Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Off the peg PIs - one size fits all

I’ve just finished The Irish Sports Pages by Les Roberts (review to follow shortly). This is the fourth of the Ohio/Kentucky crime novels I’ve recently read and I’m detecting a trend (the other three books being The Killing of Strangers, Satan’s Lambs and The Lime Pit). In fact skipping forward to the next novel I’m about to read, Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta, it might in fact be a de facto rule of Mid-Eastern crime writing – that all crime novels are PI novels. I won’t pre-judge TISG, but the other four all share some similar characteristics with regards to the PI.

1. They’re all in their late 30s to mid 40s.
2. They’re all single with failed marriages and only a few close friendships.
3. They have a caring, romantic, sentimental side that they do their best to hide or deny.
4. They’re driven by a core sense of justice and fighting the wrongs of the world, and yet they know and are friends with people who routinely break the law.
5. They’re prepared to use violence, but only for a righteous cause.
6. They’re prepared to take a beating or dally with death to solve the case. In fact they seem to actively court it.
7. They’re smarter than the collective minds and resources of every state and federal agency combined and are always several steps ahead of them (even though they are often a failed cop).
8. They’re stubborn and ignore every warning to back off from a case and let the professionals deal with it.
9. They have suspect judgment, especially near the end of a case, rushing off to save the day rather than doing the sensible thing and calling the cops or bringing reinforcements (meaning they are caught and disarmed and then have to get themselves out of a sticky situation – a bit like James Bond really – why the bad guys don’t jut kill them straight off is a mystery in itself).

It obviously takes a certain kind of person to be a PI in these here parts. Of course, lots of crime fiction has it cliché characters and formulaic plots – they’re familiar and comforting and they work, producing a flawed hero people can identify with and an entertaining story. Reading four of a kind in a row though can be a bit wearing.


Uriah Robinson said...

Did you mean Mid -Western crime writing? Although from California Ohio is east. ;o)

Rob Kitchin said...

I meant the east bit of the mid west. To fair I did write it at 5am US time, although as a professional geographer I have few excuses