Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The chalk outline Blood patterns. The sleep-fucked men standing by. The punk flanked by two squadroom bruisers. He’s blinking back flashbulb glare. He’s got one finger twirling. He’s flipping the square world off.
Don DeLillo called it “the neon epic of Saturday night.” It’s Crime. It’s the bottomless tale of the big wrong turn and the short cut to Hell via cheap lust and cheaper kicks. It’s meretricious appetite. It’s moral forfeiture. It’s society indited for its complicity and dubious social theory. It’s heroism. It’s depravity. It’s justice enacted both vindictively and indifferently. It’s our voyeurism refracted.
We want to know. We need to know. We have to know. We don’t want to live crime. We want our kicks once removed-on the screen or the page. It’s our observer’s license and inoculation against crime virus itself. We want celebrity lowlifes and downscale lives in duress. We want crime scenes explicated through scientific design. We want the riddle of a body dumped on a roadway hitched to payback in the electric chair.
We want it. We get it. Filmmakers, novelists, and journalists keep us supplied. They know how much we want our bloodthirsty thrills and how we want them circumscribed. Movies, TV, novels and stories. Dramatic arcs. Beginnings, middles, and ends. Most crime is fed to us fictionally. The purveyors exploit genre strictures and serve up the kicks with hyperbole. We get car chases, multiple shootouts, and limitless sex. We get the psychopathic lifestyle. We get breathless excitement-because breathless excitement has always eclipsed psychological depth and social critique as the main engine of crime fiction in all its forms.
Herein lies the bullshit factor. Here we indite the most brilliant suppliers of the crime-fiction art. I’ll proffer indictment. Count number one-and cringe in the throes of self-indictment.
In the worldwide history of police work there has never been a single investigation that involved numerous gun battles, countless sexual escapades, pandemic political shake-ups, and revelations that define corrupt institutions and overall societies.
Count number one informs all subsidiary counts. That sweeping statement tells us that we are dealing with a garish narrative art.It’s underpinnings are unrealistic.It’s story potential is manifest-and as such usurped by artists good, great, fair, poor, proficient and incompetent. Crime fiction in all forms is crime fiction of the imagination. That fact enhances good and great crime fiction and dismisses the remainder. Crime fiction fails the reader/viewer/voyeur in only one way: It is not wholly true. And that severely fucks with our need to know.
True Crime TV shows, feature documentaries, full-length books and reportage. Revised narrative strictures.
You must report the truth.You can interpret it and in that sense shape it-but your factual duty is nonnegotiable.
- James Ellroy
The Hilliker Curse:My Pursuit of Women is out today kids. At Ransom Notes, I'm setting the stage in my best demon-dog voice. Leave a comment in the comment section of this here piece to be entered in an Ellroy book giveaway. No, not the new one. The other one. I'll draw a name Friday.
For those of you who haven't checked out the Mulholland Books site, would do well to go over there and read some of the great essays they're racking up including this one from Ken Bruen.