Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the rough

P.G. Wodehouse's Oldest Member must be turning over in his grave. First Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attacks golf as a bourgeois game, sparking a war of words with the U.S. State Department.

Then this, in Dominque Manotti's novel Rough Trade:

Police Inspector Daquin has just interviewed a powerful man at an exclusive golf club. The powerful man has urged discretion, equating his own business interests with France's national interest, to which Daquin responds on his way back to the office: "People who play golf are capable of anything."

Come to the defense of sports, readers. What are your favorite uses of or references to sports in crime fiction?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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40 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I think golf isnt popular with Hugo Chavez or in France because the thing it primarily teaches is humility.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dictators can take diametrically opposed approaches to golf. Chavez calls it a bourgeois game and want to appropriate golf courses for housing projects. Kim Il Sung, on the other hand, recorded five holes in one the first round he ever played.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Only five? Not a very impressive score from the "dear leader".

Did you ever read Julian Barnes's A History of The World in 10 1/2 Chapters. Without giving anything away, scoring 18 holes in one in a single round prompts suicidal thoughts in one of the characters.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, North Korean media are said to have reported that he opened with an eagle in that round on his way to an 18-hole score of 34.

Norman Manea has also written, in an essay, I believe, that Nicolae Ceauşescu liked to think of himself as the world's greatest hunter.

Hmm, how'd you like to be tied with Kim Il Sung after 18 holes and get involved in a sudden-death playoff? Better ask Gerard Brennan about this. He's the golfer around here.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Me, I'd do the old 007 switcheroo from Goldfinger.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, I never knew Scots could play golf.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

As for your question about sports in crime fiction, I fondly remember WOBBLE TO DEATH which included the bizarre sport of competition walking as the centerpiece for the novel's action and crime. Many novels include sporting events and sports enthusiasts, but WOBBLE TO DEATH is--in my humble opinion--one of the best written among those featuring singular sporting events.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I bought a secondhand copy of Wobble to Death recently. Even more recently, I read the interesting story of how Peter Lovesey came to write the book. He was fascinated with sports but was not a great athlete, so he found a niche that no one else had filled -- the history of running -- and wrote a nonfiction book about it. His research on running and effects of quinine on runners, he said, led to Wobble to Death. Lovesey has had a fine career in crime fiction, so I'd say this was a fortunate accident.

August 12, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Isn't calling something 'bourgeois' a pretty tired old trick by now? And isn't what he really means 'elitist'?

Of course, on topic, Dick Francis springs to mind, although for some reason I was never really able to get into those.

Oh, and I'm willing to bet that Hugo Chavez wasn't a very good golf player.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know, maybe the old insults just play better in Venezuela, at least for the folks who would get the construction contracts for the public housing. Except that those would be the folks likeliest to play golf, so where does it all end?

You could be right about Chavez and golf. After all, Fidel Castro never threatened to build housing on baseball fields, and he was supposed to have been a fair pitcher in his time.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Have you forgotten that the murder weapon in Fer-de-Lance was a needle in the base of the grip of a golf club? It was a driver, I think, not a mashie. Wolfe also solved a crime which took place during a World Series game at the Polo Grounds between the Giants and the Red Sox (in 1952!).

Francis's books intrigued me because I've never seen a horse race in my life except on the tube.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read the book set during that unlikely World Series. The story involved a number of players' being drugged.

Since I've turned the discussion toward sports, I should say that the brief golf club visit that I mentioned is the only intrusion of sport anywhere in Rough Trade. The mention of golf is not Manotti's only sly remark, though.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Philip said...

I mentioned this a few posts ago, but it will do no harm to repeat it, especially for cricketers out who missed the first comment: Adrian Alington's The Great Test Match Crime is, I do believe, the best of the crime novels to feature cricket, and as I also indicated the other day, there are more such than one may suspect. Not easy to come by, but well worth the search, especially for those in need of hearty chuckles.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

As others have mentioned Dick Francis and horse racing, I am reminded of Josephine Tey's BRAT FARRAR and the steeple-chasing (if I recall correctly); I learned more about horses and racing than I could have ever wanted to know, but--in spite of the horsey details in the novel--I also enjoyed one great ride of a mystery in which Tey proved the adage that things are never quite what they seem.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

And, if you like golf in your mysteries, are you familiar with Bad Lie by John R. Corrigan? Quite good, actually.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I suspect those who could use a cricket primer might also like the book.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I'd never known steeplechase had any part in Brat Farrar. The book is often cited as a classic mystery, and someone mentioned it here recently, probably in answer to one of my questions. Perhaps under the influence of Sayers' Murder Must Advertise, I trust her to give an entertaining, plausible account of the world in which it is set, including its horsey sport.

For that matter, Declan Hughes' The Price of Blood and Peter Temple's Jack Irish novels explore aspects of horse racing.

This discussion is somewhat ironic, of course, since Manotti's humorous golf reference is the only mention of sport in Rough Trade. But hey, I asked the question. Perhaps I should have asked "What is your favorite telling invocation of sport in a crime novel not otherwise about sport?"

I suspect this would have earned me a bit of respect and wonderment but few replies.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My favorite golf stories are by a writer who dabbled in detective stories: P.G. Wodehouse.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and Bad Lie is a fine title for a mystery, too.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I love Tey. It's been too long since I read her.


v word= adaptem

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A good v-word, what every novelist wants producers to do.

I had an equivocal beginning with Josephine Tey. I read The Singing Sand, which I have heard is not one of her best. I have not read The Daughter of Time or Brat Farrar or, for that matter, The Franchise Affair, which is the one I've most recently seen praised to the skies.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Kim Il Sung had to be playing mini-golf to get a score like that. If not, they should set up a match with him against Tiger. That would get some huge ratings, especially if Sung was in danger of losing, because then Tiger might be executed and then Phil might finally win a US Open.

Linkmeister - Nice name drop re: Fer-de-Lance.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

Speaking from my reading experiences, both THE DAUGHTER OF TIME (with a surprisingly effective premise) and BRAT FARRAR (with a fiendish twist) are well worth the reading time. Enjoy!

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Martin Edwards said...

Sayers' Murder Must Advertise has a very good cricket scene.

August 13, 2009  
Anonymous Ian said...

I dont know if you watched that James Blond clip but there's a bit in there when Sean Connery hits the ball in the hole with the back of the club. Quite a useful little player was Sean, I wonder if he learned for that film or if he grew up with the game?

August 13, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

James Blond would be a good name for the new one.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

James Bland

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Brian - Thanks.

Daughter of Time is excellent. I've often wondered if Stout read it, since Wolfe removed Thomas More from his bookshelves, Archie says, because Wolfe was convinced that More had framed Richard III.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

So is my mom. Come to think of it, she's a big Nero Wolfe fan too.

James Bland would work too, Adrian.

My impression of James Bond will always be conflated with a visit out to California from my Dad's brother and his family. His son was a year or two older than I was, and I still remember how we were in thrall to my cousin's sophistication as he described all of James Bond's contraptions. My parents wouldn't let us see it because it was too 'adult'. I mean I was probably nine at the time, so they may have had a point. But I imagine anything adult would have sailed right on over my head. Much still does.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian O'Rourke has left a new comment on your post "In the rough":

Kim Il Sung had to be playing mini-golf to get a score like that.


Brian, that score would be a stretch even for mini-golf. No, even such a figure as Kim Il would have needed a few years of practice before he could make it to the top of any legitimate Great Leaderboard.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., Daughter of Time is the book all crime readers know about even if they haven't read it. I have not read it, for instance, but my knowledge of the book stood me in good stead at the Crimefest pub quiz earlier this year. I don't know much about Brat Farrar, thought that seems to be the second most often mentioned of Josephine Tey's novels.

The Singing Sand takes its protagonist, Grant, off his usual patch on a rest cure, where he becomes involved with a mystery. The description of mental disturbance may have been daring for its time (and I don't remember that much about the book), but perhaps Tey was too attached to the gimmick of having Grant work on a case in situations where he should have been doing anything but working.

August 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Martin, someone mentioned the cricket scene in Murder Must Advertise in a recent comment string here. To my surprise, I could not remember the scene, though I remembered a number of the book's other features: its setting, details of the office, Sayers' jabs at advertising, even the murder weapon. Perhaps I was distracted as I read the cricket scene. But it's more likely that I simply failed to assimilate the details of an unfamiliar game. I probably read the novel before my cricket tutorial with Norm/Uriah of Crime Scraps.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ian, I watched the clip, and I'll watch it again to look for the detail you mentioned. I don't know if young Mr. Connery played the game, but he was certainly born in a land where golf's roots run deep.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

James Blond would be a good name for the new one.

James Bland


Hmm, I don't think he ever goes undercover as a visually impaired person, so so much for my next suggestion. I don't think he ever uses a Cuisinart, so he can't be James Blend either.

In re James Bland, I think I've seen one complete James Bond movie in my life, the new Casino Royale. I remember being surprised by how anxious and weather-worn Daniel Craig's Bond was, an obvious and deliberate update of the image, and one without they jokey but hyper-cool understatement of his predecessors.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Daughter of Time is excellent. I've often wondered if Stout read it, since Wolfe removed Thomas More from his bookshelves, Archie says, because Wolfe was convinced that More had framed Richard III."

Linkmeister, in which book does Stout first tell us that Wolfe removed Thomas More from his shelves? The Daughter of Time appeared in 1951, so Nero and Archie had already been around awhile.

Incidentally, Some Buried Caesar is the Nero Wolfe novel that all attendees are being asked to read for Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"seana has left a new comment on your post "In the rough":

"So is my mom. Come to think of it, she's a big Nero Wolfe fan too."


I visited the Tower of London a few years ago, but I didn't bother dusting for fingerprints. The intervening centuries would probably have thoroughly compromised any forensic evidence about the fate of the young princes.

"But I imagine anything adult would have sailed right on over my head. Much still does."

That's endearingly childlike. -like, not -ish.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Philip said...

Peter, Wolfe gives More's Utopia the heave-ho in Death of a Doxy. That appeared in 1966, late in Stout's life, but it's vintage stuff, one of the best. You may be interested in Stout's contribution to the In Memoriam notices for Richard that appear annually (August 22, of course) in the NY Times. They've been penned by some notables over the years -- Maxwell Anderson wrote one, I think -- but Stout's in 1970 stands out among them, not surprisingly:

PLANTAGENET - Richard, great king and true friend of the rights of man, died at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. Murdered by traitors and, dead, maligned by knaves and ignored by Laodiceans, he merits out devoted remembrance."

Stout was a member of the Richard III Society -- the US branch was founded in 1961. Of course, his FBI file was extensive, and it might be interesting to know what those rascals might have made of that.

Way off on a tangent, anyone interested in Leonard Bernstein's FBI files might want to go to the New Yorker website and see what Alex Ross has come up with.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, that contribution does, indeed, stand out. I shall try to remember to look for this year's contribution, if the New York Times still indulges in such things. Given that the Times allots space to U2's Bono these days, one shudders to think what a current Richard III obit might look like. Perhaps I could observe the anniversary by reading some Stout and Shakespeare.

August 14, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

I think golf isnt popular with Hugo Chavez or in France because the thing it primarily teaches is humility.

The Augusta Golf Club, which every year plays host to the Masters, admitted its first non-white member in 1990. Membership is still denied to women. That may be part of the reason golf is viewed primarily a as rich white boy club' sport.
There's also the matter of the environmental and water consumption problems caused by golf courses, and the fact that outside the Anglo-Saxon world they are developed as part of deluxe resorts which may bring much money to some but generally go against the opposition and best interests of local communities. I don't know anyone who plays golf, and yet there are three similar projects-one involving very dubious re-zoning sleight of hands -in an area of 15-20 miles round where I live- area which already as it is experiences water shortages.



Josephine Tey - I liked TO LOVE AND BE WISE best.

August 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But look at the good side: A golf course is such a valuable place to make business contacts.

August 17, 2009  

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