Monday, March 09, 2015

Never Kill a Killer – and other squawks from the Gumshoe Follies

Somebody named Tyler Maroney  seems

to imply we should discourage books 
like this, because a dumb reader might
be inspired to become a crooked private
dick. Instead of banning it, order and read it.
She was the kind of dame I just knew was trouble, from the moment she used one of her shapely gams to push open the door of my office. 

She sauntered in like she owned the place, great clouds of Chanel Number Five wafting off her pulse points and snuffing out the musty odor of the room I call my detective bureau

She sat down on the edge of my desk, crossing her legs and making herself at home. She lit the extra long cigarette that was wedged into her cigarette holder, using the lighter that’s always on top of my desk – a copy of a .45  semi-automatic that spouts a cigarette flame instead of a bullet when you pull the trigger. When she pulled the trigger it made a satisfying snap.

Her dress was red. Her foxtail fur stole was gray. Her eyes were the gunmetal blue color of the gat I always kept in the top drawer of my desk. I quietly opened the drawer and felt  for the reassuring heft of the weapon.

“You wouldn’t hurt a lady,” she purred through clouds of smoke.

“Of course not,” I told her, cocking back the hammer of my .38 snub nosed, removing it from the drawer and pointing it straight at the enticing depths of her decolatage. Why do you ask? Are there any ladies in this room?”

Above, a made up excerpt from a non-existent book, of a genre some of us have come to love – the noir pulp crime novel. None of this stuff ever happened and we all know it. At least any of us with any brains know it. Whether it’s Dashiell Hammet or Mickey Spillane or Lawrence Block, or name your author, we read their stuff for the sheer pleasure of escaping to a world that we can savor only as fiction.

Now, from another world, the world of authentically dumb-but-genuine real life private dicks, comes a dick peddling a book instead of his investigative services. His name is Tyler Maroney, and he’s out to stop what he seems to be telling us is one of the greatest evils known to Western civilization – the noir detective novel.

No no, I am not making this part  up. I quote from an op-ed piece of his that the New York Times published just last Saturday:
[Author John Carroll Daly] and many others who followed him helped romanticize the rule-flouting investigator, and created a world that inspired some people to believe that’s how real private eyes should behave. That’s why fans of the genre need a less felonious detective story, a yarn with more document review and less dark arts that puts the gumshoes in the law’s good graces. 
Lawbreaking private eyes, real and imagined, do a disservice to us all. Honest investigators help ensure that our legal system, our financial institutions and other corners of American life remain fair and transparent.
Right. Your average working gumshoe, following straying wives to motel rooms and occasionally digging up dirt on an out-of-work job applicant who once posted something stupid on Facebook are the bulwark of our democracy. Got it, Maroney.

If you can slog your way through the thick goop of his op-ed piece, Maroney seems to be the quintessential dumb PI, naive, dangerously impressionable, and smitten by the unimportance of what he does. Again I quote:
In my very early days as an investigator, I thought I was granted the authority to do things ordinary citizens could not: use false pretexts to obtain information, impersonate, infiltrate. I was wrong. My first assignment was a background check, which consisted of database research. My second assignment, to trace the source of counterfeit apparel goods, promised more intrigue, but my role was simply to buy shirts online.
In other words, until he finally gave in to the joy of tedium, he thought he could lie chat (and I’m guessing also steal or possibly even kill) because he read about stuff like that in some pulp novel. And somebody pays this genius to do investigative work?

He's not even good at the detective work he does. His own words:
At last, I was granted permission to channel Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Working with a former F.B.I. agent, who was armed, I tailed the chief executive of a media company to see if we could catch him meeting with a competitor to discuss a merger. My partner and I sat in a Zipcar outside the Carlyle hotel for seven hours listening to the radio. The executive never made an escape — at least not one we caught.
So now this guy wants to make the detective stories you read as boring as his life. Well, maybe. But a little sniffing around the edges of his prose reveals that he’s got a little something cooking on the side: an ulterior motive.

What it boils down to, observed at least one reader (not me) who put his thoughts in the adjacent comments column, is that Maroney is actually flogging a book called “Corporate Dick.” In it, you can get to read how ethical and dreary his life is.

Hey, I have a better idea. How about a book full of genuine fake detective stories that will whisk you away to the magical world of crime and punishment as we all wish it were. It includes stories by some of the masters of the crime writing trade. It’s called Dark City Lights. Most of the delightful stories in it are just the right length to give your life a charge while you sit on the john.

Crime master Lawrence Block’s hit man, Keller, is in there with a story about taking an assignment to murder a dog. Parnell Hall of the Puzzle Lady mysteries has a piece about the a process server who gets in a little too deep during the process of serving summonses. 

There are wonderful stories by S.J. Rozan, Jim Fusilli, and Jill D. Block, among the 23 authors of real made up crime stories, and even a story by the great science fiction writer Robert Silverberg, about Martian invaders setting up a bivouac in Central Park to the consternation of New Yorkers. Oh, and I suppose I should mention a tale by a guy named Peter Hochstein, about a private gumshoe who really does lead a dreary life until a Mafia wife comes to him with a commission to bump off her husband.

Dark City Lights will be published on April 27th, but you can put in your advance order today by going here.

I don’t know where you can buy Tyler Maroney’s book about the daily tedium and alleged indispensability to our democracy of real goody two-shoes private dicks. And frankly, Tyler, I don’t give an authentic private dick’s dumpster dive. I don’t buy books to find out how long I have to keep forcing myself to read before my eyes roll back in my head.

1 comment:

Yastreblyansky said...

I don't know, that Hochstein character sounds like a jerk. The kind of person who might tell you he's linking to an interesting story collection and the link is to some horrible memoir by a person called "Maroney".

Kidding!!! Except about the link.