Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I wrote a long, brilliant (hah!) post last night, and my computer ate it. And now I can't decide whether it's worth reconstructing. Here's the truncated version.

Among the books I've read in the past week is Ken Bruen's The Killing of the Tinkers, a hardboiled mystery set in Galway, Ireland. I really expected to like this book: I like mysteries, I'm a sad, sad Hibernophile, and it came highly recommended. And I've decided that I can't stand hardboiled mysteries. George Pelacanos annoys me in exactly the same way.

The protagonist of The Killing of the Tinkers is basically a loser. He's an alcoholic and coke addict in his late forties, he's lost his job, and his clothes all come from charity thrift shops. And yet he's endlessly, inexplicably attractive to nubile young women. Are there really a lot of nice, non-addicted, reasonably well-adjusted 28-year-olds who are desperate to drop everything so they can have loads of hot sex with coked-up creeps who are old enough to be their fathers? Pelacanos's detective Nick Stefanos, who has an awful lot in common with his creator, is another substance-abusing loser who happens to be a massive stud. He's such a manly man, in fact, that in one immensely goofy scene he converts a lesbian to temporary heterosexuality.

So here's the thing. What I like about hardboiled mysteries is that they don't glamorize violence. They force you to confront it in all its yuckiness and horror. But I think their creepy masculinity hangups undermine that. You can't help but draw the conclusion that what makes the detectives so studly and sexually alluring is their familiarity with violence. Violence is horrifying, but men who have confronted it are more masculine than those soft ninnies who haven't. And in a sense, that's glamorizing violence, too.

So anyway, I think I prefer my mysteries kind of medium-boiled.

Maybe some medium-boiled mysteries by women? I really like Sara Paretsky, if you haven't read her yet.
I like Sara Paretsky a lot. I should stick with her.
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