Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Other mysteries...

I'm reading Patricia Cromwell's Scarpetta, about a medical examiner in Boston called in on a murder investigation because the chief suspect asked for her, and I'm put off by it. Cromwell's style keeps reminding me of some fake hard-ass thinking he's being honest because he rubs your nose in filth and confusion. I didn't like that kind of style with Russell Banks, didn't like it when I read some Dean Koontz, and Steven King heading that way finally turned me off on him.

It's the same with movies. The original Kiss of Death, made in 1947 with Victor Mature, was a hundred times more hard-assed than the remake with twinkly David Caruso. It was honest to its characters and let Victor Mature be a crook who got into another heist and went to jail to protect his comrades. The remake, had to make him a nice guy who was forced into a heist gone wrong, and they made up for the weakness by tossing in a couple hundred "fucks". And the remake of that near-perfect noir film, Out of the Past -- retitled Against All Odds -- was like weak tea because they ignored Mitchum's casual corruption and made Jeff Bridges a nice guy who goes looking for a buddy's girlfriend then tried to tough it up with lots of sex and a drag race and angry actors.

I keep having that feeling with Scarpetta -- like I'm being told "This is life, and it's messy and cruel and people are mean and hateful, sometimes, and even if you love someone that's no guarantee against the odds." It's all "drama" and no honest conflict. It's faked up nonsense and gilded to look pretty.

I'm reminded of a story Kirk Douglas told, about when his father gave up cigarettes. The man quit cold turkey, but always carried one cigarette with him. And when he felt the nicotine scream, he'd pull out that cigarette and say, "Who is stronger? You or me? I am stronger." And he'd put the cigarette back in his pocket. To me that's a nice distilled illustration of the truth of human drama. It's not who can cuss loudest or beat the hell out of you best. It's how strong you are in your quiet moments, because those explain the strength needed in your harsh moments.

I guess this is a cautionary tale in what not to do with The Vanishing of Owen Taylor or Carli's Kills.

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