October 8th, 2004
|10:38 am - Suggestions anyone?|
I know many of you out there are Sci-Fi folks. Beyond a couple of obvious titles and authors ( The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin is one of my favorite novels ever) I’ve never really gotten it. My genre guilty pleasure is reading mysteries.
When I was a kid I loved mysteries. My favorite series was the Three Investigators which, despite a commercial tie-in to the Alfred Hitchcock media empire was really well-written for y/a books. Besides, the super-genius main character lived in a junk yard and was fat. What’s not to love? The kids were still pretty much goody-goodies, but not like the diabetic-coma-inducing Hardy Boys twerps.
But when I got all politicized I stopped reading mysteries cold. I was moving on to adult books (you know what I mean, not kids books) and the mysteries seemed to be too right-wing, involving good-guy cops and the idea that "the system" would actually provide justice, if sometimes just needing a little push. Fuck that. Smash the state. I was a teen anarchist. Watch me be self-righteous.
Not that my analysis wasn’t partially correct. Most mass-market mysteries, especially in the late-‘80s were insipid, badly-written, odes to the police state. Happily though, and with suggestions by jactitation I discovered the joys of the lesbian feminist mystery.
I picked the most political ones to start with. Barbara Wilson’s Murder in the Collective, The Dog Collar Murders and Sister of the Road. These are a little dated now, the killer is found out in Murder because porn is found in his room proving he must be completely evil!. Oh, the ‘80s! But they’re worth reading. Dog Collar is a great account of the lesbian sex wars of the ‘80s with a murder backdrop and Sister has an intense ending that undoes the assumptions one makes as a reader.
Eventually I found authors and presses that I liked, and mysteries again became my guilty pleasure reading of choice. Grafton, Paretsky, Muller, etc. Then I found Chandler and realized where a lot of the good stuff was coming from. No one metaphors like he did. I can even read some cop mysteries now without filling full of hate. At least ones like Kate Allen’s.
However, because I was cherry-picking the good and political stuff for so long, I forgot how bad some mysteries could be. Recently, my Dad discovered my reading habits and started loaning me books. First was The Da Vinci Code, which has the unique ability to not only be the most cliched-filled waste of time I’ve read in years, but somehow is so bereft of interesting phrases that I can feel it’s memory black-hole-sucking original thoughts out of my head when I try to describe it. I must stop writing of it now or risk permanent brain damage.
Then he leant me a John Dunning book. John Dunning writes mysteries about a book dealer so he’s kind of a darling among people like my dad who collects and sells hunting and fishing books. I’m only on page 28 and the cliches are wounding me so bad that I may have to stop reading. Example: (the narrator dealing with an insult by a pompous author) "Normally at this point I would take off my kid gloves and bring up my own verbal brass knucks" My eyes! They’re bleeding!
But there’s a creepiness which both intrigues me and makes me want to throw the book into the corner and never pick it up again. (Of the narrator’s future love interest named Erin d’Angelo) "Her name suggested an Irish-Italian clash of cultures but to me she looked only like the best of America. She might have been a freshman college student straight from the heart of the country, a professional virgin with taffy-colored hair, a lovely oval face, and big eyes that radiated mischief." "Professional virgin"? I don’t even know what this means but I think it somehow reveals too much about the author.
Anyways, this is a roundabout way of asking for suggestions of mystery writers to read. Anyone?
Current Mood: sick
Current Music: I've got a cold. boo hoo.
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 11:46 am (UTC)|| |
two gender-neutral persons enter, one gender-neutral person leaves!
the lesbian sex wars of the ‘80s
I must have missed this entirely -- were these wars resolved in the roller-derby arena, or merely with lube wrestling?
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 11:58 am (UTC)|| |
Have I already suggested/do you already know Paco Ignacio Taibo? Or Tiabo? I'm too lazy to google.
He's fucking great. Political, great, great writing. Many of his books are mysteries - some light, some not. One is about a Mexican Anarchist during the revolution. I can't recommend him enough.
I think you did, but I forgot. thanks!
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 12:01 pm (UTC)|| |
Greg Iles, Footprints of God. I loved it. Especially so coz I read it right after that kindergarten book The Da Vince Code. Greg Iles is frigging awesome. I ran out and bought about five more of his books. When I go home tonight I will jot down a few more titles.
I too am a mystery reader when I want to clear my brain of guck.
Chandler is my favorite. No one writes like he did. Here are a few that I like for various reasons.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, by Patricia Highsmith
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, by John le Carr
Sandra Scoppettone -- her first 3 novels
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo -- Swedish dectective novels
Tony Hillerman -- earlier novels
John Rebus -- scottish dectective -- earlier ones
John D. MacDonald
I've read the Hillerman's and a lot of Le Carre and Highsmith. Scoppettone's lesbo detective makes me want to kill while yelling "Die Yuppie Scum!" though I did like the first one a lot.
but the others look great.
Donald Westlake, Ed Gorman, George Pelacanos.
I like Westlake a lot. I'll check out the other two. Thanks.
I know how you feel about her take on gentrification, but I'm going to put in another vote for Sandra "Die Yuppie Scum" Scoppettone, especially Everything You Have Is Mine.
Also, Randye Lordon -- I heard her read from Brotherly Love at a a Publishing Triangle panel a million years ago and loved it. Her stuff has been on my list for way too long.
I liked "Everything you have is mine". better than the other ones that's for sure. Give me Jack Early over those!
I'm surprised you're not pushing your favorite Naiads on me.
Barbara Hambly's historical mysteries set in 1800s New Orleans, starting with A Free Man of Color
I like historical fiction so that sounds like a good tip. thanks.
I've read almost all the Ellroy. I love the LA noir trilogy and The big nowhere. But talk about your cop fetish. And I've recently decided I like my books to have at least one comma in them somewhere that's not immediately preceding a quote.
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC)|| |
I have been jolted from my lurksome ways by the mere mention of The Dispossessed. Favorite book ever. I just re-read it and catch my self referring to people as "properterians" on occassion. That's all. I'm going to read the rest of the post, now.
whatever makes you unlurk is ok by me.
joe r. lansdale's hap & leonard books (savage season, mucho mojo, two-bear mambo, bad chili, rumble tumble, and holy shit, there's one i haven't read, veil's visit, i have to pick that up this weekend!)
texan black/white, queer/straight buddy mystery novels featuring the most entertaining shit-talking, bar none, that i have ever encountered in print (cometbus' double deuce comes close, but not quite) plus serious asskicking action, plus some romance, mostly doomed. i love these.
and richard paul russo writes some cool san francisco-based sci-fi (cyberpunk, actually) detective novels. grim as all hell, nice pulpy feel.
you like walter mosely? i've been listening to some of his books on tape when i walk around the city...the park branch library has a bunch of 'em.
ooh, i totally second joe lansdale. lots lots of fun.
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 01:31 pm (UTC)|| |
Dennis Lehane. His stuff before Mystic River features a scrappy, working class detective pair in Southie or Dorchester (I forget which, right now). Mystic River and Shutter Island are also well worth reading.
Elizabeth George writes about Scotland Yard cops, but not in a "bust the perp's head" kind of way. I think her characters are very well-developed and she hits on issues of class and race as well as friendship, betrayal, living with ones mistakes, etc.
I've been trying to get Lehane out of the library but my branch only has Mystic River and i just saw the movie so i wanted to wait on it. Lots of folks have told me I'll like him.
One of the reasons G & I started dating was our mutual love of The Dispossessed. That and Chris and Cosey.
But I have no decent mystery writers to recommend. I've never read a mystery, and I've read many, that didn't have an annoying protagonist-- unless you count Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Or maybe that's untrue, I remember liking The Children of Men by PD James, but it was more of a sci fi thing even though it was published as a mystery.
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 03:13 pm (UTC)|| |
The king of the PI story
I'd recommend Ellroy, but I'm too late.
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC)|| |
I too liked The Disposessed
I know you wanted *mystery* suggestions, but I'm going to recommend more political sci-fi. If you liked The Disposessed, you may like Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. My record on recommending these is about 50/50. Some people love it, some hate it. Its *very* political. What is not political is rather scientific, specifically geology. Not everyones cup of tea. I really liked them, though.
The Da Vinci Code was so horribly bad I can't believe I actually finished it. People who are complete strangers to the Catholic church and some of the conspiracy theories about it may be intrigued, but it was all old news to me (ex Catholic).
|Date:||October 8th, 2004 04:51 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: I too liked The Disposessed
my co-workers were all reading the series when we traveled to Minneapolis a few months ago. And none of them had read the Dispossessed! We talked about a swap.
Mosley is damn good.
Elmore Leonard's older, less goofy stuff - not really mysteries, more just various combinations of lowlifes encountering each other. My favorite (I think - been a while since I read any) was Unknown Man #89 - probably the only crime novel where the protagonist decides to put the plot on hold to go to AA meetings at the International House of Pancakes, causing great confusion for the villains.
Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn works as both a detective story and a commentary on same, and it's hilarious & sad.
I started this one James Lee Burke book and I can't remember what it was called or what was going on, but it was great.
Across the ocean & a lot slower-paced, I looove PD James. Pretty sure I wouldn't like her politics, and the books do kind of stick to the "X is killed in some small community [writer's retreat, nuclear plant, nursing school, etc. etc.] and then Y & Z are killed to cover it up", but they're really well written and her police characters are neither boring nor superheroes.
I searched to page for Lethem to see if anyone had recommended him already. figures it was you!
Dorothy L. Sayers, especially because you will completely implode when you get to the lefty stuff, and realize plus ca change. There should be a little hook under the first c there but I dunno how to make it. Start with the third one, Clouds of Witness, which I am currently watching the televisionification of.
My favorite is The Nine Tailors. I know so much about bell ringing now! I think that the whole series is just plain amazing. I was very sad when I finished the last one.
I love Dorothy Sayers.
Don't be afraid, Cheeseman! I promise there is some radical feminism (for the time) and lots of anti-war shellshocked behavior. You can ignore the aristocratic stuff and enjoy the hedonism as you admire the clever plots and good writing.
Hi, I totally added you because you have a bunch of not-completely-related people I know on your friendslist.
I recommend Sharyn McCrumb. She has two notable series, the one I like best the one set in the Appalachians. I think The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is a good place to start, but I believe the series started with If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy O. It does have a couple of the things I suspect you dislike. There's a police chief and two deputies who are major characters. There is not a "detective" per se. There's a mystery, but it's all of the people in town that solve it, and not all of them learn all of the pieces of the solution.
But I kind of liked The Bookman's Wake, but none of Dunning's others, so I'm not sure if we have similar tastes.
I already added you back. I read Bookman's Wake and don't remember it being this bad. I feel like I've read a Sharyn McCrumb but can't remember which one. hmmmm....
and I've gotten over thinking every book with a sympathetic police character was promoting cop culture. Well, actually I still think it's true, I just pretend not to notice.
Don't read Laurie King's horrific Kate Martinelli series (you think you hate Scoppetone's lez? don't get me started on this one!), but you still have never taken my advice about her Sherlock Holmes apprentice series, beginning with the best (The Beekeeper's Apprentice), have you?
I read one of the kate Martinellis. I kept thinking the character being so annoying was a plot device and a change of heart was coming. alas it never did. The Sherlock Holmes ones are never in the library.
I have such a nice long list now. Thanks.
Have you read The Fig Eater?
I've never exactly understood mystery as a genre, but more like a collective of conventions. I think I was creeped out by the market niche because of my parents' love of mysteries featuring cardboard yet frightening masculine agents speaking in terse cliches.
But as renegade suggestions I would recommend Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives and the story collection Murderous Whores (Putas asesinas), Roberto Arlt's The Seven Madmen and The Flame-Throwers and also Fogwill's A Pale History of Love. Borges wrote some great detective stories. Plus, the neocon thinktankers have summarily demoted him in their Imperial Literary History, so I'm inclined to recommend him.
|Date:||October 10th, 2004 09:32 pm (UTC)|| |
Nobody suggested Rex Stout? I'm not a huge mystery reader, but these sucked me in for a while. Stout's detective is Nero Wolfe, a large gentleman who prefers never to leave his house, where he has a private chef and a rooftop orchid garden. The narrator is Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's assistant.
I'm also surprised nobody suggested Charles Willeford. How can you not like someone who wrote a book titled High Priest of California? I'm pretty confident you'll like him. In the 80's RE/Search came out with a one-volume edition of that book and another Willeford novel called Wild Wives. (Those two are the only Willeford I've read.
I don't know shit about mysteries, but if you ever want to give SF a second chance, try Nalo Hopkinson's work. Caribbean queer feminist near-future politically rad SF.Her webpage is http://www.sff.net/peoplewho/~nalo
, I think.
|Date:||November 18th, 2004 04:15 pm (UTC)|| |
and i guess you've already read octavia butler?