Thursday, October 09, 2008

Noir at the Bar IV: Caught in the act

A stimulating time was had by all at Philadelphia's fourth Noir at the Bar reading last evening at Fergie's Pub when authors were not being nabbed in the act of pinching bicycles.

John McFetridge read from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Declan Burke read from The Big O, and subsequent discussion shed light on crime fiction not just from McFetridge's Canada and Burke's Ireland but from England and the United States as well.

I shall ponder and perhaps discuss further McFetridge's observation that American crime fiction had "removed the author's voice and given it to the characters."

Burke offered at least three possible explanations for the boom in Irish crime writing: the post-Troubles phenomenon of newly unemployed paramilitaries with finely honed criminal skills, the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin, and an explosion of chick lit that may seem antithetical to crime fiction but nonetheless gave genre writing, including crime, a foothold in a country of towering "literary" writers.

Burke draws inspiration from Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, McFetridge from Ed McBain. This naturally led to an examination of American crime fiction, and an audience member offered the astute observation that "Americans take you through a place" as opposed to the traditional English plot-driven murder mystery. This may interest readers familiar with sneering references to recent international crime fiction as mere "guidebooks." Americans did it first, Clive.

(In the photo above, Scott Phillips demonstrates American-style crime for an attentive international audience of, from left, John McFetridge, your humble blogkeeper, Declan Burke, Brian Rademaekers, and our courteous and efficient barmaid, Claire Wadsworth.)

Tomorrow: In Baltimore to see how pros run a Con, or drinks on Iceland.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Hah! That's a cracking pic, man.


October 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It has everything, doesn't it? Felonious dudes, a crime being committed, a city street at night, and a beautiful woman.

In Baltimore now for Bouchercon. Have already chatted with Ken Bruen and Declan Hughes, among others, and I haven't even had lunch yet.

October 09, 2008  
Blogger Sucharita Sarkar said...

A picture-perfect plot-possibility there!

I liked the take on Brit crime-lit being plot-driven whereas American writers seem to take you through places. In fact I had once attended a few lectures on crime fiction, where all the speakers neatly (and maybe too categorically) separated British 'whodunnit's from American 'thrillers'. Whodunnits moved from present to the past (reconstructing the crime to find the criminal), whereas thrillers moved into the future, as we went along with the protagonist and his escapades/adventures.

October 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not previously heard the American-British opposition stated in those terms, but it makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone knows the classic opposition of American grittiness vs. English puzzle-solving. Upon a bit of reflection, this will seem due in large part to American crime fiction's portrayal of cities. I don't think earlier English crime fiction ever did anything similar. Conan Doyle's London was a superb atmospheric creation, with mist and with boats banging against docks and whatnot, but it was always a backdrop.

Perhaps the idea of a city setting as vivid and vital as any character ought to be regarded, with the hard-boiled private detective, as one of American crime fiction's legacies to the world.

October 09, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...


October 10, 2008  

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