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Detective novels

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I have been reading detective novels, in case you haven't guessed by the kind of stories I have been writing of late. Not that I have abandoned the gay coming of age stories, but this is a pleasant diversion.

The difference between American and English authors of such books on crime is astounding. Not that I favor one over the other but lately I have become hooked on English detectives. The cultural differences are never more apparent than in the way police prosecute crimes over there across the pond. I also enjoy the dialogue filled with such diverse terms and localized dialects.

My latest discovery is John Harvey, an award winning English novelist with several dozen book titles under his name. The book under discussion is called Cold In Hand and was published in 2008. This is one of a series centering around the crime solving genius, the fictional Detective Inspector Charles Resnick.

Not to spoil the plot for any of you who might stumble across this book, but in it several police officers are killed by gun violence. This all brings up the point that policemen and women in England are not armed. I have noted that for special circumstances these officers will carry a gun but that is not the general practice.

Digging deeper into other stories about the coppers of London, it seems this lack of a firearm is traditional. Back in the day the English had a respect for police, allowed themselves to be arrested and guns were considered unnecessary. In light of all the terrorist activity these days I doubt if that is true anymore.

This story emphasizes gun uses by criminals. It all seems tied into the larger number of ethnic minorities finding their way into the country and those in that group becoming involved in crime. I suppose it is inevitable but it does change the way police must now respond to criminals. The respect for law seems out the window.

Here in the US police carry guns, on and off duty because they would be fools not to. The lament we always hear from law enforcement personnel is that the bad guys have bigger and better weapons. This of course makes a mockery of the law in which a felon may not own a handgun or rifle, but yes they do. Killing a police officer while committing a crime usually means the death penalty, but that hasn't stopped anyone from doing it.

I wonder if the police in England will have to change their ways. It may seem discriminatory to point out ethnic minorities as the cause of such change, but if the shoe fits...

My fictional detectives, private eyes, etc. will always be armed for self defense. Doesn't mean I have to go off and have bad guys being shot in every scene, I would think that in poor taste. Unfortunately the circumstances of the latest story I am working on will have a larger body count than usual. I have to let the plot guide me where it will.

Any thought from those across the pond...or even those damn near under the pond? I would like to know where you think your society is going since we know guns will be with us for a long time. At least until the aliens arrive and take them all away at the point of a ray gun.

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One view from across the pond. Perish the day when UK police are armed as a matter of course. Thrillers and detective stories don't necessarily mirror reality. The latest available figures for the four years 2009-12 are: police killed by guns, 2; supposed criminals killed by police guns, 3 (and two of those arguably unjustifiably). That's UK-wide, in a population of roughly 60 million.

While any such deaths are too many, it's not a serious problem. Guns, essentially, aren't part of our culture and apart from sporting purposes just aren't needed. Private ownership of handguns was made effectively illegal after the Dunblane massacre in 1996, and they're exceedingly difficult to get hold of. My impression is that even in the "ethnic" groups you mention the "normal" weapon is a knife, not a gun. Personally I don't know anyone who owns a gun of any sort other perhaps than the odd shotgun in a rural area.

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Chris, you probably have already found these authors, but if not, I highly recommend them:

Elizabeth George - her Inspector Lynley books are fantastic, and What Came Before He Shot Her is one of the best books I ever read

Deborah Crombie - I love the family connections she creates with Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James

John Sanford - His Prey novels are topnotch, can't-put-the-books-down, gritty writing

Lee Child - not really detective novels, but must reads regardless


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I am addicted to the detective novels of Jeffrey Deaver. The detective, Lincoln Rhyme, is quadraplegic, so he sends his minions out to do his legwork, much as Nero Wolfe had his Archie Goodwin, but the brainwork is done by Lincoln Rhyme. These are the most intricately plotted stories that I have read. Start with the first one, Bone Collector, because that introduces all the characters.

I second Cole Parker's Lee Child recommendation for his Jack Reacher novels.

In the gay-story genre, Horatio Nimier's stories are well done. They are at GA.

Porterville at Nifty, which I recommended in First Alert, is now complete. The writing is so-so, but the plot is well constructed, with lots of twists.

The protagonists of the previous three recommendations aren't detectives, but they are solving mysteries worthy of detective novels.

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