January 09, 2009

Detect & Survive

I've declared 2009 the Year of the Detective. Or of the Murder-Mystery. Or the Police Procedural. Or something. It all goes back to my late night (and half cut) Bolaño revelation: if all novelists are like homicide detectives, then all novels are like murder-mysteries. Yeah, I know, it doesn't really make any sense, even on its own terms. But there seems to be something like a sliver of insight in there and it gives me a great excuse to buy a pile of new books. I'm currently nearing the end of "Dirty Snow" by Georges Simenon, which is a complete revelation. I'd always had Inspector Maigret down as a Hercule Poirot figure and, by extension, I'd assumed that Simenon was a cosy detective novelist. But "Dirty Snow" (not a Maigret book anyway) is something else - perfectly written, very dark and very bleak. It's a real find. Plus, the brief bio of Simenon reveals that he had a long term affair with Josephine Baker which he eventually ended because she was interfering with his productivity - he'd only written 12 novels that year. That, my friend, is style. Next on my list are "White Jazz" by James Ellroy (I've read other books by him, but someone once told me this was his "Ulysses," by which they may have meant it was incomprehensible) and Ed McBain (a compilation of three 97th Precinct novels). And last night I was recommended "The Black Dahlia" as the definitive Ellroy plus Derek Raymond's "I Was Dora Suarez" (and there's another writer I've been meaning to read for years). At some point I think I should throw in some Wilkie Collins, for history's sake, but am open to all additional suggestions...

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