Re: RARA-AVIS: Politics, schmolitics...

From: Joy Matkowski (
Date: 14 Jul 2003

For a more overtly political series, Kevin, you might want to try Shane Maloney's books featuring Australian political operative Murray Whelan.

Joy, who shares most of your favorites

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:
> You ask me, far too much crime fiction pretends politics doesn't
> exist at all, that it has no effect on any of us. So it becomes
> apolitical (or more precisely, politically bland), as though the mere
> thought that someone somewhere may take exception or actually
> disagree with an opinion is a bad thing. So much crime fiction sticks
> to the warm, comfy middle of the road, a safe distance from those
> nasty questions that lie in wait in the ditches.
> Fortunately, there's a small but strong counter-current to this trend
> who do stick their necks out, desperadoes who head for the ditch and
> take chances, daring to speak out and raise hard questions to which
> there may be no easy answers. These are the crime writers who seem to
> go over well and be taken a little more seriously abroad. It's like
> an edgy secret signal that only some pick up, that slides across
> borders. And most of these writers tend to be from the hard-boiled
> side of the genre.
> Perhaps it's because the genre tends to move so easily through all
> layers of society, but of all the sub-genres of mystery, I would say
> hard-boiled detective fiction is possibly (or at least has the
> greatest potential to be) the most political of them all. Cozies and
> amateur sleuth mysteries (particularly those labelled as
> "traditional") tend to closed worlds, and spy fiction and thrillers
> too often reduce politics to the cartoon level. But hard-boiled
> detective fiction, with its dysfunctional dicks wandering and
> stumbling around in the real world annoying people, seems perfectly
> suited to asking those rude questions. From Hector's
> "Proletariat-colored glasses" and Parestsky's prickly paranoia to
> Mike Hammer's bloodthirsty rants and Marlowe's moral quest through a
> ravaged landscape -- it's all politics.
> Thinking back on some of my favourite hard-boiled authors, I can see
> a trend -- most of them do deal with politics in one way or another
> -- sometimes overtly, and sometimes in far more subtle ways. I don't
> always agree with the politics, but they do offer the reader a little
> more food for thought than simply answering the burning question of
> who killed Thursby.
> So, some of my favourite "political" crime authors, just off the top
> of my head:
> Raymond Chandler
> Ross Macdonald
> Joseph Hansen
> Michael Collins
> Sara Paretsky
> Thomas B. Dewey
> James Ellroy
> Paco Taibo
> George Pelecanos
> John Shannon
> John D. MacDonald
> Gary Phillips
> Manuel Vasquez Montalban
> Walter Mosley
> Jerome Doolittle
> Gordon DeMarco
> Gar Haywood

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