Peace seems to have a particular political axe to grind, and a naively pessimistic axe at that, in my opinion. Other crime writers also have political views and express them in their work but do not seem so blatantly propagandist about it. In Lee Burke and Megan Abbott, for instance, the political stance is strong and inherent but usually does not overpower the storytelling skills. John D McDonald and even Chandler intersperse moments of social commentary and philosophy into their works, but with restraint; there is usually the feeling of there being more to the writing than meets the eye and not, as I suspect from the Peace examples in the review, less.
I find this topic fascinating. I don't consider Megan political at all, but her work does have a particular moral POV, as does Burke's and Chandler's and Hammett's and a great many others. Does that make it political? John Shannon's work seems more overtly political to me, though never gratuitously so. I got hammered by Larry Gandle of Deadly Pleasures who thought I was shoving my politics down his throat in Blood of Paradise, responding primarily (I think) to the essay my publisher insisted I write as an afterword.
Are you being political when you write about corrupt cops? Corrupt politicians? Hypocritical Christians? Devious CIA ops? Killers with a conscience? Terrorists without one?
Most writers who come through a college writing program or a liberal arts tradition are, well, liberal, but they've also learned that the best way to tell a story is through one's characters, and that this requires defending each character's POV, even the villains. Conservative writers -- who seem to congregate in the thriller and police procedural subgenres -- rankle at this, seeing it as an apology for evil. Tom Clancy has good Russians but no good Communists. Of course, cartoon characters and adolescent moralism exist in liberal writing too, but the need to tone down the politics, to make it subliminal, seems strictly a liberal preoccupation.
BTW: This will be the topic of a panel I'm moderating at Bouchercon this fall. Working title: Who's Afraid of Glenn Beck? It takes off from an op ed Barry Eisler wrote for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barry-eisler/torture-tales_b_458757.html that Gayle Lynds, who's actually been on Beck's show, found unconvincing. Both Barry and Gayle are on the panel, along with Mark Billingham and SJ Rozan.
I'd love to hear the thoughts of the group on this issue, because it will help me think of questions to put to the panel. And like I said, I just find this topic fascinating in general.
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