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Crime Fiction is Silly
[ Crime Fiction Is Silly ]
One More Pulp Image

I've never fully worked out why I used to enjoy the genre of Crime Fiction so much (although there are signposts throughout my life that would probably be superficially indicative). 

I had 3 large bookcases full of the stuff until I put them in boxes downstairs. I hardly ever get the urge to read them anymore (this may be due to the fact that I've re-read all of the best ones at least 3 times). 

But I rarely buy any new titles either (except for ones by the authors on this page) - however, I did buy 'Run' by Douglas E. Winter which had praise heaped upon it by other authors whose work I admired to one degree or another but, in the end, it was a hopelessly silly tale that was about as affecting as a Jean-Claude Van Damme film. 

Oh well, them's the breaks...

Anyway, here then are a few of the things that made it so appealing to me...
Crime, crime, crime...Use of the First Person : When you're commuting to and from work for 4-6 hours each day it is imperative that you feel like you are anywhere else other than exactly where you are. This can be achieved by sleeping which, in the daylight hours, always seems like a real waste of time. Preferably, you can lose yourself in a story where you become the main character. The best and most effective Crime Fiction is written in the first person which only adds to this subtle subterfuge on the part of the reader. It doesn't matter if the character is good or evil as long as you ARE them... (also see also one of my missives relating to this subject)
Crime, crime, crime...Location, location, location : No matter where you live, Crime Fiction takes you somewhere else. An awful lot of time is spent in these stories describing the inside and outside of houses, the crummy minutae of thoroughfares, the depth and breadth of waterways and the vision splendid of other outdoor views. And this doesn't take into account the rest of the time spent describing articles of clothing, the contents of handbags and the slips of paper found in wallets.
Crime, crime, crime...The seamy side of life : Like most readers of Crime Fiction I'm, basically, middle class. My life is comfortable and composed and I don't venture into situations that will ruin it - for example, sauntering into an old style bruiser's pub and ordering a Pimms on ice or giving the finger to the car load of hoons that is crawling by. However, Crime Fiction allows me to touch, ever so briefly, the seamy side of the street without getting hurt one little bit.
Favourite Authors
Please note : The world wide web is NOT the place to find information on authors of any kind, let alone writers who have been classed within a specific genre. I've found a couple of sites for each of the authors that I talk about below but, in the main, they're book sellers or publishers and, therefore, are of little interest to the true fan.
Peter Corris - Wet Graves Peter Corris - Probably still the best writer of Australian Crime Fiction (although Garry Disher can give him a go sometimes). Most of the books are fairly typical detective tales concerning PI Cliff Hardy (he's getting a bit long in the tooth now - but that's one of the beauties of extended serial characters). To be honest, they're not ground breaking bits of fiction and they basically follow the model set out by Raymond Chandler with a highly moral central character railing against modern society (needless to say, this doesn't reflect the realities of private detectives at all but is, as always, a useful thematic device). On the other hand, they make a cracking good read. Except for a small set of mid period novels and short stories, they're well worth re-reading many times and I have done so with great relish. "The Reward", after a break of a year or so, was right up there with his best and contains more and more elements of the best American "hard boiled" style. The latest releases ("The Black Prince" and "The Other Side Of Sorrow") are a return to earlier themes and they're not too shabby either. The "hard boiled" aspect is even more evident in his non-Cliff Hardy novels (including "Set Up") where Mr. Corris seems to have a bit more freedom in expression, plotting and levels of violence. Without his large body of excellent work, Australian Crime Fiction would still be stuck with some vision of quaint Englishness.
Pete Dexter - Paris TroutPete Dexter - Although most people would consider Pete Dexter a writer of 'real' literature (I.e. a book that eschews plot over characterization and, ahem, depth) , there are enough elements of crime, violence and obsessiveness in his work for his inclusion in this genre. There's a very dream-like or disassociated aspect to his style that complements his tales of families, loyalties and treacheries. Mainy of his main characters seem to have very normal flaws that tend to become exacerbated whilst they're under stress. 
In this way, at least, Mr. Dexter can be seen as a 90's descendant of Jim Thompson and other 'pulp' writers of the 50's. His tales of woe and desperation get into my skull more decisively than any other modern writer.
James Ellroy - The Black DahliaJames Ellroy - The demon dog of American Crime Fiction who can hardly seem to put a foot wrong. Once again, his characters are mortally obsessive but, unlike any other writer alive or dead, these stories are almost over-populated with coersion, blood, frame ups, weird linkages, sex, violence and cover ups. "The Black Dahlia" was my first introduction to his work and is, without doubt, a truely fascinating and influential book that displays all of Mr. Ellroy's own obsessions. His latest, "American Tabloid", takes the format of the earlier "LA quartet" novels but expands them exponentialy into a simply massive tale of corruption and the rotten heart of America. He's definitely one of a kind and still going strong although his live "rapping" (as expounded on his Australian tour) leaves something to be desired.
Thomas Harris - Red DragonThomas Harris - His legend is reliant on two small but perfect novels ("Red Dragon" and "The Silence of the Lambs") that each grappled with the mind of the serial killer. He may not have been the very first author to deal with this subject but, with a superbly simple and engrossing style, he manages the complexities of both plot and psychology very well indeed. Almost all other novels of this type (and, yes, there are thousands) can only hope to copy what he has already written. The much-awaited sequel to these 2 - "Hannibal" was released last year and, honestly, it's terrible, stupid and obnoxious although, at times, it displays the style that made the first ones so readable.
Brian Masters - Killing For CompanyBrian Masters - Yes, I know, he's a writer of NON fiction but I can't think of another person that does True Crime so well. His landmark works deal with serial killers and the first of these, "Killing for Company", is one of the most chilling texts that I have ever read. Much of this effect can be laid at the door of the killer himself (Dennis Nilsen) who is not only articulate and intelligent but who seemed to feel a bond of some sort with the author. This 'bond' enables the Mr. Masters to gain insights that many people would rather not know and also enables the book to be decisive, all encompasing and totally engrossing. His later works (on this topic) are also incisive and have started to deal more thoroughly with his ideas concerning the legal system and it's inability to deal effectively with these kind of crimes.
Derek Raymond - The Devil's Home on LeaveDerek Raymond - Originally a writer of social realist novels, Derek Raymond fashioned the greatest set of English Crime Fiction ever written with his "Factory" series. These are novels of a deeply philosophical nature wrapped in pain and a heightened sense of awareness but rooted firmly to the ills of modern society. They are constantly invigorating but, at the same time, frightening in their intensity. Some of the violence is extraordinairily vivid but his intent with these depictions is to sicken the reader, not to glorify pain and ugliness. A writer of bleak, modern tragedies, his insights and compassion will be sorely missed.
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