Geschrieben am 31. Dezember 2023 von für Highlights, Highlights 2023, News

James Grady: Uneasy Riders

James Grady © Josh Wolff

            We’re riding the motorcycles of our lives.

            We’re riding with the Autobahn called 2023 in our rearview mirrors.

            Green lines of “data” stream all around us like the hard rain predicted by a winner of the Nobel Prize For Literature. 

“Artificial Intelligence” – first warned about by a science fiction author in 1917 – clicks into those hard rain green streams to…to… To cancel any re-runs of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie The Terminator

We ride alone – and yet not.

            We’re riding together. You. Me. Our loved ones on two wheels roaring beside us. We wish our friends could ride closer. Some kind soul rides two motorcycles to the left. Some creep rides in that slipstream. We choke on smog from fools who want to cancel everyone who doesn’t salute them. Riding all around us are strangers who `get it.’ Plus strangers who have no clue about the Autobahn they’re on. Or who deny what they wish they didn’t know. 

            Some of us ride in helmets with visors creating a transparent black shield mirroring the streaming green lines. 

            Some of us ride without helmets. The wind blows through our hair. Maybe we wear sunglasses. But even bare eyes reflect the streams of green rain.

            We’re riding past parades of shuffling/sobbing/bleeding refugees clinging to dead-eyed shoeless children as they flee more bomb-blasting wars than all the fingers on both of our hands gripping our motorcycle handles. 

            We’re riding through forests, deserts, plains and past ocean beaches.

            We’re riding through cities. Towns. Past farms. Bus stops. Cafes. Schools. A whiskey bar where that blonde in the red dress sits waiting on a stool.

            Everywhere are people checking their cellphones – 

            — but texting rules how they communicate. “Phone calls” became quaint.

            Listen! The Bang!-Bang!-Bang! of a missed-us-this-time mass shooting.

            Look! Racing up alongside us on a fake gold motorcycle: 

            A make-up plastered, dyed orange Me! Me! Me! clown who’s juggled a documented 30,573 lies and who’s fueled by millions of often invisible dollars as he drives to again be the President of an America whose 248 years of democratic government he tried to overthrow after losing an election. 

To paraphrase Arnold: “I’m back.” 

            A glance at other political leaders reveals a strange phenomenon: 

2023 made Trump, Biden, Putin and Xi way older than the average age for men to crash off our highway of mortality. Tight smiling Chancellor Olaf Scholz is thus a young biker on the power road.

Vroom your engine as we roar forward.

Glance in your rearview mirrors.

Catch a cultural glimpse of that old people pack hogging the highway.

Taylor Swift “hundred percent” ruled last year’s spotlights.…

…but The Rolling Stones gave us a new album. The Beatles who were a 1960 to 1962 Hamburg bar band in 2023 released a “new” song. Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan who turned them on to marijuana and deeper lyrics than “yeah, yeah, yeah” tours non-stop. White-haired Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins wowed audiences. And cosmetically beautiful at 77 Dolly Parton fills stadiums, grabs your eyes & heart even as she spends millions of her own dollars to make life better for strangers.

Two geniuses who share my 1949 birth year ride strong. 

Roaring his 1952 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle, the brilliant British singer-songwriter-guitarist and author Richard Thompson astonishes venues in Europe and America. 

And “the great American author of my generation” Bruce Springsteen is coming back from vicious stomach pain to writing and performing: “Broooce!” 

“Being a human being is hard,” said Norman Lear who bettered television with comedies showing real life, spent truckloads of money on protecting liberty and died in 2023 at the age of 101. 

“I don’t wake up in the morning to be old,” said Norman. “I wake up to do the things that were on my mind when I fell asleep last night.”

            There rides Frank Goehre, a grizzled leader from our yesterdays to coming tomorrows. Riding with him to bring us noir honest fictions in the new year are Johannes Groschupf, Max Annas and Robert Brack. 

Motorcycle riders fill screens in our hands and homes with wonders like Women Of The Dead. Rebelling against Covid brings us together as human beings sharing movie theaters to experience brilliances like The Theory Of Everything  —

— and rescue us from the cinematic dictatorship of The Marvel Universe where “superheroes” save the world only enough to allow for a sequel. And another. And then a spin-off. With a sequel. 

Oh for the days of the black & white The Maltese Falcon created by the author who fathered noir fiction after being a private detective who turned down a corporate murder contract in my home state of Montana!

That stretch of time called 2023 rolling away in our mirrors was the year of America’s Culture Strikes: The Writers Guild – I marched. The Screen Actors Guild – I cheered. Hollywood shut down. Movies shuttered their sets. Network television stopped production. Left some of us staring at our bedtime screens and clicking through a maze of “streaming services” often just searching to be hugged by re-runs of TV shows from happier times.

            The swath of our world called the American west created a setting for 2023’s far beyond a crime movie Killers Of The Flower Moon from director Martin Scorsese with terrific actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Lily Gladstone who grew up in my Montana. Like the mega-movie OppenheimerKillers/Moon runs too long but leaves you knowing and feeling more about what’s in your motorcycles’ rearview mirrors.

            Shining through settled Hollywood strikes – where a key issue was stopping A.I. from making human creators obsolete — came four wondrous TV thriller shows:

            Poker Face, starring magnificent Natasha Lyonne as a savvy, tough-as-nails but tender-hearted woman whose sixth sense tells her when anybody lies. Each week, she’s on the run for her life through America’s heartland because of that. If only her character didn’t smoke suicidal cigarettes.  

Barry, the tribulations of a hitman who wants to be an actor playing out  far different scripts while dealing with love and reloading his assault rifles. 

Fargo, a wonderfully acted, bizarre series about criminal and cult insanities in the always-smiling middle of America.

Slow Horses ended 2023 with its brilliant star Gary Oldman dominating every second he’s on that spy series’ screen.

A saluting Beep! of our motorcycle horn goes out to the British creator of Slow Horses source-material novels: quirky author Mick Herron.  

            As far as other written prose we CrimeMag fans love….

            Riding amidst us are American crime prose fiction stalwarts like private eye wrangler S.J. Rozan, noir literature leader Ed Aymar and ex-cop David Swinson, but last year gave us a special trio leading our noir/crime pack.

            Look at them gunning their motorcycles out of 2023.

            There on the left rides a shy former CIA street spy in places like war-torn Baghdad named I.S. Berry whose first espionage novel The Peacock And The Sparrow won her best book of the year awards from America’s two dominating cultural arbitrators, The New Yorker magazine and National Public Radio. Her second novel rides still a-borning in her hazel eyes.

            And there on the right roars S.A. Cosby, a savvy & loving bear of a man who overcame prejudice and made a living working his muscles while pursuing his dream of writing fiction. S.A. Cosby’s wondrous 2023 novel about crime, racism and small town life called All Sinners Bleed rocketed him to deserved global acclaim. One of his four novels won the Los Angeles Times book award while another won the Dashiell Hammett prize

Hmm. Perhaps there is some justice in this world: Hammett turns down a murder contract in Montana and now has a coveted prize named after him.

            Look! Riding center in 2023’s American crime pack trio:

Why it’s Jeffery Deaver! Folk singer. Journalist. Lawyer. A kind, generous, dog-loving artist with more than 40 novels plus more volumes in his backpack. Three of his fictions have filled our past roads’ movie and TV screens. In 2023, CBS television network adapted a character from Deaver’s novels into a new TV series called Tracker and scheduled it to debut on Feb. 11, 2024 after the most watched across the U.S.A. annual TV event: America’s professional football championship Superbowl. Plus Deaver released a new 2023 novel.

            But beware: 2023 showed that Crime Mag’s writers face challenges barely imagined in our motorcycles’ rearview mirrors.

            Time’s Autobahn roars faster with your every blink.

            The hard rain of streaming green data showers us.

            A.I. computes how to laugh at us.

            Climate fights back against our fossil fuel lives with fires, floods, droughts, boiling heat and bizarre cold.

            Viruses push & shove to get their turn to colonize & kill two-legged us.

            The world of 2023 suddenly held 1,500 billionaires and doubled the wealth of the 10 richest ones. Our shrinking middle class clung to what is deservedly theirs. Worse, souls kicked down to hungry streets multiplied with every spin of our motorcycles’ tires. 

            Autocrats and fanatics of politics & religion absorb ever more earthly government’s powers and the muscle to dictate what can be written to be read by an audience like us. Secret agents like soulless Condors manipulate social media.

            Tech’  allows any idiot needs to become a “content creator” and thus an “influencer” with only a 30-second cellphone TikTok video of goofy dancing.

            “Processing” your daily life means navigating your motorcycle through “portals” to play “click the mystery screen button” to get medical help, answers from your government or connect to the grocery store where you buy bananas.

            “All our representatives are currently busy assisting others. Please stay on the line. Your estimated wait time is….”

            Radio giving us free audio surprises of human-chosen music is now a ghost chorus, replaced by streaming services where Arnold’s data chooses what you get to hear from what the green lines shape into your profile.

            Newspapers of verified facts to carry into your home….Sigh.

            Everywhere you look, screens stare back at you.

            In a world of Armageddon atom bombs and machinegunning green lines there is no private life for any of us as we increasingly abandon “for the common good” goals for the explosive political fuel of fear, narcissism and hate. 

            Nobel prize winning author Albert Camus brilliantly realized that to be a true rebel fighting back against the horrors and injustices of our times, we must shout “Yes!” to something better, not just whine “No!” from our motorcycles. 

            Vroom!

            So what are fiction authors to do when the world they must present to us readers changes faster than their clicking keyboards can turn their visions into books in your saddlebags or your handlebars’ iPad?

            Our rearview mirrors reflect 2023 when the Autobahn rolled out of so many now barely-believable yesterdays. Tomorrows vibrate so fast no one can safely predict them for a literary creation. And today dazzles all of us.

            To write stories set in all that is the challenge 2023 hard rained on our motorcycling authors.

            Authors who must saddle up motorcycles of honest & true to lead us to revealing fictions we care about, love – 

— and need, because without imagination, we ride blind.

            Luckily, we have CrimeMag to steady our ride into 2024 – and beyond.

            Vroom!

*         *         *

 James Grady’s first novel Six Days Of The Condor became Robert Redford’s 1975’s movie. Grady became a muckraking journalist, an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and three times that many short stories as well as screenwriting. London’s Daily Telegraph named him as one of 50 crime writers to read before you die. The Washington Post compared Grady’s prose to George Orwell and Bob Dylan. Publishers’ Weekly compared him to Larry McMurtry. Grady’s 2022 novel was the crime thriller This Train and his 2024 noir coming-of-age novel is The Smoke In Our Eyes.