Friends and neighbors, it’s great to
be here at Murderati, Thanks to the gang
for inviting me, even though I confess to being more than a little intimidated,
being surrounded by all this talent.
I mean, dear Lord, I have to try and follow Bruen? Thanks just oodles, guys.
Those of you who know me know that I
also have my own solo blog, What Fresh Hell is This? My tens of fans from that
effort know that I tend to engage in a lot of discussion there on politics and
society, and by "discussion" I mean "unhinged ranting."
Never fear, however, I’ll be saving the political stuff for there, and I’ll try
to keep my ranting here as hinged as possible.
Now having just disclaimed any
intention to do political and social commentary here, I will now discuss
political and social commentary, at least as it pertains to crime fiction.
I recall a panel I once did at the Cape Fear Crime Festival
with the brilliant Michele Martinez
during which she talked about one of the attractions of crime fiction, namely
that it provides us with stories in which the bad guys are caught, justice is
done, and balance is restored to society. I, on the other hand, pointed out
that I tend to like (and to write) stories in a more minor key, in which corruption and evil exist from the
top of society to the bottom and things are coming apart at the seams. Balance
may be restored in stories like that, but more likely not, at least not without
But if you break it down to its most basic level, we crime writers, from
creators of the darkest noir to the
fluffiest cat mystery, write about the same thing: a world that’s gone out of whack, a
world where, as Shakespeare said, “the
time is out of joint,” or, to quote a more contemporary poet, “somebody’s goin’
to Emergency, somebody’s goin’ to jail.” And when you write about a world out of whack,
it’s very easy to begin putting in your own opinion as to how and why it got
that way. It’s a temptation to want to use a particular book to grind a
particular axe. And that’s okay, if it’s done right. Some of the best crime
writers, like Ian Rankin, weave their Big Idea into the fabric of the
story so deftly that you don’t even realize a point Is being made until the
book’s over, and you go, “yeah, that’s right.” . Others…well, not so much. Some writers beat you over the head with
their particular version of the Big Stick O’ Commentary until you cry “Uncle” and toss the book aside.
Now, in person, I’m a positive kind of guy. In addition, I
have a powerful aversion to being punched in the mouth or having a
drink thrown on me by a disgruntled colleague. So let’s talk about who does it
right. Who, in your opinion, can not only make a point about society, including but not limited to a
political one, but can make you like it?
So great to have you here, Reverend!
So, who does politics without preaching?
The first person who jumps to mind is Joe Lansdale, the way he writes about race – great example is A FINE DARK LINE. He portrays a West (East?) Texas town at the very start of the sixties, through the eyes of an 11-year old boy, who is trying to sort out the complicated racial dynamics around him, in his family and in the world. That’s not at all the plot – it’s a murder mystery. But that’s what’s really happening, and of course children observe without censoring, so it’s all very brutally honest and inspiring.
I also have been glad – well, glad is not exactly the right word – to see more women writing frankly about sexual violence against women and children. Karin Slaughter isn’t on a soapbox with her high-octane thrillers, but she sure tells it like it is. It’s brutal, but it’s the truth, and that’s a relief.
J.D.,I think a majority of us have subtler messages about that off-whack world — those authors who decide to write about different cultures confronting the domninant U.S. culture fascinate me — Walter Mosely, Naomi Hirahara, Chassie West and others illuminate worlds I can’t experience directly.
Themes such as family dysfunction often have their roots in the larger society. No?
BTW: Welcome, Rusty. Don’t feel intimidated . . . we wouldn’t have invited you if we thought you were a writing wallflower.
Hallelujah, Brother! Nice to have you here. (Although I’m going to remain a true WFHIS reader as well. It’s a fine place to get my blood boiling in the morning.)
I think Jess Walter is the best current writer to blend societal and political ruminations in his work. Think CITIZEN VINCE and THE ZERO.
Certainly Cormac McCarthy, with his tour de force THE ROAD.
I was going to put David Liss on the list, but just remembered how frustrated I got with his ham-handed lecturing in THE ETHICAL ASSASSIN. Ah, well, I’ll forgive him for that. The rest of the book was great.
I think Pari said it when she mentioned Walter Mosely. He’s an amazing writer.
Welcome to Wednesday, Dusty.
Hey all,I know this may be an inappropriate place to put it . . . but readers need to know that Elaine Viets has had a major stroke. There’s more information at
It’s just horrid when anyone in our mystery community suffers this kind of random misfortune.
I second the ones named above… and would add Barry Eisler — absolutely excellent weaving of politics in with the thriller elements which have me convinced / agreeing with his point of view.
Glad to see you here, Dusty. Here’s a Hallelujah and an Amen, just for you.
Pari, thank you for sharing. I will keep Elaine and her family in my prayers today.
Dusty, welcome to Murderati!
Best of luck to Elaine and Don…I hear the news is a little better, and that EV is expected to recover. But it’s not going to be easy.
And thanks to all for the welcome.
Dusty, sorry. The news about Elaine threw me.You’re question is excellent. I agree with Toni, Barry Eisler does a great job, as does Lee Child.
Sorry for what, JT? It threw me, too.
Glad to see you here, Dusty….
In addition to those mentioned, I’d add SJ Rozan, Ace Atkins, and Jim Fusilli…..