Author photo by artist, Walter Bakowski

Monday, July 27, 2009

Crime fiction poetry 1

I've been writing crime fiction poems off and on for more than a decade. It's part of my ongoing investigation in portrait poems of what's destructive in an individual. I've read several hundred crime fiction novels. What fascinates me in them is the difficult history of an individual, the circumstances, forces and pressures which have made them wounded, warped, murderous.
The past decade has seen the rise of Scandinavian crime fiction. In the 1970's many non-Scandinavians saw Scandinavia as the liberal dream, a benevolent society taking care of its populace.
Anyone reading contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction will quickly be made aware that things are rotten in Denmark and further north. Those long winters, bored teenagers gathering in the mall or downtown shopping precinct, loners living in run-down apartment blocks, car and drug-smuggling between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia have shown us that Scandinavian crime fiction writers are asking hard questions about their society.
This is to be applauded. Also to be applauded are the driven, obsessive detectives and police officers who go without sleep, drink bad coffee, are poets of the clue, not resting until the nagging, niggling thought leads to a revelation/a case breakthrough. These are the knights, overdue for retirement, who cannot rest until the monster criminal is ambushed, handcuffed, tried and sentenced. Allow these detectives and police officers their pleasures - a generous nightcap, some musing time in an armchair listening to Coltrane or Callas, their fantasy of a long holiday in far warmer Spain. 
The crime fiction torch has been passed from the Californian likes of Chandler, Hammett and Macdonald to the Scandinavians. Go figure. 



  1. It's an interesting phenomenon, one possibly tied to the shocking (and still unsolved) murder of prime minister Olof Palme in the 1980s. But it's also firmly tied to the Martin Beck series written by Mai Sjowall and Per Wahloo, who wrote police procedurals that are informed by the authors' Marxist politics. They're very good, and they were critiquing the state in the 1960s and on. The authors also translated quite a bit of US crime fiction, including Ed McBain who is sometimes credited with inventing the procedural. But actually Sjowall and Wahloo were writing their series before they encountered McBain.

  2. Dear Barbara,
    Plan to read some Sjowall and Wahloo. I'm out of touch with who's good in contemporary North American crime fiction. Currently reading Ake Edwardson. Have you a personal connection with Scandinavia? Because I'm from Australia, distant Scandinavia seems exotic to me - how Java must have seemed to the Dutch. The murder of a prime minister/president and how it changes a country remains a crucial topic/concern - too often a case of vested interests not willing to tolerate a good and ground-breaking leader - a leader who may be against inequality and corruption. The media talk about a country "losing its innocence" but was North America innocent before Kennedy was murdered? The answer is no - ask a native North American. The roles of predator and prey remain.