Yesterday?s post about Lars Kepler?s novel The Nightmare took shape when I was struck dumb by the utter contrast between that book on the one hand and two tantalizing excerpts from new work by two of my favorite crime writers on the other.
The Nightmare, I write in an upcoming review, is an explicit example of Stieg Larssonism ? a potboiler plot harnessed to didactic political intent. Its potboiler aspect means that everything notable that happens to every notable character is at the very least extraordinary. Nothing in the novel is impossible, but I never believed for a second that anything in the book was really happening to real people.
On the other hand are the bits from I Hear the Sirens in the Streets by Adrian McKinty and Black Rock by John McFetridge. Each features as its protagonist a young police officer just growing into maturity at a time of civil unrest. (Bombs figure in both books, McKinty?s, set amid Northern Ireland?s Troubles in the early 1980s, and McFetridge?s during Montreal?s turbulent year of 1970.)
Each is, I believe, a serious effort to convey what a real person living through those troubled times must have felt like, a delicate balance between quotidian narrative and social history. More to the point, I read those bits (and McKinty?s current book, the excellent Cold Cold Ground), and I think, damn, that?s what it was like. These guys bring the history alive.
The debate between realism and naturalism on the one hand, and whatever their opposites are on the other, has probably been going on since those terms were invented. Which do you prefer? Or, to put the question perhaps more meaningfully, which is more important to you in your crime reading, the real, or the fantastic? Or do you prefer that more difficult feat, the fantastic within the real? Examples welcome.
(Go to McKinty's blog to take your shot at winning I Hear the Sirens in the Streets in manuscript.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2012
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