Thursday, August 30, 2007

More "Half Moon Investigations" plus two questions

On the one hand, you have third-rate American sitcoms and the rancid, focus-group-driven family strips that waste acres of space on American comics pages every day. Their idea of humor when it comes to children is the drooling baby, the troublesome teenager, and, most grating of all, the impossibly precocious tyke into whose mouth the "writer" puts words that no child would ever say.

On the other, you have Eoin Colfer's Fletcher Moon, who shows what can happen when a real writer writes about children. Fletcher "Half" Moon, as readers of this blog will know, is a 12-year-old private detective. In Half Moon Investigations, he breaks a case that involves theft (of his detective's badge and a set of turntable needles, among other items), conspiracy and assault (Was the target really a garden gnome?)

Among the book's charms are that young Moon credibly confronts dilemmas familiar from the crime fiction that Colfer loves so well while remaining anchored at the same time in a child's world.

The novel's climax and dénouement pack an emotional punch, partly as a result of Fletcher's having had to be cruel to a girl he admires. Fletcher's letdown after he breaks the case neatly echoes the gloomy perspective of a Philip Marlowe. Yet in the midst of his rather affecting reaction, he remains an authentic twelve-year-old, convinced that the world revolves around him (though this scene happens in a school lunchroom rather than a seedy bar):

"Life was rolling along with no regard for my personal gloom. Kids were chatting, flirting, fighting, and occasionally eating.

"Didn't these people realize how depressed I was? I had turned my back on two things that were very important to me. My chosen profession and an unlikely friend, Red."
Rarely have more charming and affecting thoughts been put in the head of a fictional character, at least not one who was thinking them in a school lunch hall.

Here are the questions; feel free to seek help from a young person of your acquaintance: What's your favorite children's or young adults' crime story? What does such a story have to do in order both to work as crime fiction and be suitable for and attractive to its intended age group?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Declan Burke said...

Kidnap, murder, derring-do, a flawed knight errant hero, a disingenuous femme fatale and a host of low-life bad guys operating at the behest of a sinister Mr Big ... does Peter Pan qualify as crime fiction? It's possibly the most perfect piece of fiction ever written, for child or adult. Failing that, Treasure Island.

As for why they - or indeed Eoin Colfer's novels - work so well: you write for children as if they were adults, but with the cynicism / hope dynamic tipped ever-so-slightly in favour of hope.

August 31, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, would Peter Pan look good with a damp cigarette hanging out one side of his mouth? Does he call Wendy a dame in private?

Perhaps I'll pick up one of those children's classics from time to time just to see if I can figure out why it works. I'm an impatient reader but easily hooked, so Half Moon Investigations got me with its opening paragraph. But it held me because it managed to convey the impression that Colfer was writing for children as if they were adults and children at the same time. I'd also say it follows your prescription for a successful children's book, with its hopeful ending lifting the gloom that immediately preceeded it. Of course, such is the case in many "adult" crime novels, too.

August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrillers for children/young adults - I like the Alex Rider series from Anthony Horowitz.
Alex is basically a (very) young James Bond.
They are great easy reads with plenty of pace.
Two years ago at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, Horowitz was doing a gig alongside another of the adult variety - normally, they don't run concurrent events at Harrogate - both were packed out, but Horowitz's had a different type of audience. I found myself waiting in a line afterwards for a book signing with a lot of young and very enthusiastic boys... I was in the queue for a signing to benefit my Godson, when he's old enough to read the novels.
But, what lovely enthusiasm all round! And these novels can be read by adults too...

August 31, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the Horowitz tip. It's good to know that children read crime fiction, too, just as I read the Hardy Boys in my youth.

I'd like to do two things: stand in a line like yours at Harrogate to hear what Horowitz's young readers say about him, and read one of the books myself to see if Horowitz can appeal to adults as well as to his young readership.

August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horowitz can and does. He trancends the norm and the immediate, pulling all in.

Do give him a try!

I think you'll find it's worth it!

September 06, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Horowitz sounds like fun. This all could wind up making me feel young again. Thanks!

September 06, 2007  

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