Thursday, September 6, 2007

Compulsory Crappy Crime Novel Elements

*sigh* I'm not going to bother naming the incredibly boring mystery I just gave up reading in the middle of that has inspired this post, but here is a partial list of all the mandatory elements of crappy crime fiction. Feel free to add your own!

- If a detective is about to do something, but then is called away and never gets around to it, then that thing must be the most important thing in the whole book.

- The detective must like music, and when he/she listens to it, it must be identified. If it is jazz, it must be lushly described, and the detective must muse about how he/she personally relates to Sonny Rollins or Miles Davis or Bill Evans or whomever. THE RANKIN EXCEPTION: Detective may not like music as long as his partner does, and HER music is lushly described and named, so that detective can express his distaste for it in an informed manner.

- If there is a crazy person wandering around uttering nonsense, that nonsense must actually hold the clue that solves the crime!

- The hunter must become the hunted.

- Serial killers must be brilliant and love taunting cops.

- Any characters who are writers, artists, photographers, or people with any creative talent at all must be secretly vain and shallow, and their art a crass attempt to draw attention to themselves.

- Detective cannot be happily married.

- Detective cannot ever experience feelings of joy or even vague personal well-being.

- When a dead body is found, its odor must first be "unmistakeable," then "indescribable." Bonus points if the smell then "assaults" someone's "nostrils."

- When the medical examiner arrives, he/she must be asked to make a snap judgement, then must reply that this is impossible, then do it anyway and be exactly right. Later, the autopsy report cannot be delivered by phone, fax, or e-mail. Instead, the detective must visit the morgue and discuss the case over the eviscerated corpse. At this time, the ME should be eating a sandwich.

- All recurring underworld nemeses must at some point say to detective, "We're not so different, you and me."

- Hunches are always right.

- Detectives' strategic encroachments upon citizens' civil liberties must be frowned upon by preening, camera-hungry police chiefs, but then must be proven to be the only real way to "get things done."

- Detective may accidentally kill somebody, if the victim "deserved it"; however, detective must still beat him/herself up over it.

- If detective has children, they must be estranged.

- Detective must have special tavern/bar hideaway, preferably named after an animal.

- Witnesses who can't remember lots of details are idiots.


- Detective staring into body of water

- Detective attending victim's funeral and gleaning valuable information

- Detective going through the "murder book" just one more time

- Street festival, town celebration, or huge benefit concert

- Big storm

- Detective's apartment ransacked and threatening message left behind

- Cryptic phone call that cuts out abruptly

- Effusive acknowledgements section naming dozens of helpful police officers

- Cover image of person in fog, hunched in a trenchcoat

- Seven-figure advance


Pete said...

Another one: Detective is strongly attracted, against his/her better judgment, to the prime suspect.

jrlennon said...

Yes...but this attraction MUST BE HETEROSEXUAL

Anonymous said...

You are hilarious.

the individual voice said...

OK, the serial killer must up the ante and begin taunting the particular detective. And, here's one that I read in an interview with the writer of HBO's "The Wire" that never happens in real life but always in any show/book where a cop/detective looks at a body uncovered in the morgue and says "What a waste."

rmellis said...

Hunches are always right in non-genre fiction, too.

the individual voice said...

By definition. Wouldn't be called a hunch if it were wrong.

Anonymous said...

If the dectective cooks there is an elaborate description of the fancy ingredients and gourmet results. It's similar to the music thing.

LemmusLemmus said...

Detective is (fringe) alcoholic. At the very least, he gets drunk once. Optional: Has great revelation about the case while drunk, preferrably triggered by an offhand remark by the barman, whom the detective calls by first name.

gtcaz said...

Detective himself becomes suspect--must catch the actual murderer to clear his name. Manages to get (though possibly also lose) the girl in the process. BONUS: Real killer goes after the girl. Resolution of novel as epic battle between detective and real killer occurs as girl is tied to something (where she was just about to be done-in in some horrible way).

GFS3 said...

This is just brilliant stuff. One gets disgusted by the number of cliches that become ingrained into genre fiction. But blame the book publishers who are cowards and rarely take chances on genre bending material. The name of the game is not to rock the boat. How else to explain the success of James Patterson?

Anonymous said...

I always put down a book if it contains this sentence: He grinned.

If those two words represent an entire paragraph I burn the book.


Anonymous said...

For female PIs, lengthy descriptions of their cars (which will go wrong at critical moments)and their outfits (where they hide their guns).