Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V4 #463

Date: 13 Aug 2002


Re your comment below:

> I've always felt that it is silly and distracting to
> try to 'make it
> up'. When you need to get the basic facts correct
> in something
> you're writing, so that the narrative isn't crippled
> by inaccuracies,
> or holes, you do some research, maybe talk to a
> policeman. Then you
> use what you need. But the procedural element is
> only what is
> necessary to plot (and character development
> perhaps); it is not the
> subject of the book.

It's not necessary to the plot unless the plot is that of a police procedural. Technical accuracy is the point of a police procedural. Without it the procedural's raison doesn't have any d'etre.

On the other hand, it's perfectly possible to write stories about police officers that don't even make any pretence about being technically accurate (Ngaio Marsh or Earl Derr Biggers come to mind), and still be successful on its own terms.

If Rankin is making such an effort to get the facts straight, it's not just to move the plot along, but to make the atmosphere and ambience of his fiction compellingly real. And realism is exactly what the police prOcedural is all about. It's DEFINED by its technical accuracy (or in the hands of those who cheat, by the counterfeit appearance of technical accuracy). Anybody who strives as hard as Rankin apparently does to meet the one single requirement of the sub-genre must, on the face of it, be trying to create a work in that sub-genre.
> But I don't find that at the heart of the book, as I
> do in for
> example a McBain.
> And although I agree with you that
> > the
> > APPEARANCE of technical accuracy is apparently
> > important to him
> I simply don't accept that it has the kind of
> blanket primacy in
> these books that ?you originally claimed makes a
> book a pp.

That may mean nothing more than that other aspects of the stories speak to you the way the cop stuff speaks to me. But Rebus is a cop, and solving crimes is his job. It may also be his vocation or his compulsion but the bottom line is that it's his job. And what procedurals are about, whether they be "police procedurals" like McBain's, "private eye procedurals" like Gores's, "espionage procedurals" like Clive Egleton's, or "whaler's procedurals" like Melville's are about people at work.

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