Hildegarde

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Archive for April, 2012

Barbarians at the Gates

with 6 comments

So.

The book is done.

It went off on Thursday, in fact, and I’ve been trying to do the transition thing ever since, with only limited success.

I seem to have been unclear the last time. 

When I say I need a “transition book,” I don’t mean that I need a book to help me transition from one book to another.

I mean I need a book to help me transition from writing mode to book is finished mode.

If that makes sense.

But I’ve actually got that transition book now–a big thing on the long-term results of the Reformation–I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

I’m in the middle of Gunpowder Plot, by Carola Dunn.  I’ve only read one other book in the series, so I’m not a good source on the consistency of the quality, but this is a good, solid, workable fair play, if a little too heavy on the Christieland aspects. 

Christieland is what Bill used to call the place that cozy readers went looking for in Agatha Christie novels–not real England, but a special Agatha Christie England.

Of course, readers who read Christie when the books first appeared would have picked up on the real England in them.  We, these days, are too far away to see.

And that brings me to something.

I don’t write historical fiction, largely because I don’t think I’m capable of getting the emotional core of any period but my own.

But I don’t read  historical fiction, either–or I mostly don’t, since I’m obviously reading this–because there are usually plenty of books (and, these days, DVDs of movies and old television shows) written in the period itself.

And that brings up a question–what is it that people want when they read fiction (or watch movies or television shows) about an historical period not their own?

What is it about Victorian England or Twenties Paris or Los Angeles in the Forties or whatever that people want to have in their lives that they can’t have now?

I would say that it is almost impossible to address this question if you read or watch only what was actually made or written in the period you’re looking for. 

When I watch Casablanca or old Perry Mason shows, when I read Henry James, I don’t really have to think about my response to the period.  My response just is.

Reading a book like Gunpowder Plot, though, make me focus on what the writer seems to think is important in the setting she’s recreating.

And the setting she’s recreating isn’t the setting as it originally occurred, or as it would have occurred to any writer wring contemporaneously in the period.

This is not something wrong with the way Dunn writes.  It’s inevitable in any piece of historical fiction.  They were who they were and we are who we are, and none of us can transport ourselves into another sensibility with any success.

And that, sensibility, is the issue, I think.

We live in a time and place where the culture has become, in some ways, very ugly–books and movies and television shows indulge in lots of graphic sex and violence and ridiculously bad language, yes, but on top of that there is a determined concentration on the bizarrely evil and brutal.

Our narratives these days are about serial rapist killers who eat their victims’ hearts, mothers who murder their children and chop their bodies up for fertilizer, husbands and lovers who beat their wives to bloody pulps.

But it’s more than that.

It’s not only in stories that we’ve become brutalized.  One of the things I find most interesting about watching old movies rather than new ones is the way police go about the business of arresting criminals.

These days, get brought in on anything at all, even something nonviolent, and you’ll be handcuffed and shackled as if you were accued of having just mowed down a Girl Scout troop with a machine gun.

We treat everybody we arrest these days as if they were rabid lunatics about to commit mass murder at the drop of a hat. 

Watch something from the Fifties, and you’ll see that even people on trial for murder aren’t handcuffed going in or out of court. 

This is why I was not surprised at the Supreme Court’s ruling that prisioners could be strip and body cavity searched when they were brought to jail no matter what they were arrested for, apparently even for littering. 

It’s all part of the endless, brutalizing overkill that has become standard operating procedure in the criminal justice system.

And “brutalizing” is the word for what this is.

I think that part of the reason I read things written in times not contemporary to my own is to find an escape from just this brutalization. 

I get to the point where I just don’t want to deal with it any more–not just the overkill of shackling people in jail for (I’m not making this up) contempt of court, but the automatic assumption that if a child is dead its parents must have killed it, that all marriages are ugly and violent, that all families are abusive, that everybody cheats and is dishonest, and all the rest of it.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

I think it’s something like this very thing that sends a lot of people not only to read or watch older works, but to write historical fiction.

I don’t, though, think that most people are fully conscious that this is the kind of thing they are looking for.

And that’s why we have what we have in contemporary historical fiction, at least in mysteries–that is, we have books that try to recreate an era, but that are always tripping over issues from this one.

Once you actually start working with a period, it usually becomes clear that you don’t actually want to live there–or, at least, that you don’t want to live there as it actually was.

We really don’t want to go back to an era where women were allowed to study at Oxford but not take degrees, or where class divisions were enforced rigidly enough so that a hardworking and brilliant man had virtually no method of escaping them, even if he got rich trying.  We don’t want to return to the days of racial segregation.  Most of us don’t want to return to the days when homosexuality could get you a term in jail.

What happens to a lot of writers is that they find themselves desperately needing to address the issues that make them feel uncomfortable about the period they favor–discussions about women’s voting rights or ability to do a man’s job come up in the narrative, although such discussions falsify the period. 

One of the characteristics of these periods is that such discussions did not take place in private and polite company except under very extraordinary circumstances. 

Read an Agatha Christie sometime, and you’ll find that even when the doctor is a woman, nobody discusses the fact or implies that she can’t do her job.  She’s just there.  The issue is left for the opinion magazines to do hammer out.

The really interesting question, of course, is whether or not it would be possible to have a less brutalized culture without also adopting some of the restrictions less brutalized cultures have exhibited in real time. 

And it’s a real question.

Cheryl said the other day that she was surprised at how many people don’t even consider the possibility that we should have laws that would restrict the actions of the majority because a minority might respond (as to gambling) in ways that are destructive.

And most of you know me well enough to know that I would not myself approve of such laws.  I do not think governments should be allowed to regulate our behavior for “our own good.”

Even so, every one of the gentler cultures that attract me have had some of these kinds of laws, if not always the same laws every time. 

So, no, here I am again, without a solution.

I have no idea if it would be possible to have what I want in a culture without having all the things I don’t want.

I just thought I’d say something.

Written by janeh

April 14th, 2012 at 10:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Ocean’s Dilemma

with 5 comments

Okay.

So here I am, almost done with this thing, which is good, because it turns out this is not going to be a truncated version of the old cold.  I’m just sick.

That said, I’m at a place where I know all my decisions are, so I’m not going to stop to take it easy.  The last thing I want is to forget how I finally decided this all fit together. 

In the meantime, I find myself in one of those dilemmas. 

I am very careful about what I read when I write and when I cut–there are some things that simply make it impossible for me to keep my mind on the project in hand.

These things are not necessarily bad.  Stephen King is one of them, and my guess is that the problem is not that he’s bad, but that he’s good.  He just has too strong a narrative voice for me to fight my way out of.

Very badly written books can go either way.  Sometimes they drive me so crazy, I can’t do anything.  Sometimes they actually affect me less than they would have if I wasn’t working. 

I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what any of this means.  I just know what works, and I go with that.

Every once in a while I have a problem that I’ve mentioned before and some of you think is just crazy–I finish a book, and I just can’t find another one that I can manage to read.

This happened yesterday, when I put down the last of the Perry Masons in the house that I hadn’t read yet and looked around for something else.

Now, here’s the thing–when I have actually finished a book, I need what I think of as a “transition” book, a book to transition into real life.

This almost always turns out to be something nonfiction and argumentative.   It also tends to be something I’ve read before, because that way I can be sure it’s the right kind of thing.

I actually have a book I would like to use as my transition book–in fact, I’ve got two.  One I don’t own yet.  The other I own two copies of but can’t find either.

So when I came out of the office yesterday, having cut as much Gregor as I could without falling over, I found myself not just with nothing to read, but with nothing I could make myself understand.

And that’s when I went for my default–the movies I watched when nothing else works right.

And that led me to think about–well, Danny Ocean.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but let me go back to the issue again, because it continues to bother me.

Caper stories–novels and movies–have cycles of popularity.  There was a positive fashion for them in the Sixties and early Seventies, with two very popular paperback series–one by Donald E. Westlake and one by Lawrence Block–getting not only decent sales but movie versions.  Hell, at one point, Dormunder, Westlake’s thief-character, got played by Robert Redford.

But any way you think about it, caper stories are an odd venture.  There are people out there who like to identify with the Dark Side and to fashion themselves as evil–consider Alastair Crowley–but most of us don’t, and even most of us who are engaged in objectively evil (or just objectively wrong) actions manage to reframe them as objectively good or neutral.

Theft is, I think, an objectively wrong action, except in those cases where there is something unusual that might excuse it–think Jean Valjean. 

Caper novels are almost never written about Jean Valjean characters, though.  They’re written about professional thieves, people who make their living stealing other people’s stuff.

Almost nobody who has ever had any of their stuff stolen sympathizes with thieves.  The first problem a caper story has, therefore, is to turn an unsympathetic character into a sympathetic one–to somehow take the mind of the audience off the thievery and onto the thieves’ personality.

Larry  Block’s series had an interesting way of doing this for a while.  His thief, Bernie Rhodenbarr (sp?), would start to rob an apartment or other venue and stumble over a body.  He would then have to solve the murder to avoid being charged with it himself.

And since murder is a lot worse than burglary, and since most people haven’t been burgled, this worked.

It worked well enough to keep the series in business for many years, and to produce at least one movie, Burglar, with Bernie Rhodenbarr transformed into the person of Whoopi Goldberg.

Sometimes a caper story works because the thief, although a professional, and the job, although a robbery, aren’t really that in this particular instance.

That’s the set up in The Italian Job, where the robbery is being executed against a man who stole what he has to begin with an in the process caused the gratuitous death of one of his partners.

With other caper stories, the issues aren’t all that clear cut–which is  how we get to my default movies, when I’m just too tired or too sick or too out of it to really want to think.

This is how we get to Danny Ocean.

Now, let me explain something about what I like about these movies.

First, I like the Eleven and the Thirteen movies more than I like the Twelve, and that is because Twelve is set in Europe, and the other two are set in Las Vegas.

And I like them because the Las Vegas of these movies is bright and shiny and–I don’t know what.

You have to understand, from off, that I do not like casinos in real life.  In real life, casinos seem to me to be sad and desperate places, with few if any of the people in them having a “good time.”

I do understand that people can gamble as a pastime without becoming habituated to it.  I have a good girlfriend from college who goes to Vegas or Atlantic City every year, takes along exactly how much money she’s willing to lose, and stops when she’s lost that.

Even so, these places always seem unhappy to me, and more than a little sordid.  I did an event at Mohegan Sun once and had to walk across the slot machine area to get to dinner.  There is just something wrong with people who sit hunched up like that for hour after hour.

Nobody sits hunched up like that in the world of Ocean’s Las Vegas.  Everybody is beautifully dressed all the time and drinking as if they’ve got somebody else to drive them home.  There is a right way and a wrong way to gamble, and everybody knows it.

But my fondness for these movies is even odder if you consider what’s actually going on in them.

In numbers Twelve and Thirteen, Ocean and the boys are ripping off either somebody who is already ripping them off and will kill them if they don’t succeed in a counterstrategy, or somebody who is himself dishonest and brutal in a way the Ocean crew is not.

In Ocean’s Eleven, however, the target is a casino owner who is admittedly a thug–but a thug in the way Lorenzo di Medici was a thug. 

What’s more, it’s clear that his success is due not to his thuggery but to his other accomplishments, which are considerable.  He works his butt off, as the saying goes. He speaks several languages and is learning more, so that he can talk to high rollers from places like Germany and Japan in their own tongue. 

I’ll admit that, as with diMedici, it’s hard to like Terry Benedict.  He certainly commits a big no-no by valuing his casino empire over his girlfriend.

But he has still earned what he’s got, not cheated it out of other people, and on several levels it’s difficult not to admire him. 

That leaves me, of course, with the question of why it doesn’t bother me when Ocean and the boys get away with $160,000,000 of his money. 

Some of it may simply be the amount of time that is spent explaining that the man is insured and will be made whole no matter what. 

I don’t usually fall for that kind of line, because I know that insurance payoffs hurt everybody in the long run.  The insurance companies will make that money back by raising premiums and doing other things to otherwise innocent parties.

And yet it just doesn’t bother me. 

What I seem to want out of these movies is a shiny world where nothing is quite real–not in the way that science fiction landscapes aren’t real, but in the way dreams are. 

The very premise of these things is just so–ridiculous is the word I think I want here.  Even the money isn’t real.

And maybe that’s what I really want from these things.

A world where the money isn’t real.

Written by janeh

April 9th, 2012 at 10:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Colder

with 8 comments

So, it’s Saturday of what turns out to be Easter week–American Easter week, as we would have said when I was growing up–and I have yet another sore throat and yet another stuffy head. They’re not terribly awful yet, so I have my fingers crossed.  Usually I think my students are trying to kill me.  Today, I think the intention may have been only to maim.

Whatever.  I am at that place in the book where it is just impossible to stop, and I’m past my deadline, so I’m going to keep going.

And the semester has been more or less calm, and I’m pretty much caught up on my correcting, so that isn’t giving me a nervous breakdown.

It does feel, however, as if the entire year has sort of drifted. 

Even politics can’t make me angry any more.  I see political stories and the back of my head goes, automatically:  yeah, but. 

Al Sharpton has a program these days on MSNBC, which I usually only watch snippets of, because it consists of him stating the obvious political cliches and then shouting them, as if he had to talk above a crowd to be heard.

He’s sort of a left wing version of Hannity on FoxNews–both of them shout a lot, never say anything you’re not expecting them to say, and seem to know less than nothing about just about anything. 

Both of them seem trapped in narratives not of their own making and that neither of them realizes ceased to be coherent years ago.

I watch more than I did, though, because of the Trayvon Martin case.

Let me say from the beginning that Zimmerman lost my sympathy when he actually chased after Martin, who was running away.

To me, self defense ended when the kid took off.  No matter what the kid was or wasn’t doing, whether he had a weapon or didn’t, self defense ended once he started heading for the hills. 

It would be different in the case of a police officer, of course, but then nobody would be claiming self defense.

And that, I think, really ought to settle it.  But media blitzes being what they are, it won’t, and Florida law being what it is, it’s possible that Zimmerman could claim “self defense” if he roused the kid out of a sound sleep and shot him them.

What’s more interesting to me is the way the story has played out, and it’s interesting because it’s completely predictable.

First we had dozens of stories about how the kid was a first rate good kid with no record of violence of any kind, and those stories were accompanied by pictures of him as a skinny, weak looking little thing in an oversized football jersey.

Then we had the backlash reports–he’d been suspended several times from school, including once for vandalism and once for drug violations; the picture in the football jersey had been taken years ago, he was now six feet two and physically well developed.

Am I really the only person on earth who sees all this as entirely beside the point?

There was absolutely no point to portraying Martin as a plaster saint to begin with.  His family,of course, can be forgiven (and more than forgiven) for that.  They’d just lost their child.

But a lot of the impetus towards the original portrayal of Martin was coming not from his family but from media people and people in various activist organizations, who seemed to have thought Zimmerman would be justified in gunning down a fleeing man if the fleeing man wasn’t a cross between Martin Luther King and baby Oprah.

When I point this out, people tend to tell me that America is so racist that they just wouldn’t take the case seriously if there was any reason at all to suspect that Martin had been up to no good when the altercation with Zimmerman started. 

The problem with this is twofold:  first, that the facts about Martin’s life and reputation were going to hit the news eventually, whether his supporters and the supporters of his family wanted to or not; and that once those facts hit the news, Martin was going to end up looking worse than anything he ever was.

There is simply no way that shooting a man in the back while he’s running away from you can be classified under any traditional definition of self defense.

And it doesn’t matter if that man is an angel from heaven or an out and out thug.

Trayvon Martin’s character should not be the issue here.

By now, of course, it’s the only issue.  That, and whether George Zimmerman should be classified as “white,” since he’s at least half Hispanic.

The story seems to me to be about not much of anything by now, but it does present a curious demonstration of the fact that both the race narratives of the left and the security narratives of the right are now thoroughly exhausted. 

Nobody really believes either one of them any more–and we’ve reached a point where nobody cares about being called a racist any more either.

Which is another interesting question about where we go from here.

Written by janeh

April 7th, 2012 at 9:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Spring is Sprung

with 3 comments

One of the problems with writing this blog when I am finishing a Gregor is that I often find myself wondering–when I’ve actually got the time to write it–if I’ve got anything left to say.

I tend to follow the things I’m interested in most of the time less when I’m trying to cut a huge Gregor manuscript, so that I’m aware, for instance, that there seem to have been a number of Republican primaries and that Mitt Romney has been winning them. 

I don’t, however, really know if that Means Something or not.

I have not been following the Trayvon Martin case, but from what I’ve heard it seems that Florida has a Stand Your Ground law that not only allows you to stand your ground but to chase after somebody who is running away and then to shoot him and call it self defense.

This does not make a whole lot of sense to me, since if somebody is running away from you he can’t still be threatening you, but I really haven’t been able to pay much attention, and I may be missing something here.

I know there was a shooting at some kind of religious college in California, but I don’t know who the shooter was or what his issue was.

It’s like that.

Most of the “issues” I hear about feel contrived.  All of the various essays and articles I read would be close to incomprehensible to the other side. 

So I wish to make a suggestion.

There is, at this point, only one issue.

That issue is this:  we have become a country where there is no longer any societywide consensus about what is moral and immoral.

One of the reasons the founders and most of the generations that followed them up until very recently had no problem with thinking that the separation of church and state was completely compatible with legislators defending their votes by referencing the Bible, or calling on religious motives and ideas for public policies, is that they lived in a world where no matter what your religion was, or even your lack of it, everybody agreed on what was moral and immoral.

On the big issues of today–homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and all the rest of it–Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Deists and even atheists all affirmed a nearly identical moral code. 

Susan B. Anthony and most of the rest of the suffragists thought abortion was something men forced on women, and no woman would ever want.  Homosexuality was considered simple vice and punishable by law, and that attitude was upheld just as strongly by secularists as by religious people.

What has happened to us, I think, is that we no longer agree on what is good and evil.

At the beginning of the country, there was exactly ONE  issue like this–slavery.

Now we have the same kind of divide about virtually everything as we once did about slavery. 

And because the divide is the kind of divide it is, we can no longer talk to each other in any straightforward way.  Liberals are convinced that conservatives are really secret racist thugs–after all, nobody believes all that talk about “limited” government,” it must be just a cover for returning to patriarchalism and white supremecy.  Conservatives are convinced that Liberals are just plain lying.  “Reproductive freedom?”  Give us a break. That’s just code for “it’s okay to kill the baby if it’s inconvienent for you–like if you’d rather go to college or if the baby is going to be born disabled and be too much of a burden for you to care for.”

A house divided against itself cannot stand, the man said, and he knew a lot more about all this kind of thing than I do.

I think the sentiment is real enough. 

Without a common moral code with common foundational principle, we cannot survive as a society. 

Eventually, we will settle on one.

Which one, or what kind of combination of the two, isn’t clear at the moment, but I think both sides live in terror that the winner will not be them.

This leads to a lot of public displays of what I’d call “assuming the conclusion.”

“Do you REALIZE,” a secular magazine I read regularly said a few months ago, “Mother Teresa herself said that her goal wasn’t to help the poor, it was to glorify God!”

Shock!  Horror!  The grass is green!

Yes, of course she said that.  That’s what Christians believe.

“Do you REALIZE,” I’ve heard on The O’Reilly Factor, “that progressive eductors believe that their job is to wean students away from the values of their parents?”

Shock!  Horror!  The sky is blue!

Of course they believe that.  They’ve believed it since Dewey, who wasn’t shy about saying it.

The Shock! Horror! is meant to cue the audience that what follows is complete beyond the pale–no decent person would ever believe that.

And that cues the audience that OUR moral code is the only ACTUAL moral code.

And the problem with that, of course, is that half the country doesn’t accept that code.

Whichever code it is.

Here we go, of course, because I’m blithering again.

But it seems to me that the issue is that we cannot resolve any of the other issues without resolving this one. 

And we’re not even trying.

Written by janeh

April 4th, 2012 at 11:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Voodoo Karma, and A Book

with 11 comments

Every once in a while, I wonder if this thing about being born on Friday the Thirteenth isn’t having more effect on my life than I’d like to think.

And this week was one of those times.

At the bottom of this post, I intend to talk about a book, which is much more interesting than my whining–so just bear with me for a bit.  I’ll get past the week as soon as I can.

But–to start.

First, I have, for the last SEVEN years–emphasis deliberate–been renting a car from a local car rental place.  That’s renting, not leasing.

Lots of people have told me I’ve been insane to do t his, but my rationale was quite simple. 

Although leasing is much cheaper on the surface, it comes with costs.  The lessee is expected to get the car serviced every three thousand miles and to pay for any repairs the car needs like brakes that need brake jobs and transmissions that go wonky, as well as paying for things like conveyance fees and taxes and a lot of other stuff.

With the rental, I got the car, and if anything went wrong with it it wasn’t my problem.  I dropped it off, they gave me a substitute, I was good to go in a second and then I picked it up when the repairs were done.  I paid my rental and nothing else.  They handled the endless fees Connecticut puts on cars.  I brought the car in for service and never paid a dime for it.

When my brother was alive, he did my car repairs for me, and if there was something he couldn’t do, he took it into somebody he could trust and who wouldn’t dare rip him off.

But my brother had moved to Kansas at about the time I totaled the Escort in a freak snowstorm, and a few months after that he was dead.  This was not a bad arrangement.

The only serious drawback came in the form of the guy I had to rent it from, who was, in the words of my sons, “a douche.”

What he was was one of these people who had a hard time admitting he was wrong, and who responded to situations where it was obvious he was wrong by going on the offensive about something else.

At one point, he started to harrass me on a nearly daily basis to bring in the car for service, and when I told him I’d been there less than three weeks before, he gave me a lecture on  how it had actually been months and it needed to come in right now.

So I brought it in, and of course there was the sticker.  But he didn’t acknowledge that, and he didn’t apologize. Instead, he started harranguing me about how there was a little tear in front bumper and I needed to get that done right away and he needed to see an estimate immediately and…

There certainly was a tear in the front bumper, obviously something that had happened in a snow bank–but it was small, and the estimates were in the range of $250.  There was no need for anything to be done about it immediately, and since at that point it looked like I was going to drive that car until it died, there might not have been any need to do anything about it at all.

But, you know, at least we weren’t talking about the fact that the car not only had not gone 3000 miles from its last service, but it hadn’t gone 600 miles.

It was that kind of thing.

This man was, as far as I could see over the years, nasty and unpleasant to virtually everybody who walked through his door.  His most common conversational style was accusatory, whether he had something to accuse you of or not. 

I used to wonder how he’d managed to stay in business, considering the way he treated customers.

And then I found out—he didn’t.

I got the phone call, out of the blue and with no warning whatsover, that I had to return the car by this past Friday, because he was going out of business.

I could go on at some length about the experience of turning the car back in–the insistance that I was at least a month behind in the car rental payments (I have bank records, and he knew it, and he finally backed down), that my initial deposit was “absorbed in the rental” (whatever that means), and that he didn’t owe me for the week I’d paid for that I wasn’t going to get since I had to return the car then.

It was as nasty and unpleasant as it had been all along, and it resulted in my coming home without a car.  I’d been given such a short time to fix something up, I haven’t yet been able to arrange for something new in the way of a ride, and I am stuck here this week-end without one.  And maybe for longer. 

I will eventually get it done, but the inconvenience is severe, and the whole damned thing is going to end up being expensive and inconvenient, especially since I live in something less than a bustling metropolis, and truly local options are few and far between.

But that didn’t end the week-end.

I got home Friday night with enough supplies to last me for a while, did some e-mail, checked a few web sites, and then headed off to make dinner.

Dinner being made, I realized that I had never shut down the computer and all the lights in my office were on.

I sent my younger son in to sign off–and  he came back to tell me the monitor was now entirely dark puce and even darker blue, and that it wasn’t possible to read anything on it.

He was right.  I couldn’t read my mail.  I couldn’t read my manuscript.  It was all just–messed up.

And, since the problem with my account being hacked last month, I also can’t get mail from my main e-mail account on my phone. 

So…

Well, I have good friends who Do Things with computers, and they had a spare lying around the house, and they came over yesterday to bring it to me.

I only lost one day of work and I’m back today–but the monitor I’m borrowing is, according to my friends, a little wonky.  It’s probably about to die, and every once in a while the image on the screen shudder as if it’s about to die, and it probably will.

So now I’m sitting here with no transportation and a monitor that gives me heart failure a couple of times an hour.

And it’s Sunday.  And I’m going to make something nice for dinner and not think until tomorrow morning, because if I think, I’ll explode.

And that brings me to the book.

It’s called The Night Men, and it was written by Keith Snyder, a nice man who once sent me very interesting tea.

It was, I think, the last book he published, and it came out in 1996.  He published it with Walker, and I think Walker went out of business.  He wasn’t able to pick up another contract and he went on to other things, including becoming something of a powerhouse in the field of the design and publication of e-book editions of mystery novels.

But here’s the thing–this is a great book.  It’s a remarkable book.  It is everything I’ve ever tried to do in the writing of crime fiction, and everything I’ve failed at.

The writing is beautiful, the construction of the thing is like Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, and I’m not sure I could explain it to you. 

But what got me is this:  this is a good book.  It’s well written in the sense of being absolutely beautiful prose, and it’s well constructed in the sense of having all its parts fit together–and that’s a high wire act in this thing.

And Keith Snyder doesn’t have a contract.

But the woman I didn’t name who wrote that thing I didn’t name about two months ago, the one that was a hashy mess–well, she’s not only got a contract, she’s got a multiple book one.

And it makes me ashamed of the American reader that this is where we’re at.

Go read Keith Snyder’s The Night Men.  It’s not exactly a mystery story, and it’s not exactly a “crime novel,” and I don’t know how to tell you what it is.

It’s just an amazing book.

Written by janeh

April 1st, 2012 at 10:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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