RARA-AVIS: Re: crime novels and ???the opposite.

From: marianne.macdonald@lineone.net
Date: 27 May 2002

>I could argue the case but I don't have the time but one thing I
>will say: as far as "procedurals" go, there don't seem to be a hell of a
>lot of procedure going on.
Somebody not a million miles from here jumped on me last year when I said I wasn't interested in police procedurals; this current discussion has helped me to clarify my reasons.

As I see it, I have two problems with what you could call the "classical" police procedural (wait a minute) by which I mean the straightforward
'comic-book' action story : for one thing, this inevitably collides with modern forensic advances. If I know damn well that a spot of DNA testing is going to solve the crime, my interest in a plain-vanilla account of police investigations is modified, however accurately
'procedural' it may be, and however the author strives to get the necessary work delayed. And I do NOT read novels to be instructed in fingerprint counterfeiting, though I accept it as a minor plot element.
    Not a hell of a lot of procedure? Well, if I just want to know about police procedures, I'd rather phone the press people at Scotland Yard or ask a policeman. Asking a policeman is all kinds of fun. You catch a couple of them walking down the street, standing behind you at a supermarket cash desk (these are usually CID, and can be spotted by the fact that they wear suits when normal men don't), or having an interesting confab inside a couple of parked cars, you walk over to them and say things like, "Excuse me, but could you just show me that thing at your belt, which I assume is a collapsible baton? How long is it when it's extended?" or "If I report a murder in WC1, precisely where does the rapid response car come from and is it one oif your usual white-with-a-stripe ones?" It is possible that I'm getting a reputation, locally. When they start to run as soon as they see me, then I use the internet.

But beyond all that, what really interests me in crime fiction is the moral (in the broadest sense) implications of the crime: the way that it affects either victims, criminals or detectives. I'm not alone here, as you will realise how many writers subscribe to the cliches (drunken cop, marital problems); I use 'cliches' because in clumsy hands that's exactly what they are, and aren't you just aware of the fact as you read. And by the way, I bow to absolutely nobody in my admiration of characters liike Harry Bosch, John Rebus, et al., and indeed am considering adopting several of these cliches myself in a soon-to-be-written book. ;-}

In other words, I find the crime/anti-crime dfistinction collapses if I look at it hard.

I read Parker's Pale King's and Princes last night in about 90 minutes. Quick, fun, wish I had a Hawk.


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