“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is It Safe?

I mentioned earlier in the week that I’ve been struggling for the last while with a new book, so God only knows what possessed me to read William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN again. I’ve loved that book for about 30 years now, give or take, and to read it now suggests that I harbour a self-destructive (and possibly masochistic) streak a mile wide. If you’re ever seriously doubting your ability to write a good thriller, and need that one last nudge that will tip you over the edge and take your typewriter / laptop with you into the abyss, just read MARATHON MAN and go gently into that good night, amen, etc.
  (Writing Tip to Self: try having interesting things happen to interesting people in a blackly humorous way on nearly every page. It’s worth a shot, at least, surely?)
  Anyway, given that we all know that the whole point of the crime / mystery novel is the righting of wrongs and the pursuit of justice, the following passages leapt out at me:
‘Police?’ Babe blinked. ‘Police? Why should I call them, what good would that do?’ He buttoned the raincoat. ‘I don’t want justice, are you kidding, screw justice, we’re way past justice, it’s blood now …’ (pg 227)
  And again:
‘Well, we’ve been making a mistake with people like you, because public trials are bullshit and executions are games for winners – all this time we should have been giving back pain. That’s the real lesson. That’s the loser’s share, just pain, pure and simple, pain and torture, no hotshot lawyers running around trying to see that justice is done. I think we’d have a nice peaceful place here if all you war-makers knew you better not start something because if you lost, agony was just around the bend.’ (pg 273)
  So – what exactly is it crave from our deliciously escapist crime / thriller fiction? Justice? Or blood and agony?


Dana King said...

Justice is in the eye of the beholder. What is described in the past excerpt may well be justice--giving pain for pain--or vengeance; hard to say.

It may have to do with people feel is appropriate, and that is a highly situational definition.

seana graham said...

Having just read another of the bleak but wonderfully blackly humorous novels of Ken Bruen, I ask myself the same question.