Re: RARA-AVIS: Shivering Chorus Girls

From: Rene Ribic (
Date: 23 Dec 2002

> The characters conducting the third degree are not condemned at all.
The man
> in the hot seat is guilty and the cops are just doing their job, even
> they may be stupid and brutal. They take off their coats to allow
free rein
> for swinging their shoulders. "His head was bent downward; time and
> again the hose took it with a distinct thud, and each time the head
> The man was not young. Blood had started out of his scalp, and sweat
> glistened on his face. First one and then another of the detectives
> take the rubber snake and slap him across the scalp with it."
> During the course of this, the detectives would throw water on him to
> him and "the pinioned man raised his head suddenly and, pushing out
his lips,
> tried to trap some of the moisture cascading down his face. A few
drops fell
> into his mouth, and his neck jerked convulsively as he swallowed."
One of
> the detectives began to swab his head "mopping up the moisture as it
came off
> his forehead so that it would not reach his mouth."
> The scene gets more graphic from this point on but I will spare you.
> fact is that while we are all familiar with the "third degree" scene
and how
> what are now considered constitutional rights used to be violated, it
> stunning to see it matter-of-factly done by the "good guys" in a novel
> one published in 1942. Yes, the cops were presented as corrupt idiots
but in
> this instance they were "doing the right thing" and what they did was
> with the knowledge of the Nero Wolfe wannabe Wardlaw.
> So how do I summarize my opinion? This book is well worth finding and
> reading and it is also well worth someone reprinting. It is a very
> read, although I will say it was a bit complicated for my tastes as it
> about three plots going at the same time. It is fun on its own terms
and it
> is also interesting and important as a novel that pushes the genre
into new
> directions. It is also fascinating as a period piece that reminds us
> where we were not so long ago in the criminal justice system.
> Richard Moore

Actually, on a planet-wide basis, I think you'd find that "law enforcement" techniques have not changed so much after all. And I doubt that they have completely disappeared from Western-style democracies altogether. Those techniques were still being used in my (younger) day in this part of the world, 20 years ago, and presumably some people who used them are still working in the biz, despite several corruption inquiries going back decades.


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