Wednesday, June 05, 2013

I dunno, that's when I decided.


Close enough for a Tweet, anyway. I spend a ridiculous amount of time whittling, editing, compromising, and condensing my original until it met the space restrictions. A truer statement would be more like:
My favourite detective novels read like a joke told by an intimate friend who forgot the details of the set-up but relishes your attention and so rambles on, piling digression on top of digression, spilling everything he knows, ever careful to keep you entertained, in hopes that he'll stumble on to the set-up and eventual punchline. 
Or something like that. The idea was inspired by the first dozen or so pages of The Shape of Water, the first Inspector Montalbano book. I immediately took to Andrea Camilleri's tone as he describes the socio-political circumstances that created the opportunity for the series of events that led to the discovery of the body. Camilleri is clearly a fellow traveller of Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö (particularly their scenes with Kvant and Kristiansson), Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Wolf Haas, and Wayne Arthurson. All of them writers particularly in tune with their setting and not afraid of allowing a bit (or in the case of Haas, a lot) of personality to show through in the narrative. Of the gang I've mentioned, only Arthurson writes in the first person.

In my mind, at least, they are all descended from Georges Simenon--a noted characteristic I'd use to describe two more of my favourite crime writers, K.C. Constantine and Ian Rankin. Reading Constantine last winter, I remarked that Mario Balzic was basically an American Martin Beck. But he can't be--strictly speaking. The first Balzic book, The Rocksburg Railroad Murders came out in 1972, the same year that the seventh book in the Beck series, The Abominable Man, came out in English. It's probably much safer to say that Balzic is an American Maigret in the same way that Beck is a Swedish Maigret.
I haven't read as much Maigret as I'd like. There's only so much time in a day, a week, a year. I read a lot of Maigret (there's a lot of Maigret) when Nicole was pregnant with the twins. I wasn't writing crime novels then. I was working on my picaresque coming of age literary novel. I don't know what it means. But those books spoke to me. Everything I read between the birth of my first daughter and the birth of the twins affected me like nothing before. Richard Price, Taibo, I read a bunch of Paul Auster books, some Miriam Toews (whose A Complicated Kindness I was shamelessly pilfering for my ridiculous 2011 book, Dianne Warren's Cool Water (which bears some distant kinship with Constantine's Rocksburg novels), Sjöwall & Wahlöö, especially Sjöwall & Wahlöö--them and Richard Price was where I realized how much a crime novel could be, and then Taibo showed me it could be even more, and that's when, I dunno, that's when I decided.
Sorry, what was the question?

1 comment:

Dale Odberg said...

Love your writing Emmett! You are both funny and smart....something like the authors that you enjoy reading.