[livejournal.com profile] tool_of_satan sent me a few Matthew Scudder novels as part of a giant package, thanks Dan, and after gobbling them down in a sitting, I ran to the library, checked out more, and read those. Then, as if I had eaten too much junk food, I felt vaguely nauseated.

When I was in high school, I enjoyed Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr “Burglar” novels, light-as-a-bubble capers featuring a gentleman jewel thief and a lot of banter. The Matthew Scudder novels are much darker, and I think I only read one or two of those.

Scudder is an alcoholic private eye, first actively drinking and later a sober member of AA. The portrayal of addiction and the work of sobriety is convincing and thoughtful, and that and mortality are the main and best themes of the series. Block’s dialogue is smooth, stylized, and often witty, and the prose and pacing give each book that hard-to-put-down quality.

Unfortunately, after reading a bunch in a row, I became increasingly put-off by the characters, both major and minor: minor characters for being stereotypical, and major characters for being sexist, racist, and smug. I am ninety percent sure that Matt and Elaine are not meant to come across as sexist, racist, and smug, but read enough of the books in a short enough period of time and they do.

These sorts of crime novels have limited roles for characters: criminals, cops, colorful local color, victims, detectives, friends and associates of the detectives, and people who are interviewed by the detectives. But given that, there’s no reason for, say, women to only appear as hookers but never as hackers.

I read about six in a row, so these links are not exhaustive: Eight Million Ways To Die: A Matthew Scudder Mystery, Everybody Dies (Matthew Scudder Mysteries).

Pimps, hookers, criminals, victims, and white men )

This rant could have so easily been avoided. If Block had even, for instance, thrown in a couple black cops, a tough woman or two, and avoided the "racism = wit" and the horrendous "I will make my female and black characters voice my own sexist and racist opinions" stuff, I would undoubtedly still be reading these books and have even recced them to people who like that kind of thing.

It’s too bad. In many ways Block is a very fine craftsman. I hope that the Burglar books would hold up better – I seem to recall women having more active roles in them – but I’m scared to check.

ETA: Spoilers for latest Burglar book in comments.
[livejournal.com profile] tool_of_satan sent me a few Matthew Scudder novels as part of a giant package, thanks Dan, and after gobbling them down in a sitting, I ran to the library, checked out more, and read those. Then, as if I had eaten too much junk food, I felt vaguely nauseated.

When I was in high school, I enjoyed Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr “Burglar” novels, light-as-a-bubble capers featuring a gentleman jewel thief and a lot of banter. The Matthew Scudder novels are much darker, and I think I only read one or two of those.

Scudder is an alcoholic private eye, first actively drinking and later a sober member of AA. The portrayal of addiction and the work of sobriety is convincing and thoughtful, and that and mortality are the main and best themes of the series. Block’s dialogue is smooth, stylized, and often witty, and the prose and pacing give each book that hard-to-put-down quality.

Unfortunately, after reading a bunch in a row, I became increasingly put-off by the characters, both major and minor: minor characters for being stereotypical, and major characters for being sexist, racist, and smug. I am ninety percent sure that Matt and Elaine are not meant to come across as sexist, racist, and smug, but read enough of the books in a short enough period of time and they do.

These sorts of crime novels have limited roles for characters: criminals, cops, colorful local color, victims, detectives, friends and associates of the detectives, and people who are interviewed by the detectives. But given that, there’s no reason for, say, women to only appear as hookers but never as hackers.

I read about six in a row, so these links are not exhaustive: Eight Million Ways To Die: A Matthew Scudder Mystery, Everybody Dies (Matthew Scudder Mysteries).

Pimps, hookers, criminals, victims, and white men )

This rant could have so easily been avoided. If Block had even, for instance, thrown in a couple black cops, a tough woman or two, and avoided the "racism = wit" and the horrendous "I will make my female and black characters voice my own sexist and racist opinions" stuff, I would undoubtedly still be reading these books and have even recced them to people who like that kind of thing.

It’s too bad. In many ways Block is a very fine craftsman. I hope that the Burglar books would hold up better – I seem to recall women having more active roles in them – but I’m scared to check.

ETA: Spoilers for latest Burglar book in comments.
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