Thursday, June 09, 2011

Random thoughts

I like reading mysteries. I tend towards the more hard-boiled edge of the genre, not the cozy side, because that has the most opportunities for exploring the underbelly of society and the mysteries of human nature. That said, I cannot stand most of the series mystery books out there. No series that has a murder in every book should ever be longer than two books, three maximum, unless your protagonist is a special investigator for a big city police department. We have a word for folks who accumulate a pile of dead bodies in their background. We call'em "serial killers" :).

Note that this is why I haven't tried to make a living as a writer, not that it's possible to do so anyhow in today's world, where a typical midlist writer sells 20,000 books total, worldwide, period, and most books don't break the 5,000 mark, and about $1 per book actually gets to the writer. You have to go "series" and accumulate an audience before you can start moving up the sales list in the mystery genre, and the longest "series" I can come up with has three books in it, and in that one the protagonist is a serial killer of sorts, or at least not a very nice person. (Though most of the dead bodies are not directly caused by the protagonist, who does, however, have a touching scene while standing in the middle of a field strewn with dead bodies).

Oh yeah, back to the Weiner "sex scandal": Uhm, wouldn't there have to be, like, actual sex for there to be a "sex scandal"?

  • John Ensign (R-Nevada): actually, like, poked his mistress.
  • John Edwards (D-North Carolina): Actually, like, poked his mistress.
  • Dave Vitter (R-Louisiana): Actually, liked, poked a bunch of prostitutes while wearin’ diapers.
  • Anthony Weiner (D-New York): sent a photo of his poker.
Which of the above is not like the other?

Next up: Some right winger will tell me that a photo is the exact same thing as the actual act. Hmm. So if I deliver to him a photo of a pizza, it’s the exact same thing as actually delivering pizza to his apartment. So he has nobody to blame but himself next time he orders delivery and receives a photo rather than the expected food, because the photo is the exact same thing as the food, right?

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


  1. It does seem to me that the latest kerfluffle over Wiener's shorts-encased wiener is a bit like making flirting a crime. And then needing to lie about it?

  2. Yes, if it's a scandal of any sort, it's a scandal about Wiener lying, which sort of contradicts the whole persona he'd put together of being a straight shooter. But then, being a liar is a requirement to be a politician in America. We don't elect people who tell us the truth, because we don't want to know the truth -- we want lies, glorious beautiful lies, to make us feel good about our lives of quiet desperation.

    - Badtux the "And they give us what we want" Penguin

  3. There IS a mystery series for you, BadTux: Colin Dexter's "Morse". All told, there are at most a dozen books in the series, and at the end of the last book, Dexter kills off his protagonist (natural causes, if you count alcoholism as a natural cause), so there won't be any more books, period. The crimes are usually hard-edged enough for anyone, even you; OTOH, Detective Inspector Morse, though brilliant, is a bit on the introspective side for your tastes. Still, it's a series... a SHORT series... and very well written.

  4. Yes, police procedurals are one of the places where it's normal to run across dead bodies. But Cabot Cove pretty much got depopulated during the course of "Murder, She Wrote". Any sensible police department would have had someone following Jessica Fletcher around fulltime because clearly some serial killer is following in her wake, but... heh.

    - Badtux the Not-so-cozy Penguin

  5. Wiener was playing "Hide the Salami" and got punked. But as usual in politics, the cover up is worse than the original action.
    Reminds me of the story about the guy running a red light and the city sending him a picture of his car going through the light and a ticket for $200. He returned the picture of his car with a picture of two $100 dollar bills to the local Police Dept. The cops in turn, send him a picture of a set of handcuffs. He promptly paid the ticket in person in cash. Nuff Said.

  6. Here's a mystery series for you. The protagonist is Matt Skudder, an ex-cop and an alcoholic. While on duty, he accidentally killed a kid in a cross-fire. It's in New York City, and he's an unlicensed P.I. So he isn't bound by any kind of professional ethics.

    Titles run along the lines of "The Devil Knows You're Dead", "A Dance at the Slaughterhouse", "Eight Million Ways to Die","Out on the Cutting Edge." Very hard edged stuff.

    The author is Lawrence Block, who knows from alcoholism.

    Stay away from the "Burglar Who . . " titles, though. Very fluffy and light hearted.


  7. I've actually read all of Lawrence Block's books (at least, I think I have, I may have missed one or two). Yes, I like the "Burglar who ..." stories too, they are an interesting twist on one of the principle tropes of the mystery genre (which is that the protagonist is a good guy, not a criminal), they have to be light-hearted in order to slip that subversion under the transom, a mean-hearted criminal as the protagonist simply wouldn't get published or read at least not in the mystery genre (maybe in the thriller genre). But then it's probably kinda like you and brass wind instruments, you're looking as much at techniques and construction of a piece as you are listening to the piece itself when you're in the presence of a brass band, and I'm looking at how mystery novels are put together when I look at mystery novels...

    - Badtux the Mystery Penguin

  8. When it comes to 'pulp fiction' I tend to buy it by weight rather than indivudual volumes!

    To be serious, I do like crime thrillers and I do read them voraciously, so I know where-of I write! If you are looking for something very different - and also very funny - try Stuart McBride:
    He sets his police procedurals up in the God-forsaken north east of Scotland. You might find the argot slightly tricky - I do and I'm British - but they are nicely complex adn as I said, very, very funny.

    Again, for something very different try Alan Furst:
    An American writer who has captured mitteleuropa of the '30s and '40s with unerring accuracy and in which he sets his rather low-key espionage thrillers. No James Bond glamour, this is spying the old-fashioned way! Terrific books.

    Steig Larssen deserves the top seller places he has held for what seems like forever - but you must read his three books inthe right order. Another terrific Scandinavian police series are those written by Jo Nesbo:
    Until I read him I always thought Norway was the most peaceful place on earth!

    Happy reading!
    David Duff

  9. I tend to avoid overseas police procedurals, though of course I made an exception for Steig Larssen. The criminal justice systems are just too different. Ed McBain is, of course, the gold standard for police procedurals, but I'm somewhat fond of K.C. Constantine's depictions of the collapse of America's working class and of America's working class cities too. And K.C. Constantine is himself a mystery, given that nobody knows who he really is and his supposed "real name" is probably itself a pseudonym. Despite his 30-year writing career, nobody even knew what he looked like until last month...

    - Badtux the Mystery Penguin

  10. Never heard of Constantine, perhaps he's not published 'over here'. Maybe I am reading too much into your commendation but I don't like a political line, from any direction, to be thrust down my throat whilst reading thrillers. I get enough of that in 'Blogdom'!

    McBain, yes, I remember him from years ago, excellent, if a little idealised. Michael Connelly seems to have taken over in that field with his hero 'Harry Bosch'.

    I forgot to mention yesterday Linwood Barclay:

    Excellent twisting, turning thrillers - love 'em.

    But do try Jo Nesbo. His stories twist and turn and his hero, despite his many failings, is a very shrewd investigator.
    David Duff


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