In addition to my comment in the post that introduced this blog, I cannot think of a more exciting opening to a crime novel than Death of a Red Heroine's first chapter. It backs into the story slowly, violating a supposed rule of crime fiction, and it does so beautifully.

Now (well, back in August) comes a report that the Wall Street Journal ranks Death of a Red Heroine among the five best political novels, along with Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister, Charles McCarry’s Shelley’s Heart, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Think what you will of the Journal's politics, that's pretty fast company.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Marseilles Trilogy, part I

Two thoughts on the beginning of Total Chaos, the first novel in Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles trilogy (which also includes Chourmo and Solea):

1) I don't know what the weather is like in the opening chapters, but it feels like rain. Either like rain, or like relentless sun beating everything into silence.

2) Total Chaos has not been made into a movie, as far as I know, but, based on the novel's early pages, I imagine a film shot through with dissolves, sudden transitions and flashbacks to capture leaps of time and place -- a challenge, in other words, for a director who wants to keep a film watchable. On paper, on the other hand, these opening chapters are gorgeous.

P.S. The trilogy was the basis for a 2001 French television miniseries starring Alain Delon, that classy portrayer of gangsters in atmospheric settings.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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The verdict is in on Peter Temple's "Bad Debts" ...

... and it's favorable. I've finished the novel, and I'm pleased to report to my Australian friends and correspondents that I liked it for a number of reasons interesting enough to make me want to read more.

Bad Debts, the first of Temple's books about Jack Irish, exemplifies a special characteristic of the detective novel, of which one historian of the genre wrote that it "uniquely ... grew out of the character, rather than vice versa." Break down the plot of Bad Debts into its elements, and there's probably nothing you haven't seen before: sleazy land deals, corruption in high places, sexual misdeeds. A protagonist who lost his wife and sank into drink. A consoling sexual relationship. Lots of wisecracks. Bad Debts even brings back that older standby of crime novels and movies: a horse race and clever manipulation of the betting odds thereof.

Put them all together, however, and the controlling personality of the narrator/protagonist, with his low-key wisecracks and level-headed perspective, makes this something quite new in tone. Yes, Jack Irish has lost his wife to a violent killer. Yes, he came close to personal and professional ruin because of it. But no, he does not sink into self-pity. More to the point, he is capable of clear-eyed self-analysis that no self-dramatizing American, self-pitying Scottish or self-conscious Swedish detective-novel protagonist would be able to manage.

I had two plot quibbles: Temple's introduction to a female news reporter who plays a prominent role is slightly stale and familiar, and one obvious clue hits the reader long before it hits Irish. But that latter may be an aspect of Irish rather than a plot flaw. The man is refreshingly flawed, even refreshingly weak and pliable, in some ways, a rather more human private investigator than so many of the moral supermen and Christ figures who have walked down Raymond Chandler's mean streets.

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© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ian Rankin comparison, part CCCLXXIV

The lengths to which publishers and reviewers stretch to compare writers to Ian Rankin has been noted here occasionally. I thought I'd post examples of such comparisons when I find them, and I invite you to offer your own. Today's example is from a blogger's comment on Qiu Xiaolong's excellent Death of a Red Heroine:

I'd recommend the book to anyone who enjoys writers like Ian Rankin strong on personal back story, human relationships and evocative place settings.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Peter Temple's low-key wisecracks

You suggested him, I posted about him, you responded about him. Now I'm reading him. I'm just about ninety pages into Bad Debts, Temple's first novel about investigator-cabinetmaker-sort-of-ex-lawyer Jack Irish, enough to give a preliminary report.

The book is episodic but not at all jerky. It's full of fresh observations, even on that tired P.I.-novel subject, the protagonist who loses his wife, then slips into drink. It's got enough Australian slang and speech patterns to make things lively for this North American reader.

Here's Jack Irish's description of a financial-news office where he meets a female reporter he hopes will help him on a case:

I noticed that all the men in the room were frozen into poses suggesting deep concentration while all the women seemed to be typing. Could it be that the men were transmitting thoughts to the women, who were typing them up? I suggested this to Linda Hillier. She looked at me speculatively.

More later.

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© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Why international crime fiction is special

I posted a while back about an issue of Literature Matters devoted to crime. Here, I'll offer some excerpts from one of the articles, by Christopher MacLehose. The excerpts speak both to the high quality of much international crime fiction and to the reasons we read it. Perhaps they'll inspire you on your next trip to a bookstore:

Publishers will tell you that some of their best literary authors have, within the last decade, turned to crime.
If European crime fiction is attractive to British and American readers now in part it must be the attraction of the unfamiliar location, the unfamiliar politics. Petros Markaris' stories of municipal corruption in a brilliantly-rendered Athens are infinitely more instructive and entertaining than the wearisome regurgitations of many-times digested plots of political and union warfare in North America.
You are sometimes tempted to suggest to an author that a degree more attention to forensic study and results would be appealing to a British readership well versed in these matters. Karin Fossum told me once that she had written a thousand or more pages of forensic ‘stuff’ but had thrown them away because ultimately they were not what interested her about the case. She has proved the wisdom of writing her own books in her own way over and over. It is what gives her a huge following throughout Europe.
For the habitual reader of crime fiction this sort of variation of technique in an investigation, as in the context, is a pleasure, one that grows with familiarity.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some news about Peter Temple

A number of readers have commented on the difficulty in finding the Australian author Peter Temple's books in the U.K. and the U.S. Karen Chisholm of that encyclopedic wiki site AustCrime says readers in Australia are also distressed about his availability outside that country, "although now that he's with Text Publishing we hope that will improve."

Let's hope this publisher can get more Temple into more hands everywhere. I've just begun his Bad Debts, which gets off to an awfully promising start.

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More about war

The Rap Sheet and Anthony Rainone's Criminal Thoughts offer Cara Black's thoughts on a Nazi eugenics program that figures in her novel Murder In Montmartre.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A superb history of fictional detectives

T.J. Binyon's Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction , published in 1989, is an invaluable guide to the history of fictional detectives and just old enough to be an interesting historical document itself.

Binyon breaks down fictional detectives by type: the professional amateur (Sherlock Holmes, for example), the amateur amateur, and the police. Along the way, this short and astoundingly comprehensive book offers nuggets of social history (the remarks about the unease of early British fictional police officers probing crimes among their aristocratic social superiors stand out), and brief assessments of an astonishing number of authors. Binyon is unafraid to boost a lesser-known writer (Georgette Heyer) at the expense of better-known ones (Allingham or Marsh). His suggestions of writers I had not heard of could keep me reading for years.

The book is far stronger on British writers than on Americans. Binyon excludes Norbert Davis and Raoul Whitfield, for example, while including British writers of equal or lesser stature. But really, this is just a quibble. He could not include everyone in a book whose main body is just 134 highly readable pages long.

Binyon's summation is of special interest for visitors to this site. After noting the decline of the man-about-town amateur and accurately predicting the rise of detectives from professions other than law enforcement, he has this to say:

"Police, rather than the gifted amateur or the hired professional, are the natural investigators of crime ... Unlike the other types, too, there seems to be a good deal of scope for development in the police novel; the possibilities offered by, for example, the police forces of other countries, the police procedural, and the historical policeman are far from exhausted."

Binyon published his book relatively early in the careers of such writers as Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill, and before the rise of Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and any number of writers on my favorites list. All in all, he did as good a job of looking ahead as he did of looking back. Nice work.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life during wartime

I've just picked up Dan Fesperman's Lie in the Dark, published in 1999 and featuring Vlado Patric, a homicide investigator in wartime Sarajevo. The opening pages offer an eerie description of daytime calm in a war zone, and an unexpectedly testy confrontation between the coffee-deprived Patric and a speechifying reporter.

"I think you are oversimplifying a complex situation," Patric tells the reporter, who replies: "Yes, well that's what I'm paid for, isn't it. Take all the nice blurry grays and turn them into black and white for the public to digest before moving onto the horoscopes and the latest from the Royals." (The reporter's preachiness and self-pity are interesting, considering that Fesperman is himself a reporter who covered Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, according to the book's author information.)

I am guessing that this somewhat uneasy opening is Fesperman's way of dealing with the special problems of setting a murder mystery in a war zone. It reminds me of the uneasy self-justification J. Robert Janes offers at the beginning of each of his St. Cyr-Kohler novels, about a French detective and a Gestapo investigator who team up to solve crimes in Nazi-occupied France:

I do not condone what happened during these times, I abhor it. But during the Occupation of France the everyday crimes of murder and arson continued to be committed, and I merely ask, by whom and how were they solved?

Yasmina Khadra's Brahim Llob novels and Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy handle the task more smoothly. Khadra integrates the horror and tension of 1990s Algiers into his first-person narrator-protagonist's everyday activities and observations. Kerr does something similar, plunging his blunt, wise-cracking protagonist directly into the action and offering wry observations about all that surrounds him, including noxious signs of Nazi terror. The observations are all the more striking for their off-handedness. No need for self-justification here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Making a long story short

How do you feel about writers who cannibalize their own novels, ripping out a chunk that they then publish as a short story, usually in an anthology? It drives some readers crazy. Maybe it's not exactly unethical, but it somehow doesn't feel right. Or maybe it just depends on whether the chosen fragment works as a story.

My man Bill James (praise him to the skies) made a bad job of it when he took a chunk of his novel The Girl With the Long Back and had it published as a story in one of Maxim Jakubowski's Best British Mysteries collections. The "story" includes an action sequence in an unexpected setting, and it does a fair job of presenting the moral dilemmas and lurking doom that James often sets up in his novels. Its end includes one of the funniest bits of talk from one of the best-ever writers of darkly funny dialogue. But a fragment is not a story. This one ends simply because the scene ends, purporting to turn on a quirk of a main character's personality that is not strong enough to work as the denouement of a story.

The American writer Stuart M. Kaminsky, on the other hand, has a superb story in The Oxford Book of Detective Stories that I later found in one of his novels, where it works as an intriguing subplot. Even then, however, I spent a few odd pages trying to rid myself of a feeling that I was going crazy. Had I seen this before?

So, readers, is taking a piece of a novel and repackaging it as a short story ethical? How do you feel when you come across an instance of this?

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Some who takes crime writing seriously

Euro Crime has a link to a Literature Matters, an arts magazine that devoted its spring issue to crime. Of special interest are articles on Other Worlds and Crime Without Frontiers. There's something curiously appealing about that last title.


When "serious" writers sink so low as to write stories with plots ...

... they write crime novels. Michael Dibdin reviews John Banville's Christine Falls, which Banville wrote under the name Benjamin Black. The review is full of cute (or cutesy) lines such as "Intercourse between the detective story and mainstream fiction is traditionally regarded as one of those things we don't mention, though everyone knows it goes on."

Dibdin makes an especially interesting point about the test Banville set for himself in writing a crime novel: Can he plot?:

"The answer is yes. It's almost impossible to tell someone who hasn't read it what Banville's prizewinning novel The Sea is 'about,' but the problem with Christine Falls is saying anything at all without ruining a compelling novel set in the redolent, boozy, dank, stifling Dublin of the 1950s, a city dominated by a tight-lipped and even more tightly networked mafia made up of a few prominent clans."

So, when "serious" writers want to tell a story, they're not afraid to write a crime novel, even though they do so under an assumed name (unless they're Joyce Carol Oates).

© Peter Rozovsky 2006


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Found in translation

An exceedingly interesting article here about translators of foreign-language crime fiction into English, including short question-and-answers with a number of translators.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Crime writers are denied prizes . . .

. . . by literary snobs, according to Ian Rankin, last year in the Independent.


Eh, what's up, geneticist/bioethicist/computer programmer?

I bought a collection of R. Austin Freeman's Dr. Thorndyke stories today. Freeman was a physician, like Conan Doyle. This happened a week after I read a theory that connected the rise of the mystery story with the rise of more rational legal systems in Western Europe. (The theory seems to hold true for China, also, where the heroes of the traditional crime stories were judges.)

Later, reporters, lawyers, insurance investigators and forensic pathologists starred in crime novels. It's easy to understand why. All these fields involve asking questions and solving puzzles, just as solving a crime does.

So, here's today's question: What professions are naturals for future crime novels? What sorts of workers who have not yet been protagonists of crime stories would make good fictional sleuths?

© Peter Rozovsky 2006


More Beer . . .

. . . or, if you're reading the edition I have, And Still Drink More! It's the same book, Jakob Arjouni's second mystery featuring the Turkish-German private investigator Kemal Kayankaya. I've already held forth on Arjouni's use and overuse of hard-boiled cliches in one book in the Kayankaya series and his effective use of a familiar device in the opening of this book.

But now I'll praise Arjouni for writing a fine roman noir, helped along by effective reinvigoration of -- you guessed it -- some old devices. Here, Kayankaya is called in to investigate the death of a chemical-plant executive. The apparent suspects are four eco-terrorists whose defense lawyer asks Kayankaya to find a mysterious "fifth man" who holds clues to the real killer.

Beyond this, the book travels effectively in Big Sleep territory with a side trip into Hammett land: The story behind the killings turns out to be hellishly convoluted, it involves family secrets, and, about three-quarters of the way through, Kayankaya offers a summing up of events, an expository passage like the ones Hammett patented in The Maltese Falcon and The Dain Curse and Woody Allen made fun of in his detective spoofs.

But it takes more than a protagonist who walks deserted streets, turns up his collar against the rain, and smokes a lot to make a good, dark P.I. story. Kayankaya does all that, and he also drinks too much. But Arjouni infuses the story with a distinct noir sensibility that gives life to some hard-boiled devices that might otherwise seem like so much atmospheric decoration.

Remember that old 1940s movie standby, the scene where Humphrey Bogart or Dick Powell takes a drink, and then the camera work goes all kablooey, and the hero wakes up in a sanitarium, only to escape before the evil doctor can drug him into death or permanent insensibility? Arjouni includes a version here, only it's faster, punchier, and more violent than the classic examples. But what really sets it apart is a vignette of a young man who has spent his entire life in the private clinic and has been destroyed by the experience. A hard-boiled cliche is infused with new, noir menace. And the ending is the same way. Without giving too much away, I hope, the bad guys don't suffer, and no major characters take the easy way out by dying.

Another plus here is the wisecracks. In Arjouni's One Death to Die, at least one crack was annoying and, sin of sins, obtrusively self-referential. Here, the wisecracking is of a higher caliber. One favorite example:

"How did you end up in the profession? Being a Turk, I mean?"

"I'm a citizen of the Federal Republic."

"Oh, I see. ... Not so easy to acquire that damn citizenship, is it?"

"No problem. I mow my lawn, I laugh a lot during the carnival season, and I manage to drink beer and play skat at the same time. Somewhere past Munich lies Africa, that's where the Negroes live. I hate interruptions during sportscasts. My living-room set has been paid for. And I'm really a dancing Silesian at heart."

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Friday, October 06, 2006

A good guide to crime fiction

The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Crime Fiction, edited by Nick Rennison, is always close at hand when I sit down to type (of course, so are lots of other books; my little office is a mess). It contains entries and book lists on 220 crime writers but, through clever features such as lists of crime novels on a given theme and a copious index, points the reader toward many more.

The book packs an amazing amount of information into a compact space and is the closest thing to an indispensable reference that I have. (My one gripe is some unaccountable errors and misspellings in the Bill James entry that I hope the publishers will correct in subsequent printings and editions.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2006


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jakob Arjouni's devices

Readers here and elsewhere have noted his occasional reliance on noir and hard-boiled cliches. One man's cliche is another man's device, however, and Arjouni makes rather exciting use of one such device at the beginning of his novel and still Drink More (Also published under the title More Beer). A series of newspaper headlines and excerpts lays the background for the story's main action: the murder of a chemical-plant executive, and the accusations that four members of a radical ecological group carried out the killing.

In a little over two pages, Arjouni takes the reader from:

Rhein Main Farben to Open Plant in Vogelsberg
Two Hundred Thousand Demonstrators Expected ...


No Incidents At Laying of Foundation Stone
of Rhein Main Farben Plant in Vogelsberg
Former Mayor of Frankfurt Appointed President
of United Nations Environmental Security Council

Along the way are such items as: Frankfurt Mayor's Wife Confirms She Is Rhein Main Farben Shareholder.

It's a neat, economical and exciting piece of scene-setting.

P.S. The jacket of my edition notes that Arjouni's protagonist is "reminiscent of Sam Spade and Philip Marlow." I trust the publisher restored the dropped e in subsequent printings.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Learning From Lovejoy

Jonathan Gash (with some help from you) has already given me lessons in English as spoken in England. But that's not all one can learn from The Rich and the Profane. If Lovejoy's knowledgeable asides on antiques don't grab you, perhaps his paragraphs about the techniques of charcoal-making or the social history of drill halls will. The man and his creator are walking librarians who, in the engaging manner of librarians everywhere, love to share their knowledge.

Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine taught me a lot about life in 1990s Shanghai, and Lawrence Block taught me a little about stamp collecting. I learned from Janwillem van de Wetering about the interesting structure of Dutch police departments. And don't even get me started on what Robert van Gulik taught me about law and public administration in Tang Dynasty China.

That's some of what I've learned from crime fiction. What about you? What crime novels and stories taught you, transported you, made you feel that you knew a place or a subject -- or even that you had just picked up some weird but memorable piece of information you didn't know before?

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Mysteries Around the World

That's the name of this directory from the Tulsa City-County Library. Click anywhere on the world map, and your computer takes you to a list of mystery stories set where you clicked. The lists include works both by writers from the countries they write about and from elsewhere. That last is not surprising in the case of the one book set in Antarctica.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Road maps to crime

WhereDunnit offers handy maps to crime fiction set in continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Call up a map, click on a country, region or state, and you get a list of crime books set there. A link to a map of the world does not appear to be working. The site includes a list of crime novels set in Europe.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Words of Lovejoy

I'm reading The Rich and the Profane, my first of Jonathan Gash's novels about Lovejoy, that irrepressible and lascivious rogue. I may have more to say when I'm done. For now, though, I've noticed that Gash makes specialized speech more a part of his work than most crime writers do.

There's the slang of the antiques trade, for one, but beyond that, Gash has his characters speak in what seems like heavily flavored local speech, ta for thanks, for example, or the Plod for police. Lovejoy's burglar colleague calls him a pillock when Lovejoy makes a sound during a break-in. (Lovejoy also gets called a burk more than once, but I know what that is.)

So, U.K. readers, is this all standard English slang? Is it, perhaps, particular to East Anglia, where the first part of the novel is set?

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Crossing Britain's borders

From the Guardian via the Rap Sheet comes news of Bloody Brits Press, a new imprint that will seek to put hard-to-find British crime fiction in American readers' hands.

This is good news. I am reminded of Donald Westlake's comment bemoaning the lack of foreign films in the United States. Years ago, he said, he could watch Big Deal on Madonna Street for "a dozen post-graduate lessons in comedy." Now, he lamented, "New writers' brains are not being mulched in this way. What will be produced by people who think a good time is Spiderman?"

In movies, as in crime novels, crossing borders is good.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Monday, October 02, 2006

The rules of crime

A reader's reference to S.S. Van Dine's Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories has touched off a discussion. What must a crime story do to keep you reading? What features must it have to qualify as crime fiction? Do rules even have a place in discussions of contemporary crime writing?

You will not be graded on your answers, but attendance will be taken. Good luck.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Plunder of the Sun

I post this because Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge is a fine, exciting novel, but also as a reminder to myself not to get persnickety about categories. It's not a detective story (or, at least, its protagonist is not a detective), but it is a crime story and a heck of an adventure story. It's the tale of two men and their quest for Inca treasure in the mountains of Peru, so its location qualifies it for this site. It integrates Inca history into the storyline with ease and grace, so you'll learn something and have fun doing so.

Hitchcock turned Dodge's novel To Catch a Thief into the movie of the name. He should have filmed this, too, or if not Hitchcock, maybe Kurosawa.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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International noir

I posted earlier about the Words Without Borders online international literature magazine. The May and August issues are devoted to crime, specifically international noir. Take a look.

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