Catriona writes: Doesn't that sound like the name of a Hitchcock film? Actually, I'm stepping out of the discussion of Mr H. to welcome a guest to Criminal Minds today. Richard Godwin knows a thing or two about the trangressves desires that powered Hitchcock's finest work. Read on . . .
Richard Godwin writes:
Moral compromise are two words that I often think about when writing Noir fiction Noir the genre of losers. The genre of serial mistakes, seductions, men and women who are not necessarily criminals caught up in desire, and of transgressions. Desire is dangerous, because it is not subject to cultural dictates and does not obey politics.
I believe that the body of literature depends for its identity on those works that facture the norm, since they attempt to re-establish a dialogue with the narrative. And I mean the narrative of each novel as well as the narrative of literary history. Going back to desire, Eros’s message is that dissatisfaction lives, and thinking of the frequency with which seduction occurs in Noir novels, and how that ushers men and women across a line that leads to them to criminal lives, it is arguable that we are looking at the dialogue between the literature of obedience and the literature of transgression. And the former adheres to the dictates not so much of its readers but of its politicians.
Crime fiction is in many ways redemptive, the killer gets shot, arrested, justice is restored. It often relies on a heroism that props up prevailing moral standards or the lack of them. It is arguably a literature of appeasement, heightening readers’ fears to offer consoling words at the end. It frequently sanitises crime, but not always. But transgressive crime fiction lacks restoration, subverting order and providing a certain element of realism in its place. Given the fact that most victims of crime do not see justice, the realism of crime fiction lies in transgressive works, and arguably in its Noir transgressive fictions.
If I think about my own novels it is salutary to see how unconsciously I have inherited what I am speaking about. I think my two transgressive novels are Mr. Glamour and Meaningful Conversations.
Mr. Glamour is about a group of wealthy beautiful people who are hooked on designer goods and become the prey of a killer obsessed with brands and branding. It contains a sub-plot in which a disturbed middle class house wife is leading double life and may be suffering from dissociative personality disorder. At the centre of the investigation are two cops who both harbour criminal tendencies. DCI Jackson Flare and Inspector Mandy Steele both cross the line.
Meaningful Conversations is transgressive on numerous levels. The protagonist Bertrand Mavers, famous cellist and predator, is the most well-adjusted character in the book, a sane killer in an insane world. He is using a paradigm to subvert a therapeutic programme. Bertrand’s view of the world is beyond alienation, it is one step removed from the images presented to his fellow men and women. It is clear that his perceptions are disconnected from those around him, and he has transgressed the known world, the world of shared perceptions, of the objective correlative, as he tries to replace it with his transgressive paradigm. In a scene where he is the dinner guest of Otto Wall, who may be treating all the characters, we will never know, Bertrand looks around the dinner party and what he sees if far from what seems to be taking place as knives are perched studiously above plates and his wife Anna watches him, guilty of her affair and his proximity to their hostess:
‘Otto puts some music on and chatters about health. But all I can hear is the miniature beating of a child’s heart. It is the threnody of the amniotic prison. It is the pulse beyond the room. We dwell in decay, static guests in Otto’s cave, lost in his endless waiting room, shuffling papers, stuttering our words as if through broken lungs. The sac is opening, like a pair of lips. It mumbles at me as the dinner guests talk on, their thin faces filled with food. I wonder if all pleasure has been perpetually lost to the lawful.’
In Meaningful Conversations I was looking at the nature of disease in a pathologised society, one where sickness is necessary for social engineering.
The cartoon world is an image Bertrand uses again and again in the novel as a demonstration of his loss of belief in the reality of what he sees around him. And inasmuch as he is pathological he may well be pathologised by a society dependent on the simulacra he sees on a daily basis, the mirror effect to the narcissistic age, addiction to celebrities, and the illusion of their proximity via the internet or TV to the lives of the aspirational. His surreal vison of an imploding world may be accurate and his accuracy may be a necessary disease when the prevailing notions of health are subject to an authoritarian engineering of habit and tastes.
You can find out more about me and my novels at my website here: www.richardgodwin.net