Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Where Else?

The crime and mystery fiction we tend to read can be very US and Europe centric. Where else in the world would you like to see a crime fiction novel set and why?

-from Frank

This is an interesting question, and a fair one when it comes to pointing out the tendency of mysteries to be US and Euro-centric. As a 50-something year old white man from the US, it's certainly in my comfort zone. I mean, for a while, I thought I was getting edgy by reading a some Irish or Scottish crime fiction. In the context of this question, that's like saying I went crazy and switched from a Pinot Grigio to a Sauvignon Blanc. So bold! So experimental! So dangerous!

When I considered a more measured answer to this question, I realized it wasn't so much a where as it was a when. I think that my next reading adventure in crime fiction is going to focus on finding books written in a more distant historical past -- as in pre-American Revolution at the most recent end of the spectrum, and ancient history at the furthest.

So first off, I'll ask all of you -- what are your favorite crime fiction novels set in the distant past? Hit me in the comments, please!

My undergraduate degree was in History (useful Bachelor's Degree for a cop, you might snarkily say, but it actually was. What is history but the micro and macro study of human behavior over time? The application of that knowledge to police work, should be self evident...and to a writer, even more so). I love history, and the bulk of my non-fiction reading is in this genre. So the idea of a good crime novel smack dab in the middle of a cool historical setting? Well, that is two great tastes that go great together. Why have I not explored this before?

Now, I could go be a Google detective and I bet I'd come away happy with this bit of research. But I'm going to wait and see what the crowd offers up first. However, here are some times and places for crime novels I'd love to read...

* Ancient Rome. I'm sure these exist. But Roman history is one of my areas of concentration, and I there is such great human drama in what really happened that fictional drama would have to be fun.

* Feudal Japan. A samuari private detective. Damn, that might be so much fun I'll have to try to write it.

* U.S. First Nations. I use the Canadian term here because I think it is more apt, though in the US we say 'Native Americans' in common parlance. But this is such a gold mine of possibilities, with all of the various cultures, from the Iriquois Confederation to the Plains or the Southwest. So many compelling characters a protagonist could brush up against - Tecumseh, Osceola, Sacajawea...the list is long. The potential time periods are fascinating, too. Pre-colonial and colonial times are both fraught with opportunities and interesting possibilities (I left out post-colonial and modern, because I know that's been done and is being done well).

*Ancient Near East. How cool would a murder mystery be set in Persia during the height of its powers? Or Assyria? Or, of course, Egypt? Maybe during the anomaly that was the reign of Akhenaton? Nothing like a religous movement to create conflict...

*Or let's go crazy -- how about a mystery needing solved during our truly ancient past? When both Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens likely shared the world for a brief time? 

I've only skimmed the surface of possibilities here, touching on things that I'd find interesting. There's so much more. But I think it goes to show that Abir has asked a great question here, one that demonstrates how flexible our beloved genre truly is.

Blatant Self Promotion Brought To You By Me

My new novel, In the Cut, was just released yesterday by Down and Out Books!
This novel is the second in my SpoCompton series, which focuses on telling stories from the perspective of those on the wrong side of the thin blue line -- the criminals. 

Boone has been prospecting with the Iron Brotherhood outlaw motorcycle gang for almost a year, trying to earn his patch with the club. When a simple muscle job goes terribly wrong, his world changes forever. He is quickly plunged deeper into a world of drug and intimidation, and the lines between right and wrong blur. The bonds of brotherhood that he forges with other members clash with the dark actions they take. His girlfriend, Faith, represents a danger of another kind, but Boone can’t stop himself where she is concerned, either.

When someone closest to him dies, and rampant rumors of a rat in the clubhouse puts everyone in danger, Boone comes to learn what it really means to live his life…in the cut. 


Paul D. Marks said...

If you haven't already read it Name of the Rose is terrific (the book, not the movie!). Set in ancient Italy, though if I remember correctly not in Rome.

James W. Ziskin said...

Frank, check out Susan Spann’s Shinobi Mysteries. Set in 16th century Japan featuring a detective team of a Samurai and a Portuguese Jesuit priest.

Frank Zafiro said...

@Paul - read that one but years ago.

@Jim - thanks! Sounds great!

Susan C Shea said...

Steven Saylor has written a whole bunch of mysteries set in ancient Rome. I've read a few and liked them a lot. Jacqueline Winspear has a series set in England starting right after WWI and now into WWII. Our colleague Abir sets his in early 20th c India. The more you look, the more you'll find, Frank!

Susan C Shea said...

Just remembered that Kelli Stanley has two set in Ancient Rome, the first of which is NOX DORMIENDA.

Frank Zafiro said...

Thank you, Susan! I'll check those out!

Abir's book is on my TBR list - actually books from all of you here at 7 Criminal Minds are on that list, and I'm whittling away at them (Terry's is on my nightstand now, and Cathy's on my Kindle). But it is slow going, as other titles interrupt - prepping for podcast guests, an LCC panel I'm moderated, and the time sensitive library wait list that always seems to come available at the most clogged moment possible...