Thursday, August 08, 2013

The story of a crime, or Nathaniel Hawthorne and crime fiction

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts
I visited a house Wednesday that lent its name to a novel. That novel:
  • Portrays the slow ripple effect of a crime.
  • Speaks with sympathy of a socially low character cheated out of his land by a socially prominent one.
  • Is neither Scandinavian nor French.
The book appears to have had greater influence on "weird" or supernatural stories than on crime fiction, but its examination of a crime's after-effects ought to set crime writers and readers abuzz with possibilities.

What crime novels can you name that portray a crime's effects on those not directly involved with it,  years or even generations later?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger scott adlerberg said...

Hi Peter,

Interesting thoughts on Hawthorn. Never thought of him that way. Novels showing a ripple effect? A number of Ross MacDonald's novels follow that pattern - crime in the past effecting others, usually the children of the culprits, years later: THE GOODBYE LOOK is one like that, as I remember, and so is THE UNDERGROUND MAN. A bunch of them really. That was his basic story.

August 09, 2013  
Blogger scott adlerberg said...

Hawthorne, with an e, I should say.

August 09, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Scott, you get a pass on Hawthorn. His ancestor, a hanging judge at the Salem witch trials, spelled the name Hathorne, so you are only honoring a tradition of orthographical uncertainty.

I've read little of Ross Macdonald, and I've had more to say about his overblown Freudianism than about other aspects of his stories. But he's a good choice. Here's a bit from my post about The Galton Case:

"Previous authors had made the long-buried family secret a motif. Macdonald made it the substance of this story, and he unfolds the suspense slowly and relentlessly."

Freudian analysis is highly accommodating to slow ripple effects.

August 09, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Serendipity. I had Hawthorne on the brain last night and started thinking about "Rappaccini's Daughter", and downloaded it for my Kindle. It's been decades since I read it, and all I have is just the vaguest notion of the poison garden and the poisonous woman.

I can't think of any crime books with a ripple effect, but so many of Ruth Rendell's books as Barbara Vine take place long after a crime has been committed, often a generation, so the effects of long-buried secrets are central to the story.

August 15, 2013  

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