Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Longue Goodbye

I pushed open the door to the pool deck and inhaled chlorine and death. Fen slumped in the chaise lounge. He looked smaller and sicker than he had when I'd seen him three days before.

Spit and blood had caked around his broken mouth, and for a moment I thought he was dead. "Got anything to tell me, Fen?" I knelt by the chair.

Fen's lips cracked when he tried to talk, and I knew he was already halfway to where he was going. I leaned closer.

"It's chaise longue, you illiterate fuck," Fen said. "It means long chair."

He died happy.
Peter Rozovsky
© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stupid blurb bait, thoughtless shorthand comparisons

A recent exchange with Benjamin Whitmer on social media included the following:
Nope, nothing like me.
"An invocation of [Raymond] Chandler in a crime fiction review is often more a reflex than it is a thought, like a knee jerk, a fart, or a belch." 
and
Me neither.
"[Cormac] McCarthy's almost one on his own now. I mean, I love him, but every damn book that's not set in a major city is McCarthyian." 

Now it's your turn: What authors are fatuously invoked by reviewers who lack the time or the brains to think about what they read? What is the silliest comparison to another author you have read in a view?

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Monday, June 27, 2016

My cover arrives, with a book attached

My copy of Love and Fear, by Reed Farrel Coleman, arrived today, its cover a photo I shot a block from where I work.

I'll be interested in what's under that cover, too, both because Coleman is good at writing emotionally wounded P.I.s, and because the book is part of Orca Books' Rapid Reads line. The series consists of short novels for adults, inspired, Orca says, by the success of its previous books for younger, reluctant readers.

Allan Guthrie's 2007 novella Kill Clock persuaded me that such books can coincide nicely with my own fondness for concise narration in the Hammettian style. So I'll read this book with special interest, though probably more slowly than some readers, because I'll be busy sneaking peeks at the cover.
==============

The first link in this post will take you to the spring 2016 Rapid Reads releases. I also shot the cover for a second book in the series, Linda L. Richards' When Blood Lies.



© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Man, that Gil Brewer could write

I'm reading The Erotics, a previously unpublished 1970s novel by Gil Brewer, part of a three-fer from Stark House Press. I once ranked Brewer behind Charles Williams and Peter Rabe in my small pantheon of Gold Medal paperback original writers, but Brewer may be moving up. He's almost as good as David Goodis at portraying doomed men, and his prose style is very much better than those of most other writers America was reading in the middle of the last century. (Despite its late date, the novel reads as if if had been written in the 1950s, and I mean that in the best possible way.)

By comparison, I've also been reading some Mickey Spillane and, while Spillane was indeed capable of noir poetry, he can also read like a first draft by a newspaper reporter who had something else on his mind while he was writing. Brewer was a better writer, and he could come up with lines that Spillane might have liked. Here's an example from The Erotics:
"Her name's Bernice. She's a sex-pot. I saw her once. Somebody pointed her out to me. Wow, is all I can say. And Wow again. She's a walking mattress."
 © Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welcome to Wales, or Malcolm Pryce's alternate crime universe

The 2016 European soccer championships have been a boon for small, unheralded soccer nations. Northern Ireland, Hungary, and Iceland (and now the Republic of Ireland!) have all made it to the tournament's knockout stage, but no team has been a greater surprise than Wales, which, playing in its first major tournament since 1958, won its group. In honor of this small nation's sporting achievement, here's a repeat of one of this blog's small number of posts about Welsh crime writing.
 ==========================
I've discussed fantasy novels from time to time, notably Jasper Fforde's, as well as a science fiction story or two, and I've discovered that I may just have finished one without knowing it, at least if alternate-universe books fall under the rubric of fantasy.

A Wikipedia article describes Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels as "set in an alternative universe," a description I found helped my thinking about these odd, comic, sometimes poignant books.

I've just finished the second in the series of five, and its title gives a fair sense of the books' tone: Last Tango in Aberystwth. (The rest are Aberystwyth Mon Amour, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth, Don't Cry for Me Aberystwyth, and From Aberystwyth With Love. The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still is due out this summer.)

The real Aberystwyth is a Welsh university and holiday town whose recorded history dates to 1109. In Pryce's world, it's a summer resort where it's always the off-season, the fashions are never the latest, and a whimsical melancholy pervades everything. ("I walked up Great Darkgate Street and through the castle grounds towards the bed-and-breakfast ghetto down by the harbour. This was where the ventriloquists tended to stay, along with the out-of-work clowns, the washed-up impresarios and the men who ran away from the bank to join the circus. ... Down below I could see Sospan's new kiosk — repositioned and re-established after the short-lived fool's errand of selling designer coffee to a town that hungered only for vanilla.")

Like many hard-boiled worlds, it has its disappointed young women who flock to the big city hoping for stardom but wind up doomed to grimmer fates. Only here, the girls hope to model for the fudge boxes sold to tourists but wind up in "What the Butler Saw" movies. And the diversions available to the residents of this world as they spiral downward manage the difficult double of seeming ridiculous to us (but never to the residents themselves) and affecting at the same time.:

"`Where does someone go in this town when they've reached the bottom and and have nowhere left to go?'

"There are lots of places.'

"`For you, yes! For you there are the bars and the girls and the toffee and the bingo and the whelks. For you there is a great choice. But for her. Ah! but for her? You cannot imagine what this girl was like.'"
If you're a fan of the genre, what are the ingredients of a successful alternative universe?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Monday, June 20, 2016

It's a famille affaire, or What's with all those eccentric alternative households in French crime writing?

My knowledge of French literature is thin, so maybe someone can tell me the reason for and the history of French crime writing's fascination with plucky, eccentric, down at the heels households.

Daniel Pennac's Malaussène novels, Fred Vargas' Adamsberg novels, and, especially, her books featuring the "Three Evangelists" come to mind. More recently, Pierre Lemaitre's The Great Swindle won France's Prix Goncourt for its story of an epic swindle and counter-swindle that revolve around two wretched veterans of World War I who come together for mutual support.

That sort of thing can get precious and sentimental (though Lemaitre weaves it into a harsh look at social fissures and abuse of power in post-war France. Think of The Great Swindle as a meeting of the Pennac-Vargas and the Manchette-Manotti strands of French crime writing.)

But the eccentric-household novels also include something hard to imagine in American or British crime writing: Economically precarious characters, depicted in all their poverty, but without desperation, horror, sloganeering, or proletarian victimhood or nobility. The closest that Vargas' Dog Will Have His Day comes to the last of these is a passing reference to the protagonists' having come together in a tumble-down house after a recession. (Dog Will Have His Day, published in French in 1996 but not translated into English until 2014, is a sequel to The Three Evangelists, two of whom appear here.)

These characters don't drink themselves to death, and they don't turn up frozen in the street. A character loses her home, and she simply moves in with another character. Unlike their unfortunate counterparts in crime writing from other countries, these characters have driving passions, or eccentricities, that earn them a modest living, keep their minds engaged, or both.  The protagonist of Dog Will Have His Day is a former government functionary who is driven to compile journalistic dossiers and solve mysteries.  Each of the three evangelists, so called because their names are Marc, Mathieu, and Lucien, is a historian with a greater than usual devotion to the period he studies. (I like to think Vargas uses Marc, the medievalist who is a featured sidekick in Dog Will Have His Day, to poke some good-natured fun at her own work as an archaeologist of the Middle Ages.)

So, what's with the eccentric households? Are they too twee for words? Or are they brave declarations that poverty need not mean intellectual or physical death?

=========
Read the Detectives Beyond Borders interviews with Fred Vargas and with her translator, Sian Reynolds.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stuart Neville isn't as good a writer as you think he is; he's better: A look at his next book

Back in 2010, I wrote about the clever and effective chiasmus in Stuart Neville's second novel, Collusion.

A chiasmus, as I wrote at the time, is a literary figure in which a phrase includes a list of concepts, and the following phrase repeats those concepts in reverse order — the old A-B-B'-A' form (or A-B-C-D-D'-C'-B'-A' and so on). The Bible uses chiasmus all the time, and so did Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson. And Alexander Pope ("His time a moment, and a point his space," Essay on Man, Epistle I. ). Neville's extended chiasmus in Collusion ran thus:
"`I've been called lots of things. Smith, Murphy, Tomalty, Meehan, Gorman, Maher, I could go on.' He leaned forward and whispered, `There's some people say I'm not even really a Pavee.'

"A dead mask covered O'Kane's face. `Don't get smart with me, son. I'm a serious man. Don't forget that. I'll only warn you the once.'

"The Traveler leaned back and nodded. `Fair enough. But I'm a serious man too, and I don't like answering questions. You'll know as much about me as I want you to know.'

"O'Kane studied him for a moment. `Fair enough. I don't care if you're a gypsy, a traveler, a knacker, a tinker, or whatever the fuck you lot call yourselves these days. All I care about is the job I need doing. Are you the boy for it?'"
Collusion was Neville's second book; So Say the Fallen, to be published in September, is his seventh, and I have yet to discover a chiasmus in it. But I did find, in the novel's very first paragraph, further evidence that Neville pays more attention to writing well than most writers do, that the themes commenters note most often in his writingguilt, sin, suspense, racking internal conflict—make themselves clear not just at story level, but in the very structure of his sentences.
 

I haven't seen a finished copy of the book yet, so I can't quote the paragraph here. What I can tell you is that it achieves exactly what I said the Collusion chiasmus does. It lends the passage in which it occurs
"weight and rhythm and a fair bit of grim humor, too. Most of all, it makes the reader sit up and pay attention, alert for what comes next."
Reviewers, readers, and blurbsters quite rightly praise Neville for the ends he achieves: the suspense, the emotion, the characters for whom sins of the past are anything but dead. Why do so few people notice the means by which he achieves those ends?
===================================
(Adrian McKinty, Neville's friend, co-editor, and fellow Northern Ireland crime writer, sheds some light on this question in a post called "Genre Fiction and Bad Prose" at his Psychopathology of Everyday Life blog, http://adrianmckinty.blogspot.com/2016/06/genre-fiction-and-bad-prose.html)

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Why you should cop The Plea

Steve Cavanagh, seen previously in this space as author of the hyper-kinetic legal thriller The Defence (published in the U.S. as The Defense) and as an enthusiastic participant in highjinks at Crimefest, is back with The Plea, another legal thriller that is just as fast and just as much fun as both.

It's tempting to compare The Plea's construction to its protagonist's personality. That protagonist, Eddie Flynn, is a con man turned lawyer who makes good use of the tricks he learned in his former profession. Cavanagh loves to put Flynn in ticking-clock situations, making him work with a time bomb strapped to his chest in The Defence, or under the gun to avert a federal indictment hanging over his wife's head in The Plea.

Steve Cavanagh (right) in conversation with Ali Karim at Crimefest 2016. (Photo by Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders)
========================
That means Flynn must do much of his legal work at the last minute and by the seat of his unpressed pants. Though he occasionally guesses wrong, Flynn is a brilliant lawyer and advocate. (Cavanagh is a lawyer in  his day job, albeit in Northern Ireland rather than in New York, where he sets the books. He knows how to convincingly capture the texture, the give and take, and the dilemmas of legal procedure.)

That's Eddie Flynn, the lawyer. Steve Cavanagh, the writer, plants twists and surprises at the end of almost every action-jammed chapter, ramping up the pressure on the characters and speeding the reader along like Eddie Flynn with a bomb on his bod. But, like Flynn, who almost always has a brilliant legal stroke lurking beneath the mayhem, Cavanagh plots his novels with great cunning, liberally sprinkling the story with small observations that bear narrative fruit many chapters later. He also knows just when to slow the action down for a bit of back story or exposition. 

Though The Plea is primarily a thriller, it has enough misdirection and wrong guesses to qualify as a mystery. More than most crime novels, it gives the lie to the silly distinction between plot-driven and character-driven.  Flynn, highly moral if ethically dubious, brilliant, subject to wrenching crises that, however, take place mainly off the page, is a lovable, admirable protagonist and pretty near an ideal hero. But the attributes would be nothing without the action, and the reverse is also true.
====================
In addition to The Defense and The Plea, Cavanagh has a fine story in Akashic Books' Belfast Noir collection, edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville. His Eddie Flynn novella The Cross is available in the UK.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

What Kirkus didn't tell you: Three more new crime novels you can read this summer

Kirkus Reviews recently published a list of twenty crime novels due for publication this summer and recommended for your consideration. It's not a bad list, but here are three novels that it missed:

1) Paradime, by Alan Glynn (Picador U.S. August/Faber U.K. May) Reviewers have invoked James Ellroy and John le Carré when discussing Alan Glynn, and if I squint and hold my head at the right angle, I can see resemblances. But Glynn's new novel is a lot more like David Mamet's 1997 movie The Spanish Prisoner than it is like anything by Ellroy and or le Carré. The novel's fever-dream narration is intoxicating, its first section in particular a kind of contemporary nightmare picaresque. (A worker for a private military contractor in Afghanistan witnesses a shocking incident, comes back to New York City, discovers that the incident won't leave him alone, and finds aspects of the result a strangely attractive escape — addictive, even.)

The novel shares some themes with Glynn's previous books, The Dark Fields (also published as Limitless), Winterland, Bloodland, and Graveland: alienation, paranoia, helplessness in the face of corporate and government power, and the uncertainty of boundaries between the two. But the action centers more on the protagonist than it does in the earlier novels, with distant but distinct echoes of mid-twentieth-century American noir. The book also seems carefully constructed, full of epiphanies that shed shocking new light on earlier scenes. And that may be one more mark of its kinship with The Spanish Prisoner.

2) One or the Other, by John McFetridge (ECW Press, August). I know of no crime writer who writes about suburbs and people who live there with the respect that McFetridge does, even though his books are set mostly in cities: Toronto and, in his three most recent novels, Montreal. But I also know of no crime writer who writes more vividly about cities, and who integrates character, crime, and history as seamlessly as McFetridge.

McFetridge's empathy with his protagonist, a young police constable named Eddie Dougherty, may remind readers of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels, but McBain never had anything like McFetridge's eye for the way big events and individual lives intersect, the lives always more important than the events. McFetridge's Dougherty books, of which One or the Other is the third, following Black Rock and A Little More Free, don't try to transcend any genre, but I can easily imagine that they would appeal to readers who love to empathize with characters and wonder about everyday lives lived in tumultuous times, whether or not the stories involve crime.

3) A Quiet Place, by Seicho Matsumoto (Bitter Lemon Press, August U.S./June UK) Too many invocations of one crime writer to describe another are silly, but Matsumoto really is reminiscent of Georges Simenon. This is true especially in his portrayals of dogged, unexceptional characters, bewildered, sometimes to the point of pathos, as they navigate the consequences of crimes they understand only dimly.

Matsumoto died in 1992, and little of his large output has been translated into English, so any new publication is welcome. A Quiet Place is a noirish tale full of sparing but sharp observations and pointed critiques of postwar Japanese society. The novel is reminiscent in that respect of Matsumoto's Points and Lines, which I named one of my favorite international crime novels in the first Detectives Beyond Borders post back in 2006.  The novel's close examination of a setting observed by the protagonist as he travels through it may remind readers of Akira Kurosawa's classic crime movie Stray Dog or of work by the contemporary Japanese crime writers Keigo Higashino and Fuminori Nakamura.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Thursday, June 02, 2016

A Quiet Place: More Matsumoto to be released in English this summer

Too many invocations of one crime writer to describe another are silly, but Seicho Matsumoto really is reminiscent of Georges Simenon. This is true especially in his portrayals of dogged, unexceptional characters, bewildered, sometimes to the point of pathos, as they navigate the consequences of crimes they understand only dimly.

Matsumoto died in 1992, and little of his large output has been translated into English, so any new publication is welcome. A Quiet Place, out this summer from Bitter Lemon Press, is a noirish tale full of sparing but sharp observations and pointed critiques of postwar Japanese society.

The novel is reminiscent in that respect of Matsumoto's Points and Lines, which I named as one of my favorite international crime novels in the first Detectives Beyond Borders post back in 2006.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Unfortunate Englishman: Another historical hit from John Lawton

Does John Lawton write spy novels? If so, when did espionage fiction edge over from geopolitical thrills to meditations on identity and personal and national character? Which authors and books are responsible? And does it matter?

John Lawton's Unfortunate Englishman takes thief-turned-spy Joe Wilderness to Berlin at the height of the Cold War, where he is to mediate an exchange of prisoners between Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. The title character is a schlemiel nabbed for his ineptitude as a spy for the British, and the action consists of efforts to swap him for his opposite number and of flashes back and forward between the early and the mid-1960s.

Along the way, we see the Berlin Wall rise before our eyes and Wilderness encounter Nikita Khrushchev on the Soviet leader's (imaginary) solo tour of the city. Two supporting characters in the novel are shot by the Soviets for their activities, but the executions happen off-stage and they make their presence felt through the schlemiel's brief but intense reaction to them. The reticence of the portrayal makes the executions all the more chilling.

This character-based storytelling works in a kind of alchemy with Lawton's closely observed period detail to reinforce the status Lawton built in his Frederick Troy books as quite possibly the best historical novelist we have. Fans of those novels will be happy to know that Troy and his brother Rod make brief appearances in The Unfortunate Englishman.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Join the museum. Beat the crowds. See the good stuff. Ignore the hype.

Photos by Peter Rozovsky
I spent a pleasant late Sunday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where I renewed my annual membership and was glad to do so. We owe much of what we know about the ancient world to scholars and archaeologists who worked out of that institution, notably James B. Pritchard and S.N. Kramer, and, if the museum were in New York or Chicago, it would be even better known. (Philadelphia would rather brag about being the headquarters of a company with possibly the worst reputation for customer service in the country and for being home to a lot of restaurants with hipster names.)


The only sobering bit of the visit was more evidence of what American museums must resort to in the face of declining public support and a population that would rather send text messages. Museums have naturally had to temper their educational and aesthetic concerns in favor of commercial considerations, which has led science museums to mount special exhibitions with titles like "The Science Behind Pixar," presumably with hefty support from the corporations involved.

At art museums, it means special exhibitions devoted to what sells, which means the Impressionists in every possible combination of artists, patrons, subjects, and sub-subjects. And at the Penn Museum, it means calling its exhibition of art from ancient Phrygia (the heart of what is now Turkey), where teams from the museum have excavated for decades, "The Golden Age of King Midas" and promoting it with a headline that caters to an audience whose attention span has been diminished by click bait: "What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his Golden Touch?"

Add a trend toward multimedia interactivity (which doubtless means lucrative fees to the consultants that recommend the interactive features and the companies that install them), and it can be difficult to find, contemplate, and be held by the objects. You know, the things that one comes to the museum to look at. And I was not surprised to discover that the books section of the museum shop had been moved to s smaller area, its former corner taken over by souvenirs and other non-book merchandise.

I don't condemn American museums for doing that they must do to survive, but I do mourn the necessity for doing it, and I urge visitors not be discouraged by the flashing lights. Buy museum memberships so you can pop in for an hour or two of quick aesthetic enjoyment. Remember that there is very much more to a good museum that its headline exhibitions. Join the museum. Beat the crowds. See the good stuff.  Ignore the hype.

 © Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Anne Holt, or which crime writers should be in politics?

Anne Holt (Photo for Detectives 
Beyond Borders by Peter Rozovsky)
Kati Hiekkapelto said during a panel on Morality, Society And Justice In Crime Fiction at Crimefest 2016 in Bristol last week that laws were made for middle-class white people. Anne Holt disagreed, invoking the Ten Commandments in citing laws as setting standards toward which humans can aspire.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the two authors' résumés might expect as much: Hiekkapelto is an activist for immigrants' and refugees' rights when she's not writing her Anna Fekete crime novels, and Holt's CV includes a stint as Norway's minister of justice. It would be easy to tag Hiekkapelto as the rebel and Holt as the representative of the establishment, especially by the constricted standards of what passes for political discourse in the United States.

One could almost think that Fear Not, whose plot turns in part on an asylum seeker's death, is a Hiekkapelto novel. But it's not; Holt wrote it. Elsewhere during Crimefest, Holt said she bristled at descriptions of her as leftist. Instead, she said, her political passion is human rights.  That tells me that she's no doctrinaire politician, and Wikipedia describes her party, Norway's Labour Party, as social-democratic.

Wouldn't it be cool if Holt were American? She could run for office as a Democrat, and Republicans would find it difficult to attack a candidate who cited the Ten Commandments among the touchstones of her conception of the law.  Even a Republican Senate might be unable to stonewall her nomination forever. And wouldn't it be nice to have a crime writer in the cabinet or the White House?

I wrote after last month's Edgar Awards that Walter Mosley and Sara Paretsky might make a good president-vice president ticket. Anne Holt, provided she could get the citizenship thing straightened out, could be attorney general. What crime writers would you like to see as presidents, prime ministers, or heads of government departments? Call it the Shadow cabinet.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Back from a land where people read books

A small slice of the history section at Waterstones
Piccadilly bookshop in London. The section extends
to the left beyond the frame of this photo and into
and beyond the range of the next picture. (
Photo by
Peter Rozovsky)
I trekked to Waterstones Piccadilly in London Tuesday evening to see Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jonasson interviewed by Andy Lawrence about their work and about Icelandic crime writing in general, but I was sidetracked by the breadth and height of the store's history section.

Ragnar Jonasson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir amid more
evidence that  England more literate than the United
States. Note the small sign immediately to Yrsa's
right. She and Ragnar spoke in a part of the store
one over from that in the photo at upper left but
still in the history section.
What you see above/left is larger than the history section of my city's big bookshop, and that's just a part of the section on British history. Other countries, regions, periods, and subjects in history occupy even more space. And Waterstones is not some egghead independent or academic bookstore, it's part of a chain.

It was a pleasure to visit a city that buys books. As a commenter who was visiting the UK at the same time wrote on Facebook:
"B&N whines about Amazon, but I can see that in the UK, they treasure printed books and brick and mortar more because the experience is so very different from the U.S."
The store also has a bar and restaurant on its fifth floor. London is not just more literate than Philadelphia, it also knows better how to show a reader a good time.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Happy birthday, Hammett: Three characters who stay true to their natures

On the occasion of Dashiell Hammett's 122nd birthday, I'll bring back this post a few years ago that takes a common observation about Sam Spade and the Continental Op and applies it to two of The Maltese Falcon's major supporting characters, as well. May this stimulate you to read one of Hammett's great novels or short stories. Happy birthday, Sam.
 ===============
 Trent Reynolds of the fine Violent World of Parker site mixed criticism and high compliment last month when he wrote of my Dashiell Hammett memorial post that "The Maltese Falcon is the greatest crime novel ever written. Not mentioned in this otherwise excellent post on Hammett."

I'd just read The Glass Key for the first time, so that book dominated my thinking about Hammett. And testimonials from crime writers, including Reynolds' own Donald Westlake, that I included in the post indeed did not mention Hammett's most famous work.

But I'd like to reassure Trent and everyone else that I love The Maltese Falcon, that it induces just as chilling an effect in the reader as does The Glass Key, and that I regard it as at least as great a book. (I'd also suggest that The Maltese Falcon's greatness is so universally acknowledged that the novel may simply be taken for granted in discussions of the best crime novel ever.)

And I'd like to add a thought to the discussion based on my recent rereading of the novel (I finished it last night.)

It's a commonplace that a Hammett hero is defined by his job, and that the job is more than just a way to bring in money. Here's Joe Gores, for example, in Dashiell Hammett Lost Stories:
"Hammett saw the private detective as a manhunter. ... The Hammett hero is on the side of the law but not particularly law-abiding. He has a job to do."
When it came to Sam Spade or the Continental Op, in other words, Hammett made his plan, and he stuck to it.

I realized last night that he did just the same with Brigid O'Shaugnessy and Casper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon. Brigid is a liar from the beginning, her rigid cleaving to her nature reinforced by Spade's early, pointed, and repeated assessments: "You're good." "You're very good." "You're a liar." "That is a lie." She adheres as rigidly to the degenerate moral code that Hammett has drawn up for her as Spade adheres to his more upright one.

Gutman, his composure only fleetingly shattered when he finds the falcon is a fake, is positively joyous when he realizes this means he can resume his globe-hopping quest for the real falcon. He is as true to his nature as Brigid O'Shaugnessy and Spade are to theirs. (Of course, his global quest extends no further than a few blocks from Spade's apartment on Post Street; he gets blown to hell and gone by Wilmer Cook a few pages later.)

But consistency of character, that sense that there is no escaping from one's nature, is part of what makes the book so gripping.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Augustus Mandrell is coming back


Top news from Mike Ripley (left), my table mate at Crimefest 2016's gala dinner: Frank McAuliffe's great international fixer Augustus Mandrell is coming back, courtesy of Ostara Publishing.

Here's part of what I've written about McAuliffe and Mandrell:

I've mentioned the bracing mix of British manners and American sensibilities in Frank McAuliffe's books about Augustus Mandrell. McAuliffe, an American, made Mandrell a kind of outsider, apparently British. This gave him the luxury of observing American ways with amused detachment. Here are some examples from Shoot the President, Are You Mad?:
"There was certain to be some grumbling regarding the issue of `conspiracy' since the American people, despite their impressive history of individual action, appear rather keen on attributing dramatic events, particularly those of an anti-social nature, to shadowy groups."
and
"[A]s the days passed with still no apprehension of the despicable manufacturer of air conditioners, the president, now enjoying the role of spiritual leader to the electorate ... " 
and
"`But no class, Man, no class,' the Doctor objected. `They underbid each other. "If Tony will do-a da job for 300 bucks, I'll tell-a you wot. I'll do it for 250, if you buy da bullets." How you going to get class when you're shopping around for the lowest bidder?'

"`My dear Doctor, are you questioning the "free enterprise" system? The very cornerstone of America's greatness?"
McAuliffe also pokes delicious fun at insecure Americans' worship of culinary luxury, having Mandrell issue elaborate instructions to a chef that include "a quarter pound of lean Argentine beef. You chop it into an even consistency and form into into a patty. Fry, over a natural gas flame for eleven seconds per side ... A folded leaf of California lettuce ... place just under the top bun a slice of Bermuda onion, one sliced within the past 12 hours."
"`Clifford,' says Mandrell's puzzled companion, `that concoction you ordered, do you know what it sounded like? One of those dreadful hamburgers the Americans are always eating in their backyards.'

"`Of course, my dear,' I smiled. `I've been dying for one all day. I was but attempting to spare the man the embarrassment of writing `hamburger, with the trimmings' on his pad. He'd have been the laughing stock of the kitchen.'"
Here are all my posts about Mandrell and McAuliffe.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Some pictures from Crimefest 2016

From left: Ian Rankin, your humble blogkeeper, Ali Karim, 
Mike Stotter. This photo by our courteous, efficient, and aesthetically
sensitive waitress. All others by Peter Rozovsky
I'm back in London after the most enjoyable of the six Crimefest I've attended. Highlights included:

Anne Holt
1) Anne Holt's wisdom.

Gin and tonie
2) Hendrick's gin.

Crimefest T-shirts
3) Crimefest's T-shirts, and ...

Susan Moody, Laura Wilson,
Alison Bruce
Ali Karim, Steve Cavanagh
Alan Glynn
Kati Hiekkapelto, Ann Cleeves
Ruth Dudley Edwards
Thomas Mogford, Ian Rankin, Andrew Taylor
Alan Glynn and an inadvertent, unidentified woman
Albert the Gorilla
© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Your humble blogkeeper swings like a pendulum do

Lisa Brackmann
Lisa Brackmann, author of, I think, five crime novels for Soho Press and an energetic and entertaining member of panels I've moderated at Bouchercon, put up a photo of Trafalgar Square on Facebook similar to one I had just posted.

"Are you also here in London?" I asked her in a comment. Turns out she was here to do some events, and I met her and some friends of hers for drinks, dinner, and a club Tuesday night--first time I had visited a club in years. It was an enjoyable and highly unexpected evening on the road to Crimefest, which starts Thursday.


You'll see Lisa in the first photo, but don't be alarmed by her bluish tinge; she's not dead. That was just the lighting at London's 229 club. (I don't have ID's for the musicians, but if anyone from the 229 would pass the information along, I'd be happy to add it.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

London shots


© Peter Rozovsky 2016


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