THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF July Mystery Week Special!
DISCLAIMER: This content has been provided to THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF by Roger Charlie. No compensation was received. This information required by the Federal Trade Commission.
About the Book
In Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’, he creates a completely unique vision that seamlessly blends tropes of magical realism and dystopian fiction in a portrait of power in America that we’ve never seen before. Imagine it as the communal love child of Marquez, Bolaño, and Orwell, a child who inhabits an America that resembles Pinochet’s Chile, and yet feels uncannily (and frighteningly) familiar to present day Los Angeles. A world in which street assassin Tre, a young and much beloved brother and son, finds himself caught in a city where all its citizens, even its most dangerous, are potential targets in the on-going power struggle between an authoritarian military regime and a not-so-community friendly guerrilla force. As Percival Everett says, “This novel treats revolution, love, betrayal and magic with equal adeptness and intelligence. In a world that is at once ours and foreign Rosales makes characters that will be remembered when the novel is done.
Guest Post by the Author
Detective as Author: Postmodern Techniques in Modern Detective Fiction
Even the earliest of detective stories are postmodern, self-aware, metafictional, and concerned with narrative problems that are outside the ken of the narrator. One of the aspects of the postmodern that perhaps the late modern writers of detective fiction must have shared, was an “implicitly or explicitly political stance” on the capitalism of their day. Another was the consideration that the work they were doing was Avant-garde. Whether it be the modernists trying to “make it new” and the commercial detectives writing with and against them, or the postmodernists trying and sometimes actually succeeding, to make it new again despite themselves calling on certain techniques they learned from their predecessors, it is not hard to say that there are significant instances of what we would call postmodern self-awareness in American detective fiction and film.
In the opening of the film Sunset Boulevard viewers get a postmodern style reference to their place in viewership, and thus to the telling-ness of a tale, rather than a straightforward representation of one. “Yes, this is Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles, California . . . A murder has been reported . . . You’ll read about it in the late editions I’m sure. You’ll get it over the radio and see it on your television. . . Maybe you’d to hear the facts. The whole truth. . .” We go on to discover a man shot dead in a pool. “The poor dope. He always wanted a pool”. While this was released in 1950, and so could be held up as a precursor to postmodern texts itself, the influences it draws on would generally be considered modernist. The author is not simply narrating to us, but first arriving on scene as a floating corpse staring right at us through the murk of a pool out of the glass at its bottom, in other words out of the movie-screen. If it’s symbolic of a then dying genre, that’s for a different time, but it still makes sense to begin here with the detective dead and staring right back at us. For after all, the detective genre has always demonstrated self-awareness, so that even if not always periodically considered postmodern (though we’ll get to one of those by the end), the works reflected a level of authorship on the part of the detective himself.
In 1929’s The Maltese Falcon (the inspiration for 1939’s also influential The Big Sleep) it’s hard to deny the drive Hammett shows to participate in the language of the drama as he writes it. His first page description of Spade reads, “Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows. . .” (3). One would be hard-pressed to find more evidence that this man who published early on with the magazine Black Mask, and who possibly shaped “hard-boiled” writing, didn’t separate the American Detective from his existence on the page, instead participating in it.
Chandler, who by 1939 had given the language directly to his detective Phillip Marlowe, makes us conscious of a story being told by helping to further shape hard-boiled diction and implying a precedent for the detective, of which his character is aware along with his audience, an audience of whom he seems aware too. “I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well dressed private detective ought to be” (3). I doubt even Chandler thought Los Angelinos in the thirties cared deeply about what private detectives did with their facial hair, booze, or wardrobe, unless they were reading them out of an American detective novel.
It may be best to return, as Sunset Boulevard does, to the body floating in the pool, so to speak. Back to the early works of the two most influential men in the American tradition of the hard-boiled detective genre. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
On page 99 of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, when Marlowe drives the hustler Carol Lundgren to Geiger’s house and asks Lundgren if anybody’s home, the response he gets is “Go — yourself.” Marlowe responds, “That’s how people get false teeth.”
On page 94 of The Maltese Falcon, when Spade asks a hustler, “Well, where is he?” We read: “The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second, “you.” Spade says in response, “People lose teeth talking like that.”
While I don’t see Chandler’s “borrowed” passage as self-aware in the post-modern sense, it does seem that participating in a popular genre is likely to produce such effects over time. And in a post or post-post-modern era, these instances are often just as educational as the observations we make about the author’s intentions. It also reinforces what a crime fiction fan already knows. Crime pays. Chandler flat out stole that line. And he never lost any teeth.
About the Author
Official Website: https://www.christopherrosales.com/