CADS 67 arrived this week and it's all great stuff as usual. I could have done without Mike Ripley dissing traditional mysteries, though. He writes:

The idea of a novel as an artificial puzzle, a literary parlor game or an extended cryptic crossword did not appeal to me: then or now. I am firmly of the opinion that the so-called Golden Age of that sort of English detective story ended in 1949 when it was replaced by the board game Cluedo. Not, in my opinion, a moment to soon. ("Albert & I", p.11)

Traditional mystery fans often have to deal with such attacks. "Modernists", especially those of the hardboiled/noir persuasion, never waste an occasion to badmouth the Golden Age and what few "classicists" are still working today - even though they have largely won the war and most contemporary crime fiction is under the shadow of Raymond Chandler rather than Agatha Christie. Are they feeling insecure, or do they just have fun shooting an ambulance? I don't know. But I'm certainly surprised (and somewhat upset) to encounter such comments in a periodical that does so much for the cause of older mysteries. 




Here's To The New Year

I wish you all a happy new year. May 2014 be a good one for you and yours. This ending year was extremely still on this blog, let's hope the next one sees more activity. (Finally overcoming my reader's block is my good resolution for the new year, and with God's help I'll carry it out.) 


Briefly Interrupting the White Noise

This blog has been fairly inactive for the last nine months, except for a short article in French. Some of you have been kind enough to inquire after my health and whereabouts; let them be thanked here. The reason for my silence is quite simple: I have nothing to say. I've been fighting depression for one year and a half and it's taken its toll on my intellectual activity, resulting in a worsening of my reader's block (I have only read four books in 2013, only one being a mystery) and a general difficulty to put ideas together, especially in a foreign language. Also, more knowledgeable and articulate blogs have emerged that say what little I say better than I ever would.

Now I hope it's just temporary and I'll be soon back in business. I miss sharing my thoughts with my few but dedicated readers.



François Guérif:

"Un auteur scandinave, un tueur en série, une description complaisante de la violence ne font pas un bon polar. Il faut du style et encore du style, ‘‘même sans véritable » histoire » [Un bon roman noir]  c’est une histoire qui va vous surprendre, vous déstabiliser, vous secouer, vous apporter quelque chose sur la société dans laquelle nous vivons."

Et je comprends tout à coup pourquoi tant de livres de chez Rivages me laissent froid, ou me donnent l'impression de s'être trompés de collection. J'apprécie bien entendu qu'un livre soit "bien écrit" et un arrière-plan social peut être un plus, mais ce n'est pas ce que j'attends en premier d'un roman policier/noir/criminel. Si je veux du style et de la portée sociale et rien que cela, autant lire de la littérature dite générale. Non, ce que je veux moi, c'est de l'originalité, de l'imagination (le roman policier est une littérature de l'imaginaire, au même titre que la S.F. ou le fantastique) de l'ingéniosité, des personnages et une ambiance intéressants et - nous y venons - une bonne histoire. Pour le reste, je suis ouvert à tout; c'est ce qui me permet d'apprécier aussi bien John Dickson Carr que Thomas H. Cook. 


To Die For? Really?

I haven't much to add to Patrick's review of Declan Burke and John Connolly's Books to Die For. I felt the same way overall about the book, liking the same essays and being frustrated at the bias and shortsightedness. What bothered me most is how predictable the whole thing is. There was a time when crime writers were genuinely knowledgeable about the genre they practiced and thought a lot about it, but that time appears to be over. Most of the entries in this collection are usual suspects and offer nothing new in the way of analysis and commentary: with few exceptions contributors typically select the kind of book they write themselves (that Ian Rankin or Jon Lansdale are respectively fond of Derek Raymond and Raymond Chandler will come to no one's surprise) and their rationales are pretty expected. Another recurring trait is the kind of binary thought that mystery criticism shares with rock writing: Before X, things were dire. After X it's all great. James Sallis for instance thinks that French crime fiction prior to the advent of Jean-Patrick Manchette was all about police procedurals and picturesque Pigalle mobsters. To his credit, he is merely echoeing the vulgate predominent in the French fandom - yet he is wrong. French crime fiction was arguably more diverse before Manchette than it has been ever since. (What I have just written would sound like blasphemy to most French crime buffs, but I stand by it.) 
In short, Books to Die For is fine if you want to know more about your favorite writers's tastes (and prejudices) but only so-so if you care for the genre, its history and its milestones. Some might say that's the whole point.



Ainsi donc 2012 s'en va, et 2013 s'en vient. J'espère que cette année qui se termine vous a été dans l'ensemble propice, et vous laissera davantage de bons souvenirs que de mauvais. Puisse la nouvelle année être encore meilleure, et ce dans tous les domaines.

So 2012 is coming to its end, and 2013 is on the way up. I hope the past year was mostly a good one for you, with good memories outweighing the bad ones. May the new year be even better in every respect.