I got home from work a little while ago, and although I have class to prep to do this afternoon that I didn’t do yesterday (as I was recovering from being out late on Saturday), I thought I could spare a little time to say hello, so here we go!
One of the things I did yesterday was read one of my birthday gifts — Matt Goldman’s Broken Ice, the second of the Nils Shapiro series. As I said on Twitter last night, Goldman is now two-for-two in this series. In this adventure, Shapiro is looking for a missing young woman from a small town in Minnesota, who disappeared during the state high school hockey championships. Things get complicated when another girl from the same town turns up dead, and an unknown archer nearly kills Shapiro at the scene.
As was the case in Gone to Dust (the first Shapiro novel), the whodunit aspects of the case are engaging enough — it’s a well plotted novel — but I think the novel’s real power comes from Shapiro’s character and voice. He’s a character with whom I enjoy spending time, and for whom I enjoy rooting. And Goldman handles the character engagingly, showing us his interior landscape while keeping things readable and not stalling the reader out by pondering the whiteness of the whale and such.
Indeed, one of the things I like about crime fiction is that I think that at its best, it illuminates the challenges of being human as well as any other kind of literature, and better than many mainstream novels. I’ve never liked the claim that such-and-such a writer “transcends the genre” — I think that actually translates as “transcends the reviewer’s snobbery” — but I think that crime fiction does get underestimated from time to time. I think the final paragraphs of Lawrence Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes can stand with any number of 20th-C. novels I read in grad school, as can Jim Thompson’s tale of a suicidal jeweler from Killer Inside Me or Hammett’s famous Flitcraft parable from Maltese Falcon. And although I just read, Goldman’s book last night, Shapiro shares an anecdote that resonates the way good fiction should:
A client had given me [a bottle of whiskey] for tailing his wife for a month only to discover that all her excuses for being absent — triathlon training, extension courses at the U of M, volunteering at the Humane Society — were all true. I gave him a packet of photographs and time logs verifying her whereabouts. After reviewing them, he asked his wife why she chose to spend so much time out of the house.
She said she was disappointed in the man he turned out to be. She wasn’t cheating on her husband. She simply wanted nothing to do with him. When he asked if she wanted a divorce, she said no. Their marriage had its function, and at fifty-something years old, she didn’t want another chance at love. If he wanted a divorce then fine, they’d get divorced. Otherwise, she was content doing what she was doing. The man was still in love with her, despite knowing the love would never be returned. So he kept her like I keep books, loving them but knowing I’ll probably never open them again. He gave me the bottle of Redbreast as a departing gift with a note that said “When you need a warmth you can count on” (76-7).
That’s just good writing, is what that is. It should be encouraged. Buy the book.
Meanwhile, on my own fictioneering front, I’m pleased to mention that my story “Rough Mix” will appear in early 2019, in the abovementioned Mr. Block’s anthology, At Home in the Dark. Subterranean Press will bring it out in trade and limited hardcover editions, and the seventeen authors include some pretty heavy hitters. In alphabetical order, I’ll appearing with N. J. Ayres, Laura Benedict, Jill D. Block, Richard Chizmar, Hilary Davidson, Jim Fusilli, Joe Hill, Elaine Kagan, Joe R. Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Ed Park, Nancy Pickard, Thomas Pluck, James Reasoner, Wallace Stroby, and Duane Swierczynski.
As the publication date draws nearer, I’ll let you know when and how you can order your own copy of what promises to be a high quality collection.
And how about a bit of music? The Ruen Brothers (Rupert and Henry Stansall) are from Scunthorp, England, a steel town in the North. I heard them last night on Slim Jim Phantom’s rockabilly show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and while those influences are apparent (especially in this song’s train shuffle beat), there seem to be some other things going on as well. From their new, Rick Rubin-produced album All My Shades of Blue, here’s “Walk Like A Man.” It ain’t the Four Seasons.
See you soon!