Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Girl Who (Should've) Kicked the Douchebag's Nuts

If you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and drop by the 280 Steps website to sample those kickass titles and artwork. The electronic imprint publishes hardboiled originals and classic crime reprints as well as non-fiction on subjects near and dear to my dark granite thumper.

Today's post is a guest piece by 280 Steps author Preston Lang.

Mister Lang, you have the floor...

In the summer of 2009 when everyone on the subway was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I saw a man approach a woman on the 2 train and tell her that, actually, he was Stieg Larsson. He did look like Stieg Larsson, but he was too young, too slender, too handsome. He really hoped she was enjoying his book and wanted to know whether she had any insights. I’m not sure the woman bought it completely, but she was happy to talk. She asked whether he considered himself a feminist author. He said yes, absolutely, no question.

He described the writing process, his dark, moody Scandinavian winters, and the open relationship he had with a live-in girlfriend. He even offered a few rakish phrases in Swedish. And it was convincing; he may not have been a Swede, but he was miles past any kind of Muppet Show Bork, bork, bork.

It was hard for me to watch. Was it up to me to say, Ma’am, Stieg Larsson is dead; this man is an imposter? Was I supposed to report him to some kind of hard boiled writers’ ethics committee? Should I have hacked into his bank account to divest him of his kronor? Was it my responsibility to sodomize him for victimizing women?

I stayed out of it. I’m not that kind of subway vigilante.

I guess the point of all this is that impersonating a writer of crime fiction in order to pick up women has got to be about the least probable scenario imaginable, but I saw it happen. And I’m sure that guy was doing it all summer long. So that’s why I like to defend writers against the charge of improbability. This is different from out-and-out failures of logic. That I’ll still call out. And I won’t defend an improbability that’s lazy or clunky, but I hate when people make smug pronouncements about what is and is not possible, especially when they start to speak in absolutes:

No jeweler would ever give the combination to his safe to anyone over the phone.

It’s impossible for a mother to be indifferent towards her daughter.

A monkey cannot commit suicide.

You can’t shoot up heroin and then go on a successful job interview.

In a modern hospital, twins could never be accidentally separated.

It’s not possible to be moral without belief in God.

A guilty man never looks his accuser in the eyes.

No Harvard graduate would ever confuse illusion and allusion.

You can’t pick up women on the subway by pretending to be Stieg Larsson (or Dick Cavett.)

You cannot unwittingly marry your mom.

Some of these may be unlikely, but I have strong evidence that suggests they’ve all occurred. We do improbable things, stupid things, irrational things, amazing and transcendent things.

My first published novel, The Carrier, is not particularly improbable. A drug courier gets held up by a sultry-voiced thief. That happens.

And for those interested in monkey suicide, I’ll end with one of the most amazing paragraphs I’ve ever read. From June Cordell, former member of the People’s Temple:

My mother-in-law, Edith Cordell, had a monkey and it hung itself and she wanted to replace the monkey. So she looked in the Indianapolis Star, and in that Indianapolis Star was Jim Jones's ad that he had some monkeys to sell. So it was through that that she met Jim Jones, and came back saying that he had invited her to church this next Sunday.

Wait, What?

Thanks for having me at hardboiled wonderland.

Preston Lang has written a number of plays, stories and articles, and has worked as a mathematics instructor, a census taker, a furniture mover, and a lounge pianist. He lives in New York City. The Carrier, out now from 280 Steps, is his first published crime novel.


Kent said...

That's a great subway story. And I'll be checking out The Carrier. Very impressed with 280 Steps choices for far.

jack welling said...

My _Crimespree_ came this weekend. I was able to read your interview.

It's my first subscribed edition of this little beast, as well. I've been missing out.

jedidiah ayres said...

Thoroughly enjoyed Steve Weddle talking with Ben LeRoy & Alison Dasho as well as Robb Olson with Stephen Graham Jones... Need to read the rest of it soon.

Jay Kay said...
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