Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sjöwall and Wahlöö: My late start on an early source

This post is by way of atonement. If Henning Mankell is a father to the current boom in international crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are grandparents. Their ten Martin Beck novels, from 1965's Roseanna to The Terrorists in 1975, were among the first to examine a society critically as well as tell a crime story, and authors to this day cite them as influences.

Despite this, I had not read Sjöwall and Wahlöö until now. Mankell's introduction/appreciation to the 2008 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard reprint of Roseanna is a brisk review of its highlights, its influence, and its remarkable freshness despite the apparent distance of its world from Mankell's and ours. I am especially impressed that the first adjectives Mankell applies to the book are "straightforward" and "clear," and that he says "Even the language seems energetic and alive."

So far he's right. The first two chapters are like an operatic overture or prelude, sounding, one by one, miniature versions of the themes that will follow until, in Chapter 3, we meet Beck — the same Beck whose ordinariness as a human being, along with that of his colleagues, was such a revelation to Henning Mankell forty years ago. I have a heady feeling that I am exploring a source of much that has become familiar to me.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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47 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

Better late than never.

I saw this article about Scandinavian crime recently, claiming that they were inspired by the pagan sagas. Well, I think they are inspired by Sjöwall and Wahlöö´s rather gloomy Socialist views on the Swedish society.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If you mean Laura Miller's article in the Wall Street Journal, it was a late effort to jump on the bandwagon, and it contained no surprises. (It think it also fails to mention that the sagas, though they embody largely pagan material, were written during Christian times.) I was pleased that she mentioned the dark humor in Nordic crime novels, especially since I wrote about this in 2007. If a phenomenon persists long enough, even American newspapers will eventually discover it.

As new as I am to Sjöwall and Wahlöö, I still suspect you're right about their influence being greater than that of the sagas.

Arnaldur Indriðason says the sagas influenced his prose, and I believe him. His descriptions are often terse, with little or no description of characters' reaction.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

You have a treat ahead of you Peter.
I have a suspicion Dorte does not want to shock your North American sensibilities, but Sjowall and Wahloo were not socialists they were Marxists. And I don't mean fans of Groucho and Harpo.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Yes, of course, Norman ;)

No, I just used Socialism as a broad, superordinate term for the left wing. And my point was, of course, that Socialism is often regarded as humourless. I doubt that Sjöwall and Wahlöö were, but Martin Beck is certainly one of the most gloomy protagonists I have ever come across. I don´t see Wallander as quite the same type, but Arnaldur Indridason´s Erlendur comes close.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Barbara said...

How interesting. Beck may be dour, but I find the books full of wry humor. (Full disclosure - I've recently started the series myself so I'm basing my claim on only a couple of books.)

January 20, 2010  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

This is my favorite series of all time. Hope you continue to enjoy.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Graham Powell said...

I've read 9 of the books, and "Cop Killer" is coming out here in the States some time this year, so I'll be all caught up. So far they range from not bad to great. The general consensus seems to be that "The Laughing Policeman" is the best, and I have to agree.

And they're not without some deadpan humor. Melander's habit of being in the toilet when anyone's looking for him is a good example.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Joe Barone said...

I read all ten of these books at the time they were published in English and loved them. I've seen a blog or two now reminding me of them. I may go back and read them again.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, they may be the only crime writers in connection with whom the term "the state" is used regularly. I have read they their later novels were more sharply political than the earlier ones. "Roseanna" is the first, and so far the criticism amounts to a straight-faced description of government bureaucracy in action, though somewhat more detailed and funnier than most such.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, I'll be keeping my eyes open for how fresh Sjöwall and Wahlöö's innovations seem. Will Martin Beck seem like just one more dour detective, for example, indistinguishable from his successors?

Alarm bells went off when they first described Beck's domestic life in "Roseanna," but I think they may handle his marriage a bit more sensitively than other writers do, even though it's not a great marriage.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Barbara, I've noticed wry humor in the early chapters of "Roseanna," notable in the interaction between Beck and his colleagues on the one hand and the small-town police from Motala on the other.

Sice you're new to the series as well, I'd be interested in how you think some of their innovations hold up: the dour detective, the team approach to solving crime, the focus on the cops' personal lives, and so on.

(In the matter of innovations, Mankell says they were inspired and influenced by Ed McBain, but Sjöwall says this is not the case.)

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Patti. The series seems to be many readers' favorite. I don't quite know why I've never turned to it until now.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Graham, is the "Cop Killer" reprint part of the Vintage/Black Lizard series? The publisher's Web site has a little page for each book, some of which offer excerpts. But it does not say who wrote the new introductions, as far as I can tell, which is a real head-scratcher. The introductions are often a selling point in such reissues, in this series and in the University of Chicago's reprints of Richard Stark's Parker novels, for example. Why you wouldn't want to let readers know that, say, a Henning Mankell has written a new introduction for one of your books is beyond me.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Joe, they still attract readers today. At Bouchercon in 2008, Lee Child paid Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö this tribute: "Arkady Renko is really Martin Beck. Michael Connelly's Bosch is really Martin Beck."

January 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

A "tribute"? Hmm... Do other readers find Child's analogy as annoying as I do? As though variations on a theme—commonalities between detectives in crime fiction—follows in a direct line from Sjöwall and Wahlöö. I haven’t read Smith’s Arkady Renko novels but I’ve read all of Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels and the notion that Bosch is Beck borders on the bizarre. By the same extrapolation, I presume Child would say Rankin’s Rebus is Beck and Camilleri’s Montalbano is Beck? I guess such sound bites make for good copy.

I also sometimes wonder what Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s take on contemporary Sweden would be. Would they change their tune?

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll cut Lee Child lots of slack here for two reasons: One is that I haven't read his books, and the other is that he made the remark in passing. It was not an extended analysis, and I don't know what he'd have said if probed about his comparison. Besides, I think he spoke with good will. He was trying to express the depth of his respect for Sjöwall and Wahlöö, and he might have spoken with a flourish of rhetorical excess.

I don't know if he'd have said that Rebus or Montalbano was Beck, but perhaps he'd have said that Beck created the space for other fictional detectives with realistic problems that are as much a part of the story as is the crime.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Dave Riley said...

I am much taken by the way some crime writers reflect social issues and in that regard Sjöwall and Wahlöö are the top dogs in the large pack. I think their achievement over the ten novels ( same number and Mankell's Wallander series) is brilliant and they stand out as a major template.

Since I too am a Marxist like the pair I appreciate their method of construction and the narratives they engineer.

This kind of engagement also runs through to Stieg Larssen's phenomenal three volumes -- who also was a life long Marxist. Mankell during his youth was also a Marxist but drifted out of activism...

As for Sjöwall and Wahlöö being humorless, I always appeciate the occasional farce in their stories especially the long running jokjes in cop killer -- and the 'cop killed' is shot by his own partner in a farcical encounter with car thieves.

January 20, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Roseanna by Wahloo & Sjowall is my favorite Beck book, I think it's THE best Beck book.
Susie

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dave, perhaps by coincidence, Stieg Larsson, too, is said to have planned a series of ten novels.

I don't know that form Mankell's early activism took, but I do know that he has continued to work in theater in Africa. Broadly speaking, I'd say Nordic crime writing, at least that translated into English, tends to be more socially engaged than American or British. France, too, has a strain of critical crime fiction, at least since Jean-Patrick Manchette. Dominique Manotti's writing is not much like Manchette's, but she casts a withering eye on some of France's most powerful institutions.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Susie, I'm impressed that you would regard the first book in a series as the best. The series got off to a good start, I'd say.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Dave Riley said...

Ernest Mandel (Belgium) who was a major Marxist economist wrote an interesting study on crime fiction , Delightful Murder which warrants a read if you can track down a copy.

Yes the 10-in-a series seems to be a Swedish ritual. As I understood it, Mankell began Wallander as a means to engage with the issue of refugees in Sweden as his dedication to the Third World and the impact of its endemic poverty has inspired much of his writing and his work.

But Wahloo & Sjowall began with 10 novels in mind which were designed to cast a critical eye over Swedish society in the sixties. When you read the novels more than once you can explore the structural logic they used in order to engineer the sociology and commentary which is embedded so creatively in the text.

As for Stieg Larsson, you could say that he was indeed a political associate of Mandel as he was a major political activist and journalist in the same Marxist international network.

This thread -- of social critique and crime fiction -- is something I'm fascinated by.

For me the crime novel's social engagement is fascinating. I think it is crudely done by some -- such as Massimo Carlotto -- despite his political credentials ( he was framed and jailed for political activism) and mastered superbly by not only the Swedish pair but other writers who weave it seamlessly into what may seem standard plots -- such as the Inspector Gently novels by Alan Hunter (No rah rah radical but his progressive outlook imbues so many of his books). Contrary to what people may assume , politics isn't far from pulp fiction as the granddaddy of crime fiction -- Dashiell Hammett -- was a member of the US Communist Party and was even jailed during McCarthyism.The irony is that Hammet's best work predates his politicisation.

On the other side of the fence James Elroy was a dedicated member of the US Nazi Party for a time but he nonetheless wrote one of the best fictional stories on Cuba/US relations -- American Tabloid .

January 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Andrea Camilleri has spoken of the influence of Sjöwall and Wahlöö on his crime fiction on more than one occasion and has inserted references to them in at least 2 of his Salvo Montalbano novels. The most explicit reference appears in "August Heat" -- "(Montalbano) sat outside until eleven o'clock, reading a good detective novel by two Swedish authors who were husband and wife, in which there wasn't a page without a ferocious and justified attack on social democracy and the government. In his mind Montalbano dedicated the book to all those who did not deign to read mystery novels because, in their opinion, they were only entertaining puzzles."

January 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Well, to go a bit against the grain of the comments here, I really enjoyed this series when I read it many years ago, but I basically took it's bigger project as just a strategy that they were certainly impassioned about, but which translated for the readers into simply a very good mystery series. I have to say I feel a bit the same way about Steig Larsson's more idealistic purposes, though I've only read the first book so far.

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dave, I have read the theory that Hammett's later leftist political activities were atonement for his having worked for Pinkerton, which made its name breaking strikes.

For me, the most readable and engaging of politically critical and engaged crime fiction comes from France and Italy and Spain: Leonardo Sciascia, Jean-Claude Izzo, Dominique Manotti, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, even my man Andrea Camilleri, who is more explicit in his digs and political figures than any other crime writer I can think of.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I don't think you're going against any grains. Every one of the authors I've mentioned here is an engaging crime writer and not a polemicist.

I thought Rosenna's first chapter was a clever, sly and funny commentary on the fuctioning of the Swedish state. A mere polemicist could not have managed that.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, not polemical is probably the key here. But I do know they had an agenda about addressing the entire Swedish system. I suppose in a way its a bit like HBO's The Wire, which tackles many social aspects of Baltimore but still manages to be dramatically compelling.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, that's it. I'm not sure we in America are used to popular art that can be entertaining and politically and morally serious at the same time. Who knows? Maybe something in the American character turns hectoring and puritanical when it tries to get serious in art.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Linda said...

In my mind I conflate Wallender, Beck, and Erlendur; I can't help it. Also, I have developed a picture of Scandanavian society from reading Scandanavian detective fiction--Mankell, Indridason, Sjowall and Wahloo, Sigurdardottir, Steig Larsson, Asa Larsson, Ake Edwardson, as well as novelists like Per Pettersen. Who knows how accurate it is. I wish I could keep those detectives totally discrete, though. Oh well.

January 21, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

For me the crime novel's social engagement is fascinating. I think it is crudely done by some -- such as Massimo Carlotto -- despite his political credentials ( he was framed and jailed for political activism) and mastered superbly by

I'm afraid I cannot agree with this comment. I don't think it makes much sense to compare Carlotto and S/W - their styles are too different, but Larsson's strength lies much more in pulp sensationalism than in any attempt at finesse, sophistication, rounding of characters or overall verisimilitude.



Speaking of early American politically engaged crime fiction, one should mention the excellent novels by Horace McCoy, They Shoot Horses Don't They and No Pockets for a Shroud . Now the latter would be a fine example of good Marxist social critique in a novel with a journalist as the main character.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Linda said...

On the subject of social engagement, I forgot to say that the Alaska detective fiction of Stan Jones and Dana Stabelow--plenty of blood on snow there--are examples of American writers whose stories are as much about native Alaskan society and politics, and social issues, and climate, as they are about crime.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, perhaps Dave had in mind the occasional crudity of Carlotto's prose, or at least of his English translations. I have read just The Girl Who Plays With Fire, and I'd agree that it's a good pulp novel. There's no reason for Larsson's partisans to be insulted by that assessment, but I suspect some might be.

Horace McCoy's name came up in a string recently here, but don't ask me to tell you which one.

I have an anthology of crime stories that includes several from a strain of proletarian American crime writing in the 1930s -- and notes how quickly that strain passed.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In my mind I conflate Wallender, Beck, and Erlendur ...

Linda: You could add Jo Nesbø and Håkan Nesser to your list and mix yourself up even more. But then, you'd likely remember Nesbø's Harry Hole. He drinks more than the others.

I would agree that the Nordic crime writers I've read tend more to create memorable settings -- or pictures of society -- than characters. When I discuss their books, I find myself talking about the author or the country or the scciety or the prose style rather than about the protagonists.

But Arnaldur's Erlendur, say, or Nesser's Van Veeteren do have their quirks. If a novel is like a painting, one might say Scandinavian crime writers paint their characters in muted colors.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linda, thanks for the comment on Stan Jones and Dana Stabenow. I wonder if they find it easier to examine political issues because Alaska is somewhat out of the American mainstream. I wonder if American readers are more willing to accept politics in stories set outside their own worlds, whether those setting be Europe or Alaska.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I thought that Alaska was right in the Palinstream of American politics.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Palin crossed my mind as I posted my comment. If Sarah Palin zooms even more to the forefront of the national scene, I'm sure pundits will start holding Alaska up as a national model. Of course, that would mean suggesting that everyone smoke lots of dope, pollute the environment, and gobble up a disproportionate share of federal dollars, so we'll see.

On the other hand, Bouchercon 2007 took place in Alaska, and I think Palin addressed the gathering, so who knows what the future holds for Alaska crime?

January 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

“…the theory that Hammett's later leftist political activities were atonement for his having worked for Pinkerton, which made its name breaking strikes” is an urban legend promulgated by Lillian Hellman. Hammett never went in for mea culpas and he enjoyed his time in the Pinkertons. If he had felt guilty about his activities in the Pinkertons, it does not seem likely that he would have chosen a Pinkerton-like character, the Continental Op, as the main protagonist for the majority of his short stories. There is a lot of humor, as well as plenty of hardboiled action in the Op stories, too. The reasons for Hammett’s leftist leanings probably lie more in his lifelong interest in philosophy (he was a voracious reader from childhood to the end of his life) and his exposure to Communist and Marxist thinking in the Hollywood of the mid 1930s when he “took a leftward political turn, perhaps in reaction to the easy money [he made in Hollywood] or in response to the Depression.” (William Marling) An excerpt from an early, unpublished DH short story, “The Hunter,” in Marling’s book (Dashiell Hammett. Twayne's United States Authors Series. Tusas 458, 1983) reveals what might be DH's realization, however, that there could be negative as well as positive components of a detective's job.

For a very interesting, and I think compelling, analysis of Hammett’s philosophy, see “A Man Must Do What He Must: Hammett's Pragmatism,” by Josef Hoffmann, republished at the Thrilling Detective Web site: http://www.thrillingdetective.com/non_fiction/e011.html

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I had heard that Lillian Hellman had done her share of fabricating and embellishing. I also know the Op stories. I didn't know the Continental agency was anything like Pinkerton's, but it was a big agency with branches all over the place, to the parallel is palusible. And I know both the action and the humor in ths stories. Thanks.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Dave Riley said...

Actually I agree with most of what people say -- Larssens' three novels are potboilers and rise up primarily on the strength of the female lead.But you can't put them down nonetheless -- so they must be working.

Hammett was an interesting political activist as unlike many writers and artists of his generation he stuck to his allegiances though the Cold War and didn't indulge in the sort of reconstructed biography that people like Hellman went in for.

I always associate him with Arthur Miller in that regard for some reason although Miller was not a communist.

As for Massimo Carlotto I don't find his work engaging much at all. I think it's crudely contrived. I'd have thought that if you had spent so long in prison for a crime you didn't commit, you'd have a great CV for later fiction.

But returning to Wahloo & Sjowall I think their prose is terse and cogent and without filagree -- devoid of a self conscious style. The novels also lack, what may be a Swedish crime trait, "attitude" in the sense we so often associate with US crime fiction -- such as a self conscious machismo or, in the case of V.I. Warshawski, feminism with guts. The characters are passive cogs in a much broader reality and in a sense they are witnesses rather than agents.

They're versions of Everyman rather than of neurotic Hamlets (Dave Robicheaux comes to mind) at war with the world.

American literature and film is so often driven by protagonists who by dint of their presumably critical engagement, change the plot and pre-determine the ending.I think this is true of so much crime writing.Whereas in what I've read of Scandinavian fiction -- which tends anyway to be police procedural -- crime is outside the ability of the investigator to prevent .

So society lives and breaths around the protagonists as the crimes flow out of the condition under which they(we) all live. In the US, often at least, crime is an aberration of an almost Panglosian reality and like Shakespeare, after the mayhem and discord, a sort of sociological balance is forcibly returned by using the smarts.

In that sense a 'socially engaged' novel which seeks to comment on society requires a certain distancing -- or as Bertolt Brecht argued, an alienation -- which encourages the reader to consider the events as something to ponder and rule on. They aren't necessarily propagandist but at most, in way of a managed process, function as parables.

In that regard, Wahloo & Sjowall's achievements are outstanding.

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dave, I should defer to people who read two or all of the books, but if Stieg Larsson wrote good pop literature, more power to him. I like Salander's revenge, I like the first book's railing against financial crime and the subservience of financial journalists to the people they cover. HIs books may not change the world, but he tells a good story.

Sjowall and Wahloo's prose is bracing, and I was pleased that Henning Mankell singled it out in his introducton to the Vintage/Black Lizard edition. In re Carlotto, I have little experience with his writing, but Clive James was scathing and dismissive about his prose in his New Yorker article on international crime fiction a few years ago.

Scandinavian fictional detectives do tend to think about their surroundings, as opposed to railing against them, more than their American counterparts, but if you want the ultimate in cool distancing, you need to read Jean-Patrick Manchette.

I'm a little more than halfway through Roseanna now, and I've found several political clues, references that may bear fruit later in the novel or the series -- comments about police in Turkey and their interrogation methods, for instance, or a reference to a Swedish military officer who had been a liaison with Franco's troops.

January 21, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

rise up primarily on the strength of the female lead.

A character - the sexually promiscuous damaged teen/twentysomething complete with troubled life and magical powers* that seems lifted directly from urban fantasy or paranormal romance.
Apparently Lisbeth Salander is for many straight men what Edward (of Twilight fame) is for teenaged girls - ooh, mystery! A dark past! Goth and self-destructive! Dangerous! Sexually tantalizing!

* in this case, over computers. And she's a mathematical genius.

But you can't put them down nonetheless -- so they must be working.

Yes, but this can be said also of Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer, and for much the same reasons.

As for Massimo Carlotto I don't find his work engaging much at all. I think it's crudely contrived. I'd have thought that if you had spent so long in prison for a crime you didn't commit, you'd have a great CV for later fiction.

This is a perplexing statement. On the one hand, if I take the plots, I could see it somewhat, especially in the Alligator novels (but then, Larsson?). If I take it to refer to the situations, I'm afraid it's reality that's contrived. Some of the earlier novels are reworkings of facts of Italian history, while many of the newer ones anticipated newspaper headlines.
The way in which characters like Alligator and his pals end up intermingled with these situations is sometimes artificial; it's one of the reasons I greatly prefer the non-series books. The novels, however, are very carefully researched, sometimes for years. And his best one, Death's Dark Abyss, is a noir masterpiece.

I have little experience with his writing, but Clive James was scathing and dismissive about his prose in his New Yorker article on international crime fiction a few years ago

And we questioned the intelligence of discussing the prose of a work without ever considering the fact that it is a translation (and the newer translations by Europa Editions have been uniformly praised). Then again, James had no qualms discussing Kral Kraus without ever referencing primary or secondary German texts, but limiting himself only to criticism available in translation.

January 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I allowed for the possibility that Clive James may have read the original Italian version. But yes, I did criticize him for appearing to judge Carlotto's prose style based on a translation. But he does have a good eye for bad prose. The sentence he singled out was a bad one.

I haven't seen Lisbeth Salander discussed as an object of fantasy. Maybe she's something like Modesty Blaise after all.

January 22, 2010  
Blogger Dave Riley said...

FYI Just on crime fiction and society in reference to my interest, . Here's an interesting interview with Ian Rankin :CRIME FICTION ‘Crime fiction is about social inequality’

January 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I was intersted in Rankin's statement that Rebus may be an alternate-life version of the author. And I was impressed with the interviewer, too. My eyes start to roll when I see the words "general secretary," but the man actually acknowledged India's achievement as a state.

January 29, 2010  
Blogger Ghanshyam Nair said...

I always wonder whether Ellroy is as right-wing as people, including himself, claim. I've read Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere and White Jazz, and everywhere his protagonists seem to me right-wingers who grow increasingly weary of right-wing politics the deeper they immerse themselves into it. By the end, of course, they're too far stuck to do anything about it.
I haven't read the rest of his work, so I don't know if they're similar in any way.

January 29, 2010  
Blogger Dave Riley said...

Actually the once upon a time Maoist parties of India have been engaged in extraordinary cultural sponsorships/partnerships that go back to the very nationalist forties and have included some very important cultural figures especially in theatre and esp in Bengal when the cultural renaissance was almost led by Communists. The literary allegiance is almost obsessional. So the exchange is not unusual despite the interviewer's ranking. And people like Arundhati Roy's family are steeped in communist tradition. A friend of mine, a journalist that writes on climate change, has been addressing the CPIML's 8th Congress only this week -- and like the CPIM these are mass formations -- whose support base is huge -- that cannot be ignored, not even it seems by Insp John Rebus.But for me its' fascinating how much radicals can relate to a form-- by embracing cops as heroes -- that is so much about controlling aberrant behavior under capitalism . Its' a fascinating turnabout that differs from real world attitudes. I guess with the more noirish you go you have to embrace a pervasive alienation and in that sense, the crime novel injects another key element that separates it from Westerns at least in the US. Capitalism is noir. It doesn't help to think of the protagonists as outsiders because Beck and Wallander certainly aren't.My politcal friends in Edinburgh may celebrate Rebus but still distrust all cops. However, inThe Naming of the Dead (about the big protest in that city)Rankin chooses to allocate the humanity and allegiance to Siobhan Clarke rather than allow his lead tool to take sides. (Although Rebus's PV on Northern Ireland's "Troubles" would rest well among Nationalists there.)And Beck and Wallander are totally apolitical Everymen who get stuck with defending a Panglosian world they have to make the best of.

January 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ghanshyam, your take on Ellroy sounds right to me. I have read that extreme right-wing affiliations are part of Ellroy's colorful past, but nothing I have read of his indicates any such symppathies today. Several characters in "The Cold Six Thousand," including the protagonists, are burned-out or hopeless right-wing nuts. I heard him read a few months ago, and he praised public libraries, hardly an extremist position.

January 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dave, I also found it interesting that a general secretary was interested in crime fiction. Among other things, that makes him rather endearingly human and less rigid and puritanical than communists are by reputation, at least in America. For similar reasons, I am pleased that Brecht liked boxing and cigars and that such crime writers as Jean-Claude Izzo, Andrea Camilleri, Manuel Vazquez Montalban and Jean-Patrick Manchette liked good food, good music or both.

January 29, 2010  

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