Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hugo Hamilton's Headbanger

I called Hugo Hamilton's 1997 Dublin novel Headbanger "a bit literary in its opening pages," by which I meant it was at times a bit too conscious of its own cleverness, trying too hard to make a plot point.

But those moments are few, and the novel does what crime novels rarely do: It confronts the reality that most crime writers and readers are not killers or victims. Headbanger's Pat Coyne, a Dublin cop, wages small fights and dreams of glory for an imaginary audience, but does what he has to do when the situation demands, "driven by a new mood of optimism and complete fearlessness."

Throughout, Hamilton maintains a nice balance between gravity and comedy, or, to put it another way, he sees the humor in Coyne's fight without, however, belittling it. After hoods kidnap and threaten Hamilton's wife, we get:
"Coyne hesitated. They just abducted her and took her to the Phoenix Park. Subjected her to inhuman and degrading treatment.

"Like what? Molly demanded ...

"They made her perform Riverdance. She needs protection, Frank."
 It might not surprise readers to learn that Headbanger pays explicit tribute to Flann O'Brien and that, like O'Brien, Coyne had a father who waged a brave, futile fight to educate him solely in Irish. I suspect that, having visited Ireland just twice and Dublin once, and being no expert in the country's literature, I may have missed much in this book. But what I got is touching and funny, and you should get it, too.
    "Krzyzewski is already urging ACC officials to start contemplating what they need to do to avoid other leagues from poaching ACC schools."
— Aaron Beard, Associated Press Basketball Writer

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, March 29, 2013

If 20 was 24, plus a question about linguistic hucksterism

I had a post lined up about Hugo Hamilton's affecting 1997 Dublin crime novel Headbanger and another on Max Allan Collins' Quarry in the Middle, which forced me to re-examine what I look for and enjoy in a crime novel.

Then I dropped into a local Starbucks and found that its venti (the Italian word for twenty) drinks now contain twenty-four ounces. The same Starbucks has added a trenta, which, naturally, contains thirty-one ounces even though trenta is the Italian word for thirty. 

This means I can no longer simply ask for a small, medium, or large rather than the Starbucks equivalents of tall, grande, and venti. (I got around the problem this time by ordering a 24-ounce drink and asking the counter clerk if the drink whose name means twenty really contains twenty-four ounces. Her reply? "Would you like whipped cream with that?”)

But this is a watershed in American fast-food retailing: The stuff-your-face supersize McDonalds mentality meets the semantic snobbery that has “baristas” mispronouncing doppio macchiato all over America. It is also not the first time Starbucks has altered a word's meaning for its own purposes.

What examples of semantic hucksterism language change drive you nuts?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who needs copy editørs?

I don't like crime-novel cover copy that brags that the author is a lawyer for the same reason that I don't like covers that identify the author as So-and-so, Ph.D. Such braggart branding plays on the intellectual insecurity of readers. It's a not so subtle effort to bully shoppers into thinking that the author must be smarter than they are, so they will either improve themselves by buying the book or else get a dirty little insider's glimpse at a world they would never know without the author's help.

Me, I don't give a crap what authors are or what degrees they have; I want to know what they can do.

I was thinking about this while reading the following this evening on the back cover of a trade paperback edition of Easy Money by Jens Lapidus when something else caught my attention:
"From one of Sweden's most successful defense lawyer(sic) comes an unflinching look at Stockholm's underworld."
Someone's not paying to have cover copy proofread carefully.

And note the o with a slash in the cover's rendering of the book's title. Jens Lapidus is Swedish, and he wrote the book in Swedish. Ø is a letter in Danish, Norwegian, and Faroese — but not Swedish.

In recognition of professional reality, I have taken a number of the posts I'd previously classified as "Things that drive me nuts" and reindexed them under the heading "Who needs copy editors?" Read them and weep. Just don't expect to be paid for your tears.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Iceman at the Pen & Pencil; Hugo Hamilton's eight honourable gobshites

Detectives Beyond Borders took the evening off to attend a wine tasting at his club. But, always on the job, I snagged a movie tie-in edition from a crime writer/fellow club member, one of whose books has been made into a movie that will be in theaters in May.

The author is Anthony Bruno, the book is The Iceman, the stars include Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and Ray Liotta, and you can watch a trailer here.

When not imbibing Hollywood glamour at third hand, I began reading Hugo Hamilton's 1997 novel Headbanger. The book is a bit literary in its opening pages, by which I mean that Hamilton strains to draw parallels among crooks, cops, and civilians. But it's hard not to love a novel that includes a bit like the following:
"`Embibing Emporium' was another Dublin idiosyncrasy that sprang to mind. As a Garda, Coyne took an interest in the precision of language, and one of these days he would walk straight into that pub, slap a concise Oxford down on the bar counter and say: you pack of eight honourable gobshites, you can't even fucking spell. Look, it's I, not E. Imbibing."
© Peter Rozovsky 2013 

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who needs crime fiction?

I had sat down to prepare the day's post when I realized that my copy of the novel about which I'd intended to offer some remarks for which exact quotation was necessary was some miles away, resting near the top of the literary compost heap known as my living room. In its stead I've dug up a post from this time last year that asks an always pertinent question.
Let's stay in South Africa awhile longer. A provocative discussion in the Crime Beat section of the South African Books Live Web site asks "Is crime fiction redundant?"

Site keeper/novelist Mike Nicol writes about an e-mail exchange with the crime-fiction reviewer Gunter Blank. “I would say,” Blank  wrote, according to Nicol, “that in a society like Germany, Sweden, the US, crime fiction is becoming more and more redundant.”

“I agree it has become pretty difficult finding a decent crime novel that’s not chewing up the same ol’, same ol’." Blank added. "I mean how many serial killers, people with troubled childhoods, old Nazi criminals, heists gone awry and adultery turned murder, can you invent to keep the genre fresh?"

“In turbulent or haunted societies," according to Blank, "societies that are trying to find out who they are – there are still hundreds and thousands of lives and experiences to tell."

What do you say? Is crime fiction becoming redundant in the rich world? More relevant in the developing world? Both? Neither? If it is becoming redundant, as Blank suggests, how can it become relevant again? And if crime fiction is still relevant in "turbulent or haunted societies that are trying to figure out who they are," WHY THE HELL ARE U.S. PUBLISHERS NOT BUYING UP AND PROMOTING THE BEJABBERS OUT OF CRIME WRITING FROM NORTHERN IRELAND?

Before you chuck your Stieg Larsson box sets at Blank's noggin, head over to Crime Beat, read the Nicol-Blank exchange, then feel free to comment here, there, or both. (In addition to his provocative propositions, Blank offers an impressive list of favorite and underappreciated crime writers. The man's got good taste.)
Read a Detectives Beyond Borders guest post from Mike Nicol. Read more from Nicol on South African crime writing, including his own. In a related blog post, It's a crime! (Or a mystery…) discusses "New clichés in crime fiction." Think dentistry.]

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Were the 1950s the era of gimmicks in American crime writing?

don't mean that in a bad way. Fredric Brown had to have had considerable chops to keep the protagonist of Night of the Jabberwock (1951) drunk for the whole book. Same with Fletcher Flora, who has all the characters in The Brass Bed (1956) speaking in a kind of comically boozy cross-talk, though they are usually not drunk.

What other crime novel can you name in which the words goliard or goliards turns up more than forty times? (Detectives Beyond Borders readers are, of course, familiar with goliards.) And how many offer dialogue like this:
“`Will you come and sit beside me?' she said.

“`I don’t think I’d better.'

”`Are you afraid of what might happen?'

“`No. I’m afraid of what would almost certainly happen.'”
or this:
“`That this business of principles is merely a kind of rationalization or something?'


“`Well, it’s possible that you may be right. I’m actually quite a greedy person, and you are almost terrifyingly poor. You’ll have to admit that.'

“`I will indeed. I admit it.'

“`Do you think there is the remotest chance that you might come into quite a lot of money pretty soon?'

“`I can’t see any.'

”`How about the goliard? Do you think he might earn you a lot?'”
I don't know that I'd ever read such screwball weirdness before.
(Click here for another Detectives Beyond Borders post about crime fiction from the 1950s that also invokes Fletcher Flora's name. Quite a name it is, too. We shall not see its like again in crime writing, I think.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

A crime novel that's dated and progressive at the same time, and a question for readers

I'll post from time to time about dated aspects of crime novels, Ross Macdonald's freshman psychology, for instance, or Dillon's long virtual monologue in Chapter Six of The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

I inevitably contrast these with the scenes of Ned Beaumont being beaten and held captive in Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key. That novel appeared in 1931, but the scenes' brutality and Beaumont's despair would be just as fresh and just as harrowing in a novel published today.

Then there's W.R. Burnett's Little Caesar, published in 1929 and the basis of the famous movie of the same name starring Emanuel Goldenberg (left). The movie's dated dialogue disappointed me, and I'd long been curious about whether the novel was any different. It isn't, full as it is of lines like "I got lead in this here rod and my finger's itching."

At the same time, the book's opening segments alternate chapters of a heist being planned with glimpses into the minds and lives of its characters that seem utterly modern. (These include a micro chapter of Rico "Little Caesar" Bandello combing his hair that includes the famous description "Rico was a simple man. He loved but three things: himself, his hair and his gun. He took excellent care of all three.")

What crime novels and stories have you read that seemed dated and surprisingly contemporary at the same time?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Dance of the Seagull: How Camilleri gets better and better

Fifteen books into his Inspector Salvo Montalbano series (with several titles yet to translated from Italian/Sicilian/Camillerian into English), Andrea Camilleri manages both to offer readers the pleasures they've grown to expect and to vary the ingredients and add enough emotional depth to keep the series from growing tired.

In Book Fourteen (The Age of Doubt), for example, two sentences in, and Salvo is already cursing the saints. In the fifteenth and latest novel, Dance of the Seagull, Salvo does not curse the saints until Page 104, and for me the deferred pleasure is like that gained by letting a vintage port age just a few years more. ("Cursing the saints" is translator Stephen Sartarelli's ingenious and entertaining rendering of an untranslatable Sicilian verb. In a comment to an earlier blog post, Sartarelli tells Detectives Beyond Borders the origins of "cursing the saints.")

Camilleri has said he "deliberately decided to smuggle in a critical commentary on my times," but the jabs, while sharper than ever, have become more human over time. The exasperated vitriol aimed at government and Mafia remains, but now laying bare more than in earlier books the human consequences of the misdeeds at which he rails.

Indeed, an increasingly human touch makes this one of the rare long-running crime series that arguably grow stronger with time. Camilleri was 68 years old when the first book appeared, and he recently turned 87. The titles available in English have taken Salvo from his forties to age 57, complete with amusing and touching descriptions of the aches and pains of aging.

In recent books Salvo has grown more tender toward his lover, Livia, and more appreciative of what his colleagues mean to him. In The Dance of the Seagull, the humanity takes the form of Salvo's new revulsion at the savagery whose results he witnesses as he investigates a pair of murders, and the introspection and empathy manifest themselves from the beginning. (The title refers to a seagull's dance of death that Salvo witnesses from his seaside home and that haunts him throughout the novel. Camilleri integrates the dream into the mystery more skillfully that he done in earlier books. He's beginning to get the hang of this Montalbano thing.)

Fans of the excellent Italian television series based on the Montalbano novels and starring Luca Zingaretti, telecast with English subtitles on MHz Networks and available on DVD, will enjoy this little argument between Salvo and Livia:
"`Well, I wouldn't want them to be shooting.' 
" `What are you talking about? Shooting what?' 
"`I wouldn't want to run into a film crew shooting an episode of that television series right as we're walking around there ... They film around there, you know.' 
"`What the hell do you care?' 
"`What do you mean, what the fell do I care? And what if I find myself face to face with the actor who plays me? ... What's his name—Zingarelli ...' 
"`His name's Zingaretti, stop pretending you don't know Zingarelli's a dictionary. But I repeat: What do you care? How can you still have these childish complexes at your age?' 
"`What's age got to do with it?' 
"`Anyway, he doesn't look the least bit like you.' 
"`That's true.' 
"`He's a lot younger than you.' 
"Enough of this bullshit about age. Livia was obsessed!"
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Conorable mentions

A few more remarks on Conor Brady's A June of Ordinary Murders before I move on to The Fatal Touch by Conor Fitzgerald:
  • I was fairly certain I'd figured out the mystery halfway through the novel. I was less than half right, which I take as a tribute to Brady's plotting (and this was his first novel, after a long career as a journalist, so perhaps he'll only get better.)
  • Like many another fictional police protagonist, Brady's Detective Sgt. Joe Swallow clashes with superior officers, has a problematic romantic life, and drinks a lot (He favors Tullamore whiskey.) Without giving away much, I can say Brady's handling of each is free of cliché, the first two with more edge than some authors bring, the last with more nuance.
  • Brady leaves the way open for, at the least, a dynamic subplot should he decide to bring Swallow back in future books.
  • And, finally, Swallow's use of then-young tools of forensic science leads to a fine joke in the novel's final pages. The speaker is a plodding yet dangerous superior studying for a promotional exam:
    "‘Do you know what… I’m readin’ here? There’s a fella out in India… He has a theory that in a few years we’ll be able to identify every single human bein’ be the ridges on their fingertips. He’s writin’ about what he calls the science of fingerprints.’ Did ye ever hear the like… he must be a right eejit.’

    "Swallow thought he could already see the gold braid glinting off Boyle’s new uniform."
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Sex, bullshit, and good stuff from Ireland

`Can any good come from Ireland?"

I don't know what I'd have answered when Gerald of Wales asked that question 825 years ago, but today I'd reply that some of Ireland's crime fiction is all right.

At the moment Conor Brady's 2012 novel A June of Ordinary Murders continues my Irish education. The novel has a dogged police detective sergeant tracking three murders in Dublin in 1887. That was a big year, the jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign and a time of heightened activity by the Land League and the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

But the novel wears its history lightly. Here's an example: Anyone who has read a British or Irish crime or espionage novel will likely have encountered the term Special Branch, that secretive national-security force whose very name makes perps, regular police, and readers alike tremble with fear and excitement. All it takes is a few mentions of Scotland Yard's Special Irish Branch here to remind the reader that the first Special Branch, of London's Metropolitan Police, was, indeed, formed (in 1883) to combat the IRB.

A June of Ordinary Murders (as distinguished from the political murders much on Irish and English minds at the time) is also good on period detail, with the protagonist, Joe Swallow, doing a lot more walking than fictional police of stories set in later periods. My only historical quibbles amount to little more than bullshit. Characters in this 1887-set novel use that expletive several times, though it did not come into popular use until around 1914, according to several sources.

I'm also not sure gender was as widely used for sex in 1887 as it is in A June of Ordinary Murders. The question is less one of strict chronological accuracy than of striking the right tone. Gender, though I am convinced that its spread in America is due to puritanical reluctance to say and write sex, is attested in that sense well before 1887. But it sounds a bit too twentieth- and twenty-first-century to me.
And now, for a lighter-hearted invocation of a Special Branch man, let's give it up for Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some Irish crime writers on St. Patrick's Day

I've been in touch with some of my Irish crime writing friends. It transpires that this St. Patrick's Day carry-on has something to do with Ireland, and that a few of them have some thoughts on the matter. First up is Anthony Quinn, author of Disappeared, with sobering, wistful thoughts on America's crapulous celebration of Ireland's patron saint. His essay is called "Green WIth Envy," and here's a sample:
"On March 17, every US city seemed to want to subject the saint’s day to a proper patriotic blowout, an annual invitation to a feast of green, white and gold, that, as a child growing up during the Troubles, I yearned to accept. However, in the 1970s and 80s, Northern Ireland was a world away from Boston, Chicago or New York. In the border towns of my youth, wearing green made you a target for loyalist death squads, while waving a tricolour was an act of rebellion that could lead to internment without trial. 
"For the children of my generation, March 17 was a religious festival blighted by bad weather, a solemn event from which all sense of pleasure or celebration was firmly excluded."
Read the rest on the Mysterious Press Web site. Quinn's essay devotes space to Denis Donaldson, the activist, informer, and haunted figure who was an inspiration for a haunted central character in Disappeared.

Next up is Carrickfergus' own Adrian McKinty, who writes: "If you want to call yourself Irish then be my guest ... and if that Irishness manifests itself in drinking German beer that has been dyed green, well that's fine with me too." Just don't wear a four-leaf clover and call it a shamrock.

Finally, Declan Burke marks the day with a list of fine Irish crime novels of the last five years, a list to which you should add Burke's own Absolute Zero Cool and Slaughter's Hound.
Irish fact of the day: Barry Fitzgerald was Protestant! Now, I'm off to read from The Oxford History of Ireland. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Character-driven? Plot-driven? WTF?

Is your car engine-driven, or is it wheel- and tire-driven? Or maybe you have one of those transmission-driven models.

That's all pretty stupid, isn't it? But that's how I feel when I read about "character-driven" or "plot-driven" popular fiction, as if one is possible without the other.  (I don't recall seeing any book described as "setting-driven." Instead, one reads of a given novel that "the setting is a character," often preceded by "It's a cliché to say so, but ... " Well, yes, it is a cliché.)

I thought of this when reading Gene Kerrigan's Dagger-winning novel The Rage this week. I suspect readers will be riveted by the police protagonist and by a murderous thug named Vincent Naylor, and even more so by the supporting character of a nun whom the former tries to save from the latter. So that makes The Rage character-driven.

Except that all the good characterization serves to make the suspense of the book's final portions sharper, as cop and criminal race to see who gets to the nun first, and Kerrigan's resolution is shocking and, to me at least, unexpected, so the book is plot-driven. But much of the book's drama and pathos come from moral decisions the characters make or have made. Does that make the book character-driven, or is it part of the plot?

Except that the novel is leavened with brief but effective references to hardships endured by ordinary Dubliners because of the misdeeds of the country's bankers. So the setting is a character.

Except that— Except that I should thank God that, as quickly as The Rage moves, I have seen no references to it as pacy.

What critical catchphrases and buzz words drive you nuts?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How can I fly the friendly skies if I can't get off the ground?

(Note: I wrote the bulk of this account yesterday but could not post it thanks to absence of functioning WiFi service at Newark International Airport.) 

United Airlines' customer-service queue at Newark was short by American corporate standards in this post-customer-service era, so it took just twenty-five minutes for me to get a new boarding pass, this one with my name on it rather than that of a mysterious Mr. Peterson, as on the first pass United had given me. I then got to the gate, only to find — naturally — that my 4:05 flight was now scheduled to depart at 5:20.  I was also surprised to see and hear a gate attendant take the microphone and page the flight crew, asking it to report to Gate 114. Could the crew not find its way to work otherwise?
A hilarious oxymoron
My day at work was already shot, so I thought I'd log on to my computer and type the blog post you're reading now. It's a good thing no WiFi was available, because on my way back from the spot where a restaurant worker had told me I might find a connection (Yes, a restaurant worker. If Newark's airport has an information counter, it's invisible to passengers or available only to Gold Class Preferred Chairman's Club Plus members. Think I'm kidding? The counter where I waited to have a correct boarding pass printed had a priority-access line. That's right: Pay extra, and you can shove ahead and get United to remedy its fuck-ups before the coach-class saps who got there first do.)

But I digress. I had started to say it was good no WiFi was available because on my way back to the gate, I saw that my flight had not been delayed after all. And the crew apparently showed up because a boarding announcement has just been made.

Airy logic: Pay extra
to check your bag free
Some final thoughts: In Montreal, I sat down and linked to the Internet with the airport's free, efficient WiFi network. My fellow passengers wheeled their luggage on the airport's free luggage carts (which, by the way, always seemed to be lined up neatly at their stands when not in use).

Free luggage carts at a government-run facility? Free WiFi? Waste in government? I call it customer service.  Sure, you'll pay ten dollars for a five-dollar sandwich at Montreal's airport instead of the $8.75 you might pay in the U.S., but the tax dollars go for the exotic purpose of providing service. Maybe if we called it "enhancing the flying experience," someone in the U.S. would get interested.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Social decay at home and abroad

I hopped into a cab in Montreal this morning, and the driver immediately turned down the volume on his radio. Such unbidden courtesy would be unimaginable in Philadelphia or New York, I thought, and I was grateful for the civility of a fellow Canadian.

Alas, when I arrived at the airport, I was reminded I was flying to the United States. United Airlines charged me $28.75 for my one checked bag. At 7:20 on a Monday morning, the dense, snaking lines for security and U.S. Customs were more typical of a holiday weekend "Due to the current budget situation limiting the number of border agents at the airport," as several signs informed me.

The one-two-three punch of private-sector cupidity, governmental paralysis, and bad grammar (the adjectival due to misused for the adverbial because of) should have prepared me for the overzealous inspection agent who had me hauled aside for an interview that left me worried I'd miss my plane. But I got to the gate in plenty of time to find out that the United Airlines fight would be delayed by mechanical problems long enough to make me miss my connecting flight. As of this writing, I hope the American social fabric holds together long enough to get both me and my luggage to Philadelphia by this evening.

Speaking of social fabric, two Irish crime novels I'm reading show sharp awareness of Ireland's financial troubles. Alan Glynn's Graveland has a pair of bankers being murdered and, though the novel is set in New York, I suspect strongly that Glynn, a Dubliner, had his own country's problems and the impunity of those responsible for them very much in mind.

Gene Kerrigan's The Rage, winner of the 2012 CWA Gold Dagger for best novel, meanwhile, includes bits such as these:
"Not bad enough the pay's shit — he's just had a wage cut, he's paying shitty levies the government takes to bail out the fucking banks."
"Trade unions are out of fashion now, but everything we ever got we had to fight for it —money, hours, conditions. Today, it's like everyone's grateful to be a unit of labour."
"My father was a die operator in a plastic extrusion factory — small place, non-union. Only time you got to open your mouth was to say `yes, sir.' What he said to me — you get there habit of bowing and scraping, it becomes part of your nature. Don't get the habit, he said."
Now, off for some coffee so I don't sleep through announcements of the next delays or cancellation.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Big O is now a big e-book

A while back I glommed onto an Irish crime novel called The Big O.
"The deliciously complicated plotting," I wrote, "the wry dialogue and the sympathy Burke engenders for his cast of characters made this one of the most fun and purely pleasurable reads I've had in a while."
Reviewers invoked names such as Westlake, Leonard, and Hiaasen, which lets you know you'll crack a smile reading it. And now you can read it on your mobile reading device for $4.99, as well you should. Find out why Detectives Beyond Borders called The Big O a "tour de fun."
I sent Alan Glynn a verbal high five a year and half ago for exposing narrative's use as a contemporary weasel word in his novel Bloodland. His new Graveland, out this spring, does something similar with going forward, as well it should.

Read more about corporate and government weasel words at the Weasel Words Web site.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

No Good From a Corpse: Why I am a Leigh Brackettologist

A few good things about No Good From a Corpse, the hard-boiled 1944 novel by Leigh Brackett, who also wrote the screenplays to the 1946 and 1978 versions of The Big Sleep (the first with the help of some hack named William Faulkner) when not compiling a science fiction résumé of novels, stories, and screenplays that included the script of The Empire Strikes Back:

1) The similes, perhaps not as funny as Raymond Chandler's but perhaps sharper and with more of an edge, e.g.:
"He was a little man with a large head and a face like a healthy, sunburned frog."
2) An eye for detail that let Brackett make familiar points in unexpected ways, as in:
"Vince Klingman lived in a neat, old-fashioned cottage near Western Avenue. The lawn was green and the white fence had all the pickets in it."
"The butler paused. His correct front dissolved enough to show a resigned and patient loathing."
 3) A knack, also apparent in her screenplay for El Dorado, for combining humor and violene in ways that are shocking without seeming gratuitous. An example:
"Vivien giggled. `Blood pressure. We're always hoping he'll have a stroke, but he never does.'"
4) She knew how to say funny things in ways that made them even funnier: 
"Johnny wormed his face through a froth of pink chiffon ruffles and said, `Hiya, Ed.'"
In fact, I like that scene so much that I'll give you a bit more of it:
"The blonde's fist caught him on the side of the head. Clive turned over three times and hit a table, causing a crash and an explosion of splinters.

"Kethrin set her bottle on the floor, clapped her hands together, and said solemnly, `Whee.' Clive rolled over, shaking his head and kicking pieces of table out of his way. The blonde advanced, breathing heavily.

"`Now,' she roared, `he busts my furnicha!'"
5) Like Chandler, Leigh Brackett had an eye for the despoilation of Los Angeles:
"They get water from an ocean inlet down at Del Rey. We kids used to spend most of our time down there, fishing and swimming.

"You wouldn't want to swim there now. The banks are black with seeping oil, and the water's black, too, and it stinks. There aren't any fish in it now."
6) Brackett wrote a convincing male P.I. protagonist who appreciates the dames but who nonetless expresses his appreciation with a dressmakerly precision that I can't imagine from a male author:
"The soft wool of her dress was gathered and bloused, so that her full sharp curves were hinted at rather than seen ..."
(Read an excerpt from No Good From a Corpse.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013


DBB in Nordic Noir book

Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Film & TV has lots of Swedes and Norwegians, roving gangs of Danes and Icelanders. a smattering of Finns, and a Faroe Islander or two.

It also has me, holding forth on Stieg Larssonism on Page 38 and Harri Nykänen's Raid and the Blackest Sheep on Pages 107 and 108, and I admit it was fun to see my name in the index.

The book's author, Barry Forshaw, is probably best known for his biography of Stieg Larsson, but he writes all over the crime fiction, film, and television map. He's the man behind British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation, and British Crime Film, for instance, and I was chuffed when he asked me to take part in this project.

Nordic Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide is out now in the U.K. in paperback and e-book formats, with a U.S. edition to follow in September. As always, Forshaw packs lots of information into a compact space (I have just verified that the book does indeed fit in a pants pocket.) He brings a light, conversational touch to a subject not always celebrated for such qualities, and I'd call the book a good choice if you want to know what the Scandinavian fuss is about and who the up-and-comers are.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A burning question

(Photo by your humble blogkeeper)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The real St. Patrick's Day

It comes in May, and it celebrates the month the Irish drive boring crime fiction out of America.

May marks U.S. publication of the most recent novels by Adrian McKinty and Alan Glynn, each of whom has been mentioned with admiration and respect here at Detectives Beyond Borders. McKinty's I Hear the Sirens in the Street (Seventh Street Books) is the second in a trilogy that began with The Cold Cold Ground. Glynn's Graveland (Picador) follows on the scary dissection of paranoia and manipulation in his Bloodland.

Here's part of what I wrote about that book:
"Glynn is unprepared to accept the giddy assurances of boosters and innovators that online news heralds the path to a bright new world. His worries about the state of my profession are just a small part of a chilling, brilliant first chapter in which no one is sure of anything, so everyone is alert to everything, antennae twitching at the slightest whisper of disturbance."
And here's my take on I Hear the Sirens:
"Like its predecessor, Sirens is a serious portrait of one man's progress through troubled times (early-1980s Belfast and Carrickfergus, the author's home town). Like The Cold Cold Ground, it feels organic. Every joke, every grim encounter, or musing on the crappy Irish weather, or setback or advance in the police investigation contains the seeds of the whole. And it's a hell of a whole; these books are as smart and fun and harrowing as crime fiction gets."
So forget the green plastic leprechaun hats, will you, and read some good books instead.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, March 04, 2013

The real star of El Dorado

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Where we holed up

(Photos by your humble blogkeeper)
Get city folks in the country, and they think: "Where do we store the loot?"

Me and Palmqvist — "Killer" Palmqvist; she says calling a woman by her last name is unladylike — figured that after we knocked over a couple of banks, we'd find some out-of-the-way farmhouse where we could hole up until the heat died down.

We found good escape routes and a place to divvy the dosh, only all the dinky banks that once made such easy targets along Maryland's Eastern Shore had been converted to upscale steakhouses and pizzerias.

So we'll move on. In the meantime, we posed as egg-headed collectors and riffled old books at Bookplate in Chestertown and Unicorn Bookshop in Trappe and Mystery Loves Company in Oxford.

I had to buy something in order to avoid suspicion. I came up with:
Not the Mississippi 
River delta
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, March 01, 2013

Eastern Shore noir

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Dorchester
County, Md. Photos by your humble blogkeeper
How noir is Maryland's Eastern Shore? I ate dinner this evening under one large poster from Cape Fear and another from Out of the Past. It takes a tough man to lend his name to a tender steak.

My nice haul at Mystery Loves
Company in Oxford.
When not eating at Mitchum's Steakhouse (really, the blackened rib eye was fine, and so, to the eternal credit of cattleman Mitchum, was the salad), I made a nice haul at Mystery Loves Company in Oxford. The book at the upper left is not, in fact, confidential. It's The Ravagers, by Donald Hamilton, back cover up by mistake.

We drive by night.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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