Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hard-boiled at the beach

I'm bursting with enthusiasm for my adopted country, for its misfits, its losers, its hard cases, and its beaches.

I've continued my project, announced here, of reading classic American hard-boiled and noir, and I'll likely continue to do so over the next few days at an undisclosed location on the Atlantic coast. And that means blogging may be light here at Detectives Beyond Borders until next week, lest I get sun screen and beach sand all over my keyboard. In the meantime, a few notes:

1) I like Jim Thompson's The Getaway better than Edward Anderson's Thieves Like Us. Each is saturated with sympathy for its characters, each occasionally lapses into speechifying, but Thompson, perhaps more in this novel than in his others, has considerable fun on the way to his hellish destination.

2) Why isn't Dan J. Marlowe better known? He did his best writing in the know-it-all, smirk-at-everything, over-the-top 1960s, yet his heist novels avoid both nostalgia and jokiness. And The Vengeance Man combines Ross Thomas' eye for political shenanigans with Jim Thompson's fatalism.

Happily, readers will soon be able to learn more about Marlowe and his interesting life (He was a professional gambler, a Rotarian, a Republican city councilman, and a friend of a notorious bank robber.) Gunshots in Another Room: The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe is scheduled for publication this fall. In the meantime, here's an appreciation of Marlowe from the biography's author, Charles Kelly.

3) Why is Paul Cain's Fast One not included in the Library of America's American Noir of the 1930s and 40s collection? It's the best, toughest, hardest-hitting American crime novel whose author is not named Chandler or Hammett. I'll be sure to ask the LofA volume's editor, Robert Polito, the reason for the omission when we meet in good fellowship at Noircon 2012 in November.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Great last lines

Everyone talks about great opening lines, but what about great last lines? Here's the end of a crime novel I've read recently, and if this doesn't fill you with a longing for danger and thrills, you're a cooler customer than I: 
"I’m not staying here.

"I’ll be leaving one of these days, and the day I do they’ll never forget it."
Unfortunately, I can't reveal the title of the book; to do so would be a spoiler.  But I can ask you for some of your favorite last lines from novels, stories, poems, or movies. And let me know if you recognize the passage quoted above!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dan J. Marlowe, Robert Silverberg, and weekends in Philadelphia

"`Stop somewhere and I'll pick up a bottle of Scotch.'  
 "`This is Sunday, remember? In Philadelphia." 
 — Dan J. Marlowe, One Endless Hour 

 "`It's 12:01 Saturday night,' I said. `Which means you can't legally buy a drink in Philadelphia.'"  
Robert Silverberg, Blood on the Mink 

  © Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bite me, you nut: A descent into James M. Cain's world

The Postman Always Rings Twice is supposed to have shocked readers upon its publication in 1934, and Raymond Chandler famously wrote:
"James Cain … is every kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way."
To read Postman today, with Chandler’s assessment in mind, is to be thrown back to a time when readers could be shocked by bits like:
"I took her in my arms and mashed my mouth up against hers. … `Bite me! Bite me!'”
“Come here, before I sock you.”

“You nut.”
Passages like that require an act of imagination on the part of readers today, lest they induce ironic or condescending smiles. Does Cain’s narrative provide the ground for that imagination to take root? Possibly. (I’ve read just a few chapters.) Maybe the trouble with Cain is not, pace Chandler, that he was too dirty but rather that he was not dirty enough.

But Chandler and Hammett require no such imaginative leap; their best work remains as immediate as it was sixty, seventy, and eighty years ago. Same with the scant published work of the great Paul Cain. Why is this?

Though his name is often linked with Chandler’s, James M. Cain did not write for the pulps. Instead, he was a journalist and then a screenwriter, and, though I'm not up on my American magazines, it looks to me as if his short stories appeared not in pulp magazines like Black Mask, but rather in the slicks. Lacking a background in the pulps, did he have literary ambitions different from Hammett's, Chandlers's, or Paul Cain's? Could such a difference account for the occasional datedness of his prose?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crime books you should plotz, they're so good

Shots e-zine has asked a worldwide panel of crime-fiction experts and me to choose books to die for, the occasion being celebration of a new book called, as it happens, Books to Die For.

The book is a collection of essays by some of the world's best crime writers (Megan Abbott, Christopher Brookmyre, Ken Bruen, Sara Gran, Jason Goodwin, Allan Guthrie, John McFetridge, Adrian McKinty, Jo Nesbø, Leonardo Padura, David Peace, Scott Phillips, and many more) writing about their favorite crime writers, and it's coming soon to a country near you.

Each contributor was asked, in the editors' words, for
"passionate advocacy: we wanted them to pick one novel, just one, that they would place in the canon. If you found them in a bar some evening, and the talk turned (as it almost inevitably would) to favorite writers, it would be the single book that each writer would press upon you, the book that, if there was time and the stores were still open, they would leave the bar in order to purchase for you, so that they could be sure they had done all in their power to make you read it."
I have yet to see the book, but I did get the lowdown from one of its editors, Declan Burke, over a restorative fruit juice after Crimefest in Bristol this year, and the book sounds like a cracker, with a surprising choice or two.

Those are the captains and sailors of the great ship Crime Fiction. Among we critical barnacles clinging to the hull, Shots leads off with Barry Forshaw on Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene, and me, on how Bill James' Roses, Roses changed my life. I know I'll check back often as the Shots list grows; you should, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The more crime changes ...

I've been taking myself to crime school, reading some dark American classics for the first time. First up was Edward Anderson's Thieves Like Us (1937), where I found a passage that might be of interest to readers in today's America (or Europe, for that matter):
“`He really knew you, did he?'

“`Sure he did. But I never did let on, see. He says to me: "Boy, I just wish you had got this bank here 'fore it went busted and took my wad. I'd rather for a poor boy like you to have it than them goddamned bankers. Both of them bankers are out of prison now and still living swell on what they stole from me and about four or five hundred more folks here."'”
Have you experienced a similar thrill of recognition when reading an old book? What passages from old crime novels strike you as torn straight from today's headlines, possibly more relevant today than ever?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Does getting it right matter? Not at the New York Times

A story in the New York Times in July said Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University, "was convicted last month of being a serial pedophile."

That, of course, is arguably wrong, pedophilia being a psychiatric condition or psychological tendency, not an act. You wouldn't call someone found guilty of stealing from a store a convicted kleptomaniac, would you?

No. He or she is a convicted shoplifter. Similarly, Sandusky is not a convicted pedophile, he is a convicted child molester or abuser. (The pairing of convicted and serial is problematic, too, unless serial attacks are a crime separate and distinct from individual attacks.)

The Times' imprecise use of pedophile reminds me of a similar unacknowledged Times mistake, a post about which I reproduce below. In neither case is the Times' mistake likely to confuse readers. But in neither case is the language precisely correct, either. It's disappointing that that is good enough for the New York Times.
(Ed. note: This error, published by the New York Times Aug. 6, 2011, remains uncorrected and unacknowledged as of Oct. 3 Oct. 16 Oct. 28 Dec. 11 Dec 18,  Jan. 23, 2012 Jan. 30, 2012 March 25, 2012 June 9 August 20. I don't know why an editor has not corrected the mistake. It's not as if the story's author is Bono, or anything.)

The New York Times recently published the following in its online edition:

c.2011 New York Times News Service

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to be an NFL kick returner, to peer toward the sky, hoping to catch a wobbling ball, while thousands of pounds of opponents thunder toward you. It is going to take more — maybe much more — this season.
In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defined chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to." He also called it "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

Chutzpah means audacity, in other words, not, as the Times seems to think, bravery. Sure, nerve is a component of and near synonym for both, but this does not mean audacity and bravery are themselves synonymous.
Or maybe they have become synonymous, which raises an interesting question: Who determines what's linguistically right and wrong? Respectable authorities, of which the Times is unquestionably one? Trouble is that, while writing and editing at the Times have become sloppier in absolute terms, in relative terms, both may be stronger than before.

That is, though the Times has in recent years given space to Bono and allowed usages once considered mistakes ("Prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani busted the mob, or tried to," New York Times, Aug. 25, 2011), it is surrounded by outlets that care even less about getting things right: newspapers that have de jure or de facto eliminated their copy desks, Web sites that make the most basic editing mistakes and refuse to acknowledge and correct their errors, crime novels that misuse loathe for loath or think that the vibrating organs that enable human speech are vocal chords rather than cords.

So, who decides what's right? Standardized English spelling and, possibly, grammar, meant little before the rise of mass literacy from the middle of the eighteenth century; who says they have to mean anything now? Read loathe for loath or vocal chords for cords, and you'll still probably get what the author intended. Is literacy, beyond the minimum functional level, a luxury? Does getting it right matter?

Comments from readers, writers, editors, and, if any wish to join in, publishers welcome.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011, 2012

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

I don't like Nick Cave

I have a confession to make: I don't like Nick Cave.

Maybe you don't either, but I'm the one who's going to play and maybe talk about noir and crime songs at Noircon 2012, and Cave is the guy who recorded an album called Murder Ballads, his nod to murder ballads.

On first listen, I found the album noirish, all right, but too mannered, too studied, too aware of and pleased with itself. Indeed, one review had this to say (the courtesy title is a clue to the newspaper in which the review appeared:
"...Murder Ballads is about more than storytelling. In each song, Mr. Cave meticulously creates a macabre fable and then distills it to a single image of death in much the way a photographer arranges a studio shoot..."
Fair enough, but I like my ballads to sound more like ballads and less like carefully posed daguerreotype death portraits. And it's not that I'm a musical stick in the mud, either. I've got a song by Jack White on my list, and Tom Waits' album Bad As Me is even more eclectic and musically daring than Cave's, and I like it just fine.

So talk me into liking Murder Ballads better. If I picked one Nick Cave song from the record for my Project Noir songs list, which should it be?

Here's one that has some good lines: "The Curse of Millhaven." Fans of noir and crime songs might notice its melodic similarity to the Pogues' "The Boys From the County Hell." And here's an "Irish Ballad" of quite another kind from Tom Lehrer.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Project Noir Songs goes to Brazil

I knew Elizeth Cardoso’s “Ocultei” was a great melodramatic noir song before I understood the words. (Cardoso and the song are Brazilian, and she sings it in Portuguese.)

Atmosphere was everything: the languid, matter-of-fact singing of the opening verse giving way to vocal tremor, then building to intensity a good deal stronger than that of your average torch song. The jacket photo of Cardoso, eyes closed in concentration as she sings, a bead of sweat (or a tear) below her left eye.

Then I learned what she was singing (Lyrics translated freely if not downright ineptly by your humble blogkeeper):
  Um sofrimento de morte
  Temendo a sorte
  Do grande amor que te dei

 (I blocked out
  A torment of death
  Fearing the fate
  Of the great love I gave you – and this is the matter-of-fact part!)

  Não perturbar nossa vida
  Que era florida
  Como, a princípio, sonhei

 (I tried
  Not to disturb our life,
  Which was going so well
  As I, at first, dreamed – A note of foreboding as sure any in a good '40s or '50s melodrama, the pause between third and fourth line adding to the effect.)

  Hoje, porem,
 Abri as portas do destino

(Today, however,
  I open the doors of destiny – and we skip to …)

  O meu ardente desejo
  Que Deus me perdoe o pecado
  É que outra mulher ao teu lado
  Te mate na hora de um beijo

  (My most ardent desire
– May God forgive me the sin! –
   Is that another woman, by your side,
   Kill you during a kiss.)
She loves him, she hates him, she begs forgiveness, she fantasizes another woman into his arms even as she dreams of his death. That's enough seething emotion to burn holes in the page or on the screen, I'd say.

And now I'm happy to be able to say you can listen for yourself. Though written by Ary Barroso, one of Brazil's best-loved popular composers, "Ocultei" is one of his less-recorded songs. I bought my copy in Brazil twelve years ago, and I'd never been able to find another recording or clip of Elizeth's version — until yesterday. Ladies and gentlemen, Elizeth Cardoso.
I'll be presenting Project Noir Songs at Noircon 2012 in Philadelphia in November, a preliminary act for a Newport Folk Festival 1965's worth of crime-fiction talent including Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, and Joyce Carol Oates. Yes, I'm excited!

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Big Tribute

     Raymond Candler seems to get the explicit tributes from other crime writers, but it's hard to get more sustained and explicit than Lionel White's nod to Dashiell Hammett's "The Big Knockover" in his 1955 novel The Big Caper:
The wheels were beginning to turn. From all parts of the country quiet, tough men slipped into the small southern coastal town and took up the final vigil.

There was the arsonist, the safe blower, the boy-faced killer—there was a regiment of crack, lawless men waiting out the minutes until Saturday night—the night the town would explode into violence. 

For in the center of town sat the bank—a citadel of twelve million dollars, impregnable as Gibraltar, safe as a church.

Safe—until precisely ten-fifteen on Saturday night. Until the wheels began to pick up momentum, and suddenly a fire lit the sky, and the power went off all over town and under way went the king-sized knockover. The grand slam.

The Big Caper."
 Donald Westlake acknowledged White's influence, which makes sense to me. A number of the Parker novels are driven by the personal and logistical conflicts that arise in the planning of a heist, and Westlake, too, paid tribute to Hammett in The Handle. Westlake being Westlake, he had some mischievous fun, making his protagonist, Parker, ignorant of Hammett's story "The Gutting of Couffignal":
“Parker said, `So you want me to take his money away.'

“`Right. I want you to pluck him like a chicken, scrape him clean. Don’t just rob the place, burn it to the ground, rip it right off that God damn island and throw it in the sea. Gut it, like Couffignal. Or don’t you know that one either?''”
The guards in Westlake's comic novel Bank Shot work for the Continental Detective Agency, and Westlake acknowledges that for early influences on his writing, "We have to start, and almost end, with Hammett."

So, what are your favorite tributes from one crime writer to another? Extra points for tributes to Hammett.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to Project Noir Songs

Sunday was a day of research for what could be an interesting and enjoyable project involving noir and crime songs, and you can help.

First, what I realized during the day's listening and thinking: My favorite crime and noir songs grab me with their atmosphere more than with their plots. Some, in fact, are not about crime at all, at least not in the traditional crime-story sense.

I realized, too, that I'll have to listen to more Dream Syndicate and Nick Cave if I'm to learn to appreciate them. I found their songs, often recommended in crime-song discussions, too arch, too deliberately weird, too aware that they are recreating tradition. But a coffee server/smoothie maker in my local café recommended a song by Jack White that will make my list, so I'm not totally past it musically.

Here's where you come in: What else belongs on my list of great noir and crime songs? Why? What make a great noir song great? Do particular songs remind you of particular noir or crime writers?
[Here are the previous Detectives Beyond Borders posts about crime songs. (Click the link, then scroll down.) Extra points for suggesting songs that have not come up in previous posts and comments.]
What does noir mean to you? Get down in the Gutter, answer in 75 words or less, and you might make it into a book.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yams! Yams! Yams!

Or, to state the case more fully:
"Rubbing his sleepy eyes, he looked a second time, and with a sharp gasp he realized what they were. Yams! Yams! Yams!"

The passage is from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's story "Yam Gruel," which has nothing to do with crime, but how could I resist a line like "Yams! Yams! Yams!"?

Akutagawa (1892-1927) did write stories with elements of crime to them, notably the two on which Akira Kurosawa based his celebrated movie Rashomon. And "Kesa and Morito," based, like a number of Akutagawa's stories, on old Japanese tales, may remind crime fans of Double Indemnity.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Shane MacGowan meets Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

One of the bounciest, most cheerful songs I've heard recently also makes the Detectives Beyond Borders list of great noir and crime songs (click the link, then scroll down for some good reading and listening.)

The song is "Rain Street," from the Pogues' 1990 album Hell's Ditch, and it includes lines such as:
"Down the alley the ice wagon flew
Picked up a stiff that was turning blue
The local kids were sniffin' glue
Not much else for a kid to do
Down rain street."
Lyrically, the song is a bit like Lou Reed and, in its stream of images, something like Bob Dylan's long, near-surrealistic songs from the mid-1960s. But Shane MacGowan had a livelier sense of fun than both those guys, and the Pogues were better and tighter musically, so the song is just plain fun to listen to even if you ignore the words.

But those words ... they're a little like David Goodis or maybe, I don't know, Nelson Algren. Click on the song's title above to hear Shane and the boys perform it.
Rashomon is one of the greatest and most celebrated of all movies, and probably the best-known Japanese movie in the Western world. (How many movies have lent their titles to a psychological effect?)

But thirty-six years before Akira Kurosawa's film, "Rashomon" was a story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, one of two by the author that formed the basis of the movie. (The story "Rashomon" is the source of the ramshackle gate and the unforgettable rain in the movie; the "Rashomon effect" is depicted in a story called "In a Grove.")

Late on a rainless night in a deserted office is no time or place to start a consideration of twentieth-century Japanese literature, so I'll begin and end by saying that "In a Grove" is one of the wittiest and most carefully and deliberately constructed stories this writer has had the pleasure to read. As of now, I am, albeit tentatively, a Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and you should be, too. Read him to have your eyes opened to new, little-explored possibilities for crime stories.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

I'm mad as hell ...

I generally strive to subordinate my own concerns to the greater good, to prize cooperation above all else, and never to complain, no matter how severe the provocation.

But not today. I'm in a post-Vázquez Montalbán lull, looking for a new book to read, scrounging chapters here, a short story there, seeking the next big thing that will make life worth living and books worth reading, and I came upon one story that contained not only
"I left the knife where it was, assuming that it would bare some DNA traces of whoever had killed the girl ..."
but also
"... a busload of tourists were mulling around the hat and hippie shops ..."
Damned highlighting is mine.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and the power of "but"

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán is a leftist I could have done business with because, while I don't quite share the late Barcelona crime writer's political commitments, I like to think I share his analytical eye for bullshit.

His 1988 novel Off Side (translated into English in 1996) does not just heap easy insults on developers and politicians, it analyzes its targets, and if that sounds polemical and didactic, maybe it is, but it can be fun. Furthermore, Vázquez Montalbán does not just excoriate moneymakers, he expresses considerable sympathy for the people (and, in this case, a lower-division soccer team) threatened by development ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The sections that ring truest with me are those that expose rhetoric that triangulates, that tries to crush its opposition with kindness and sweet reason, that pretends to understand the other guy's point of view while plotting to take his land, that disingenuously identifies its own interests with the public good. Here's the patrician chairman of the the FC Barcelona soccer team addressing the College of Lawyers.:
"We must not let ourselves be carried away by speculative adventures, but at the same time we must not let ourselves be paralysed by the kind of unimaginative conservatism which on occasion dominates public policy-making in the guise of progressive, left-wing thinking."
The key word in that eminently reasonable-sounding bit of speech making is, of course, but.

For those worried that the book is nothing but a tendentious political screed, know that Vázquez Montalbán and his protagonist, Pepe Carvalho, are just as hard on political correctness as they are on disingenuous neoliberalism:
"`Some people might think you're getting old.'

"`People don't know the meaning of the word nowadays. The only people who know what the word means are people who are old already, and I don't feel that I'm old yet. Imagine it! They've even succeeded in disappearing the word out of the language. These days they talk about `senior citizens.' It reminds me of the years under Franco, when workers had to be called `producers.' To be a `worker' was politically obscene and dangerous. These days, to be `old' is biologically obscene and dangerous."
Since one is vastly more likely to read about "senior citizens of either gender" than "old people of either sex" in my country and my newspaper, I say olé to Pepe Carvalho and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Con Houlihan: An Irish sportswriter on apostrophes and hurling

"A man who can put an apostrophe in the wrong place is capable of anything," said the Irish sportswriter Con Houlihan, who died Saturday.

While experience has taught me that reporters who don't know where to put apostrophes (and adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs, prepositions, em-dashes, commas, semi-colons, numbers, letters, words, paragraphs, their own names) are, indeed, capable of much, including advancement to positions where they can pass on their lack of knowledge to other reporters, it's Houlihan's sports writing that is the occasion of this post.

(Photo by your humble blogkeeper)
I sought out a collection of his work because I wanted to see what he had to say about hurling. Four years ago at Dublin's Croke Park I watched one of the great performances in that old sport's history, and I wanted to see how my awed, outsider's view stacked up against those of an experienced observer. Happily, they matched in places, which I took as a compliment to my own sensitivity and a greater one to Houlihan's enviable ability to appreciate the sport's beauty even after watching it for decades.

I wrote after the game that a friend had made the day's winners sound like "the Ballets Russes, Patton's Third Army and the 1927 New York Yankees rolled into one." Houlihan had written years earlier that

"We tend to take this remarkable game too much for granted: a fresh eye would more sharply perceive its blend of bravery and hardihood and delicate skills."
Knowing hurling's association with violence (the club-like hurleys have been used for purposes other than carrying and striking the sliothar, or ball), I was astonished and gratified to see supporters of the two teams, Kilkenny and Waterford, mingling and drinking in peace and good fellowship before and after the game. Houlihan wrote about another All-Ireland final that
"The early swallows from Cork and Wexford were in town – mostly lads and lasses who fraternised freely in an intermingling of red and white and purple and gold and whose thoughts were more on love than on war."
Houlihan's appreciation of the game showed, too, in his description of  on-field action, a skill sadly atrophied now that sportswriters are taught to leave that sort of thing to television:
"Tony Doran put up his hand in a thicket of ash, brought down the ball, and with a full swing of the hurley sent it to the net."
A word is worth a thousand pictures.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Friday, August 03, 2012

Elmore Leonard's "Raylan: A (non-) Novel"

Elmore Leonard's novel Raylan: A Novel is no novel, at least through its first two thirds, and I’ll eat my hat if it turns out to be one in the end.

Rather, it’s a collection of loosely linked stories, and a good one.  At least through the first two stories, it's as good as Pronto, the first Raylan Givens novel, and better than Riding the Rap. Characters in the second story will occasionally mention events in the first, but that’s as strong as the connection gets. I felt a bit cheated when I reached the first story’s satisfying end, only to find a new story beginning.

I wonder whether Leonard and his publishers really do regard the book as a loosely organized novel, or whether going out of their way to insist in the title that the book is a novel is strictly market-driven, a recognition that novels are an easier sell than short-story collections.

Any thoughts from Leonard fans and others?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What's your favorite fiction set at the beach?

I'll mark the arrival of August's dog days with the opening of Marco Vichi's Death in August, set in Florence, 1963:
"Inspector Bordelli entered his office at eight o’clock in the morning after an almost sleepless night, spent tossing and turning between sweat-soaked sheets. These were the first days of August, hot and muggy, without a breath of wind. And the nights were even more humid and unhealthy. But at least the city was deserted, the cars few and far between, the silence almost total. The beaches, on the other hand, were noisy and full of peeling bodies. Every umbrella had its transistor radio, every child a little bucket."
That got me thinking of my favorite fictional renderings of beachside holidays. Two come to mind: West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi's graphic-novel adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel Three to Kill (Le petit bleu de la côte ouest in the original French), and the greatest of them all, Jacques Tati's movie comedy Mr. Hulot's Holiday.

What are you favorite fictional depictions of life at the beach?
 The novel's translator from Italian into English is Stephen Sartarelli, known best to crime fiction readers for translating Andrea Camilleri's novels about Salvo Montalbano. So I confess to smiling when I read the following exchange in Vichi's book. Those who love Salvo's sidekick and nemesis, Catarella, will know why:
"‘You sent for me, Inspector?’ 

"The intonation was typically Sardinian: bouncy, proud, almost aggressive.
"‘Are you Piras?’

"‘In person.’" (Highlighting mine)
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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