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Sunday, June 10, 2012

POLICE PROCEDURALS/CRIME NOVELS


Continuing with the breakdown of the various thriller/crime genres, this month I’ll cover police procedurals/crime novels. This also includes private investigator novels.
As well, many crime novels often have as their protagonist an innocent bystander or curious amateur sleuth who may happen upon a crime or are affected by it, so resolve to investigate i.e. they may have a vested interest in solving the crime. In Judith McNaught’s Someone to Watch Over Me, the ‘hero’ (at first perceived as an anti-hero which is not uncommon in this type of novel), has two main incentives to solve Leigh’s husband’s murder. First, he is suspected of committing the murder and second, he wants Leigh to be able to resolve her issues with the dead husband because he’s waited many, many years to move in on Leigh.

Another example is Cilla, the heroine of Nora Roberts’ Tribute. As she sifts through her grandmother’s belongings, she realises there was a lot more to her grandmother’s death than was originally thought. It was always presumed that her grandmother, a famous actress, committed suicide. Cilla is curious about the death because it seemed unlikely that such a vibrant woman would commit suicide, and she is very like her grandmother. Once she discovers that her grandmother’s death was probably murder, she rattles a few cages.

There are many, many private investigator novels available. Many have their roots in Raymond Chandler’s character, Philip Marlowe. (In turn, Raymond Chandler was influenced by Sam Spade created by Dashiel Hammett. Humphrey Bogart was the quintessential Sam Spade, of course). Marlowe was a hardboiled, hard-drinking private eye who was philosophical beneath the surface. And there is Mike Hammer by Mickey Spillane. You can guarantee that at some stage a blonde will stroll into Hammer’s office looking for trouble.

The birth of private investigators in novels began with Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Agatha Christie’s Poirot took up the banner and then many writers ran with it, writers such as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski.

Police procedurals (the more modern ones at any rate), often open up for the reader a bird’s eye view of how the police solve crimes. Some, of course, veer well away from fact, but most are carefully researched such as the Michael Connolly books featuring Harry Bosch, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley, an English lord with a penchant for police work, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles and P.D. James’ Adam Dalgleish. Police procedurals usually stray into the psyche and lives of the police personnel involved, and that is what I find so fascinating. I enjoy the way some authors are able to set out how an investigator’s private life affects his professional life. A great example is Face of a Killer by Robin Burcell where the anniversary of the father’s death by a killer plays havoc with the Sydney Fitzpatrick’s head. She is a forensic artist for the FBI, just as Robin was. So of course Robin’s experience lends an authentic ring to her writing. She also writes the Kate Gillespie police procedurals.

So who are your favourite sleuths? Why? Next week we’ll take a look at cozies and mysteries.
 
 
 
 

23 comments:

  1. I've always loved the Sherlock Holmes stories, and "Sherlock," the recent Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss update with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson has made for wonderful TV. But my all-time favorite sleuth has to be Lord Peter Wimsey, because Peter is such an intriguing hero and Dorothy L. Sayers was an amazing writer. I recommend the Lord Peter mysteries to any reader who likes her detectives more cerebral than hard-boiled.

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    1. Yes, Alyssa. I remember that you and Susan W. love Peter Wimsey. I, too, prefer the cerebral to the hard-boiled, but it wasn't till Wimsey got married and matured that I enjoyed the books.

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  2. You might like Peter Robinson's novels. His star is inspector Alan Banks, a copper in the Yorkshire Dales. It's great writing and often the murder mystery itself has a twist in it's tail. The first book was 'Gallows View', as I recall.

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    1. Greta, anything with a twist in the tale does me. I'll keep an eye out for Robinson's novels.

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  3. I not really into Crime novels as such. I love novels that portray the heroine as getting out of her own situation without the police etc helping. I loved Jaye Fords thriller, Beyond Fear. It is similar to one I wrote a while back, as to what I am writing at present. Lot's of suspense, and thriller where the heroine's life is in danger from the beginning of the story.

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  4. Oh I forgot to mention, perhaps I need to read a bit more in the area of thrillers, but I don't like blood and guts type novels. lol. :)

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    1. You might prefer cozies, then, Suzanne.

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  5. really interesting
    thank you
    Patti

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  6. Vonnie,very interesting blog. I grew up reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories. Great way to spend a summer! Then I moved on to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie novels. Throw in some thrillers and espionage by Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy, a healthy dose of Nora Roberts and Mary Higgins Clark, and there you have it--such an interest in romantic suspense that I just had to write it! I am now awaiting the release of my second novel, Freefall.
    Looking forward to your blog on cozies and mysteries.

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    1. Sounds as though you're very similar to me, Susan. You've named all the writers I've read and stilol do read.

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  7. I love Connelly for his Bosch novels, Robert Crais for Elvis Cole and Pike books. But the grittiest police procedural I've ever read was L.A. Rex, by Will Beall. He's a seventeen year LAPD vet who worked some of the roughest areas of LA.

    I found it really fascinating to delve into real police procedures in my own LA books. Their lives are so full of interesting experiences.

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    1. Boy, oh, boy...amd I with you. I love Harry Bosch. Also the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels. Can't beat them. Then there's Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels.

      I also get lost in Barbara Parker's legal thrillers: Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana novels.

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  8. I have loved mysterys all my life. I incorporated that love in my Golden North team, Sheriff Amos Darcy and Sarah Lakat, an American and a woman Tlingit deputy in 1920's Juneau, Alaska Territory. They proved to be popular, so I've been working on a romantic mystery with they as the main characters.

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  9. In my childhood I was an avid reader of crime novels, devouring Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and the Maigret stories of George Simenon. Nowadays I love the waspish worlds of Micheal Dibden - his Christie pastiche 'The Dying of the Light' is a little gem - and Caroline Graham. I'm also delighted to have discovered Sue Grafton. Her California based Kinsey Millhone is a worthy successor to Philip Marlowe. My goodness, what scrapes that girl gets herself into!

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    1. I absolutely agree with you Maggie re the Maigret novels and also Sue Grafton's novels.

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  10. Interesting. I did my thesis on crime fiction for my MA. Crime fiction as we recognise it today started well before Sherlock Holmes, and there is a distinct difference between the US development and that of the UK, although arguably the first "Great Detectives" were French, C Auguste Dupin created by Edgar Allan Poe, and later Vidocq. In the mid nineteenth century many "Yellowbacks" cheap paperback books in England, had policemen as their heroes, and Dickens and Wilkie Collins both wrote mystery novels, The Moonstone being regarded by many authorities as the first real detective novel. As you may have noticed, I could go on (I teach crime writing) but I'll shut up now!

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    1. Hey, how could I forget the Moonstone? Yes, there is a huge difference in the development of the USA and UK, and when it comes to procedurals, I'm fonder of the UK system, probably because I come from Downunder and respect the step by step, no shooting, cerebral investigating techniques.

      I know who to come to when I'm looking for something good to read.

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    2. I'm reading a book about the history of crime fiction, Vonnie, called Snobbery with Violence. It's out of print, but very interesting, although it's better if you know the authors and the books he talks about. I'm so old I've got most of them,,,

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  11. As a retired LAPD officer myself (now writer), I don't think anyone does it better than Joseph Wambaugh - especially in his early books. Even though Wambaugh has been away from the job for quite some time, his books still ring of authenticity.

    A close second to Wambaugh would be Paul Bishop. I really enjoyed his Fey Croaker series. As a former LAPD detective, Bishop's detectives walk the walk and talk the talk.

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  12. You're one of several people who have recommended Bishop. He is on by TBR list now.

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  13. I admit to being partial to Lee Goldberg as the writer of the Monk novels. The books may be licensed fiction, and comedy to boot, but they have all the hallmarks of police procedurals only with that Monk kick.

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  14. I haven't been inclined to read crime mysteries, though I did have a period years ago when I watched a surfeit of them. I'm veering back towards the reading of them now. I recently read a cosy crime/murder mystery that was particularly British and set in Filey, England. 'The Filey Connection' by David W Robinson(Crooked{Cat}Publishing)turned out to be one of the funniest books I've read for a while and was highly entertaining. It's part of a series and I intend to read the rest.

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    1. David and I are friends because we write the same sort of books. Supposed to be no call for them here in the UK, but strangely, we're both still published!

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