„First we take Manhattan…Then we take Berlin.“ (Leonard Cohen)
2022 whacked us numb.
Whacko right wing fanatics inspired by the kooks of America’s Q-Anon try to overthrow Germany. Turkey — whose dictator imprisoned novelist Ahmet Altan for „subliminal thoughts“ — threatens Germany with war over the Aegean.
A war pounds Ukraine to rubble laced by rivers of tears, blood and heroes‘ sweat. Hatred and greed push refugees into Bonn and Barcelona. Into Belfast and Boston. Their not your „morality police“ punish women, then men, the easier to whip the children with lies. Big Brothers watch you through your screens, from CTV cameras, drones. Facial recognition software digitizes what little of your face shows behind the mask you need to battle homicidal viruses. Gangs run countries like El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti. Crypto currencies blink away to rival the Dutch Tulip Collapse of 1637. Penthouses fill with ever more billionaires while those of us clinging to the middle floors keep dwindling as those who’ve already lost to market or personal madness huddle in the basement or cold doorways. Streets fill with fascist and racial/sexual hate militias costuming their phallic and other insecurities in battle fatigues, tattoos, armored vests and guns maximized for spewing hatred’s bullets. Villains rise out of 1970’s thrillers and sci fi sagas: A leering Judo champion, ex-Bond, James Bond era spy killing his way to Tsardom. A „reality TV“ created Orwellian orange clown selling ever bigger and more dangerous lies to keep his ill-gotten fortune and his ass out of prison. Frozen face madmen glower inside closed borders filled with Freudian missiles tipped with Armageddon bombs. Global warming laughs at us all.
You need a break.
We all need a break.
To stop it. If just for a little while. So we can breathe.
That’s where those of us who meet here in CrimeReads are lucky.
One of the redemptions of crime and thriller fictions is they help us „handle the truth“ (Jack Nicholson) by containing it in novels, short stories, movies and TV shows.
Yes, there is villainy in crime fiction.
And yes, like it does in real life, that villainy comes in oh so many ways. Neither the law nor justice might be victorious. The best fictions are blends of truths — and sure, that’s sometimes like a dark river.
But exciting. Suspenseful. Even addictive. Romantic and sometimes sexy.
Let me tell you a secret every author knows.
Love and sex scenes are the hardest fictions to create.
„Those lips walked into my bedroom.“
The rest of that story is up to you. As is what it ultimately means.
Noir fiction is realist fiction.
Crime fiction peels away life’s facades so we can see our own faces.
And sometimes, crime/noir fiction shows us maps to better days & ways.
Because to be worth anything, noir fiction must contain at least a wink of light. Because that’s real. That’s true. That’s what is. What we all hope for. What we sometimes get. Why embrace fictions that leave you nowhere but a grave?
Crime and noir fiction in 2022 helped pull us out of our own real sorrows and struggles.
Luckily, this era’s wave of Superhero movies seems to be ebbing and brilliant movies about humans are re-emerging. Watch Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.
Our screens stream so many stories we can’t always find ones we’d love.
Old movies, sure: „Here’s looking at you.“ to „‚You looking at me?“ Casablanca to Taxi Driver.
New „TV“ with brilliant shows like Slow Horses or The Flight Attendant or grim fantasies of wealth like White Lotus.
Cross-cultural „comedies“ like The Extraordinary Attorney Wu and Ramy.
Old fashioned/cutting edge cop shows from Bosch to East New York.
Classics a la Christie like Vera.
And novels, oh novels:
Masters like Jeffrey Deaver and rising stars like S.A. Cosby.
Johannes Groschupf. Joe Lansdale. Sybille Ruge. S.J. Rozan. Frank Göhre.
Muckrakers like Don Winslow.
Blend of sci-fi & thriller novels like those of Blake Crouch.
Stephen King still keyboard clicking masterworks while writers of songs like Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson and Bruce Springsteen — „the great American author of my generation“ — fill our ears with their new mystery trains.
Do you ever re-read great novels that made you feel good? That lighten your mood and wowyou with their artistry? The crime painted novels of Jess Walter and the crumbling paperbacks of Nero Wolfe and Ed McBain can ease my troubled mind and soul in a year like we are escaping now. And of course, there’s the king of crime & cool Elmore Leonard.
2022 was the year that far too many noir, thriller, spy, sci-fi, crime sagas and nightmares became far too close to being real.
And yet, our fictions of those still show us there can be lights at the end of 2022’s dark tunnel for our souls, our hearts, our heads and our hands.
Let’s walk out of 2022’s darkness into those best lights we can imagine and make true in 2023.
James Grady created the fictional espionage icon Condor of novels, movies and TV series fame. Grady’s 2022 suspense novel is called This Train.
See also in our last Year’s End Issues, 2021: Our Train; in 2020: … Condor, again …
James Grady’s first novel Six Days Of The Condor became the iconic Robert Redford movie „Three Days Of the Condor“ and inspired the Soviet Union’s KGB espionage octopus to create a secret 2,000 man spy agency to mimic what Condor did, complete with a phony cover name on a brass plaque at the front door of the spy group’s Moscow headquarters. Grady’s gone on to write more than dozen crime, espionage and thriller novels, three times that many short stories, and work as a muckraking investigative reporter in Washington, D.C. after Watergate.
James Grady in Deutschland: Die letzten Tage des Condor. Bei CrimeMag hier: Interview mit Sonja Hartl: „Eigentlich war Condor niemals weg“
Anne Kuhlmeyer: Ver-rückt? Eine Frage der Perspektive.
Alf Mayer: Notizen vom täglichen Wahnsinn. Grady bei uns on Covid hier: Jungleland.