Monday, April 10, 2017

Between the Pages

Terry here, answering the question: Are there any crime novels you read that transported you to a time or place you particularly wanted to visit.

If a novel is doing its job, it makes me feel as if I’m either in the place where the book is set or have been there. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to go there for real. One of my favorite crime novelists is Adrian McKinty. I’ve visited Ireland. It’s beautiful. Do I want to be in Northern Ireland during the Troubles? Nope. I like Denise Mina’s books. Do I want to be down and out in Glasgow? Not particularly. I like Rhys Bowen’s zany Lady Georgie series. Do I want to be in London just prior to World War II? Not at all.


I love to visit Mexico, but I don’t want to be in the crossfire in a drug war. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think Don Winslow’s Power of the Dog was one of the best books I’ve read in years. I don’t want to eat bread for most of my meals and be likely to die before the age of forty, which would happen if I were actually there in the time of Priscilla Royal’s medieval books.

I want to visit Thailand, but I don’t want to be scurrying around the red light district of Bangkok. I get to do that in my imagination when I read Timothy Hallinan’s books. I love Paris, but I’ll let Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marsden hang out with criminals. You can find me in the Louvre, thank you very much.

I read crime novels so I can get some sense of what it would be like to be in the middle of mayhem, but that doesn’t mean I want to be there. Part of why I read crime fiction is that I am intrigued by whether I would have the courage to confront criminals or to figure out how to get out of a tough situation. No one is better at getting people into and out of seemingly impossible situations than Elmore Leonard., but I never want to meet any lf his characters in read life or have to figure out how to escape them.

There’s a reason I never thought of being a police officer, even though I write about one and am intrigued by their procedures. I don’t have the courage! I worked for the CIA for a few years, but I was safely inside the big building in Langley. No matter how exciting the world of a spy is to read about, I’m no female Jason Bourne.

In addition to crime novels, I also read science fiction because I’m intrigued with whether I would have the ingenuity to survive in a hostile environment. Would I sign up to take a space ship to Mars and beyond? No. Possible. Way. I wrote a short story once in which a woman is tending to her dying husband and he urges her to join the people leaving the planet on space ships because the planet is doomed. In the end, she decides she would prefer to die at home rather than face the unknown—and in the story thousands of people, who swore they would be leaving, quietly make the same decision.

So yes, I may want to visit the city of Venice, the Greek Islands, a small village in France, Botswana, and many other intriguing place, but I’ll stick to the tourist spots and leave the danger between the pages.


Art Taylor said...

Fun question this week—and love your answer, Terry!

Gwen Parrott said...

I am with you all the way, Terry! I fear that one of the reasons I read and write crime novels is that it allows me to think what I would do if in great peril, without actually having to do it. It's become such a habit of mind, that when I read non-crime, I worry about the non-existent danger in which characters are placing themselves. If the heroine decides to move to a house with no back door, I'm convinced, despite the fact that it may be a gentle novel about family relationships, that she's going to be trapped with a mad axe man without any means of escape. Does anyone else do this, or is it down to living too long with vicarious crime?

Paul D. Marks said...

As you say, Terry, many of the places we go in novels are nice places to visit, but I/we wouldn't want to live there ;-)