Pulp Fiction Compulsion = Mystery Books? ~ BitterSweetLife

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pulp Fiction Compulsion = Mystery Books?

At times, a need for "pulp" fiction descends like a sand bag from a third story window, crushing everything in its path. I
n an analogy more to the point, the sand bag kills a passerby, it looks like foul play, and I am recruited to apprehend the culprit.

Pulp these days takes the form of mystery stories - and unabashedly good ones at that. It's really a stretch to term P.D. James a pulp writer, but I'm not sure where to place her. She's no Dostoevsky, but she's no Stephen King either (which is meant as a compliment). Her stories are tightly spooled, written with panache, and approach life's weightier issues in authentic ways. A murder is never a mere plot development.

All right then. Here are a couple of recaps, the first of which deals somewhat with my compulsion to read this stuff.

Cover Her Face - P.D. James

A good mystery story is like a boxed appliance that says, "All necessary parts & tools included." Dark tensions mounting to an inevitable crescendo? Check. An imposing array of apparent leads, among which lurk the "right" ones? Check. Wry dialogue and subtly allusive conversations? Check. A scintillating workout for the mind? Check. Fantastically sophisticated characters? Check. When assembled-an effective escape from encroaching reality? Precisely.

James' initial foray into "crime writing" is a blockbuster. Having inadvertently read the sixth installment in her Adam Dalgliesh series first, I devoured the true numero uno book without disappointment. I treated James' nuanced characters with more respect this time around, but still couldn't pin the murder on the right bloke. With a plethora of leads and suspects, a late-breaking red herring, and absorbing psychological interplay between characters, more Dalgliesh lies ahead. Incidentally, how come all the best mystery writers are British?

Death of an Expert Witness - P.D. James

An Adam Dalgliesh mystery, my first exposure to James' incisive characterization and tightly spooled plots. Dark, nitty-gritty and somewhat sexually charged, the story gave every evidence of being solvable; I'm not sure I did justice to this option, embroiled as I was in a mystery of my own: Can I get all my assignments done? In any case, Dalgliesh, and his accomplice, Massingham, when viewed together seem to hold seeds of redemption; transcendance comes up naturally in these stories. (As it turns out, this was episode # 6 in the Dalgliesh series!)

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sheryl said...

"Incidentally, how come all the best mystery writers are British?"
Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I don't care, I'm grouping Enid Blyton in this too.
I mean, Frederick Trotteville was the perfect antithesis of a hero; the impossibility of him being a hero making it impossible to not love him.
3 cheers for the ingenuity of Enid Blyton.
Nomination for best mystery book ever : The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
*big stupid grin*

Ariel said...

Conspicuously missing from your list is Dorothy Sayers. By all means, throw her into the mix. Gaudy Night is one of her better Lord Peter mysteries.

Enid Blyton, huh? Will have to look that bloke up.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife