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?