Monday, March 29, 2021

Give us a smile

Good Monday to you, Type M peeps - Skelton back at the keyboard.

I am in the throes of a house move, as those of you who tuned in last time already know. Were we last together only two weeks ago? As they say, time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana.

(Think about it).

I am now ensconced in the new place although perhaps as you read this I will be back in the old one transporting yet more of a lifetime of stuff. I thought I had been pretty ruthless in the game of keep or chuck while packing but clearly I was less ruthless and more ruthmore.

Mickey and Tom seem to have settled into the new quarters quite happily though.

Anyway, while I was unpacking boxes and trying to decide where to put the contents, my writer's mind was stimulated by Charlotte's recent blog on Murdering the Myth, in particular her line about happy endings in which 'the good guys won and the bad guys were defeated'. Charlotte also talked about the increasing tendency in TV drama to allow evil to flourish unchecked.

Here in the UK we are well acquainted with unsatisfactory endings (usually in elections 😁). Our crime dramas often were downbeat, with the bad guy getting away with it and justice not only failing to be served but barely making it to the menu. 

My book 'Thunder Bay' was rejected by one US publisher because (spoiler alert!) one strand of the plot remained unresolved. Naturally, I disagreed. For me the plot played out the way it had to and to try to wrap it up in a neat bundle would diminish the whole.

Having said that, I understand everything Charlotte said. I think we need some hope that good will always overcome evil (it kind of did in 'Thunder Bay', by the way), at least in the world of fiction if not reality. And we need those rays of light in these days of increasingly venal politicians who get away with crimes, rising international tensions and, of course, a global pandemic.

That last statement will surprise any who may have read my books. I remember a conversation I had with Scots crime writer Alex Gray, who said she liked a happy ending. I told her I don't do them.

And looking back on my fiction, I really don't as a rule, although my new title coming out in the UK in August is pretty damn close.

I've not done the old DNA thing so I may not even have Celtic blood in me but I'm happy to self identify. And there is something in that Celtic blood, real or just claimed, that welcomes the darkness, I think. 

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

However, I leaven it all with an often hefty dollop of humour. The Davie McCall books had a lot of Glasgow patter, while a wisecrack was never far away from Dominic Queste's lips. 'Thunder Bay' was perhaps the one with fewer laughs than usual but they were back in 'The Blood is Still' and I think even more in the new one 'A Rattle of Bones'. My protagonist Rebecca Connolly is growing older, more assured, and now, at times she talks to other characters like Philip Marlowe on speed.

But that darkness is still there, within me and, by extention, within her. Of course it is. It goes with the territory.

We need humour in our work. No matter how dark things are, there will always be someone who will say something witty. Or just plain stupid. For the record, the person making the latter is usually me.

Lightness of touch is lacking from a great deal of TV drama now. Many crime shows are so bleak and mournful. There's a lot of slow motion walking, mooning about, navel-gazing and staring off into space with furrowed brow and pained eye.

Yes, I know crime is not a laughing matter but we can tackle dark subjects while also bringing much-needed lighter moments. Look at the works of Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane and, the author I grew up with and who inspired me to take up the genre, Ed McBain. They handle some distressing stuff but always find room - where appropriate - to throw in some snappy banter.

(Incidentally, Robert Crais thanked me on Twitty the other day for an RT. I've never been so thrilled.)

Light relief goes a long way. It makes the darkness even darker, it helps build up characters and it makes for an entertaining read. 

And that's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it? Entertaining people? 

Yes, we can explore the human condition if we wish. Yes, we can reveal deep truths. Yes, we can examine issues of concern.

But if we don't tell our story in an entertaining way then all we're doing is preaching and we have enough of that in real life, thank you very much.

Even superhero movies are now places of angst. I just want to grab some of them by the shoulders, give them a shake and say, 'You're in a ridiculous costume, maybe even tights, in a world that doesn't really exist outside of a computer. Lighten up, for goodness sake!'

Thank heavens for Deadpool and Shazam! And, to an extent, Robert Downey Jnr.


Tanya said...

Douglas, thank you for making me smile and laugh with this post. And for the great photo of your snoozing boys.

The timing was good because I just had a somewhat depressing conversation with a local pharmacist (in the U.S.) about how he never knows how many doses or which COVID vaccine will be shipped to him, so he has no idea how soon he can move people off the waiting list and give them real appointment times. Once the pharmacies get a shipment, apparently a lot of scrambling goes on to contact people on the list who are in high-priority groups. The rest of us continue to wait. Some states are moving the vaccine process along fairly quickly, but unfortunately, not in my area. At this point, some light banter and news from across the pond are very much appreciated!

Douglas Skelton said...

Hi Tanya,
Thanks for the comment and the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it.
We've been relatively lucky here in the UK with regards to the vaccine as our various governments appear to have it well in hand. And, of course, we the NHS to make sure the roll-out goes well. The army have also been involved as well as a legion of volunteers.