Crime Fiction in the City

Crime Fiction in the City: Capital Crimes

Lucy Andrew
Catherine Phelps
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Crime Fiction in the City
    Book Description:

    A collection of academic essays by literary critics and writers of crime fiction - including a reflective essay by Ian Rankin on his own work - that explores the relationship between crime fiction and the urban spaces of the capital city.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2587-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    The growth of the metropolis in the early nineteenth century has been the subject of much commentary by contemporaneous thinkers. Charles Baudelaire and, later, Georg Simmel, both noted the alienation felt by city-dwellers, fuelled in part by the anonymity of the urban space. In his seminal essay, ‘The metropolis and mental life’, Simmel also expanded on the individual’s freedom to develop outside a closed rural community or small town. As many were drawn to the city in search of work, so they left the watchful eye of a familiar and secure community.¹ No wonder, then, that the city became such...

  6. 2 Edinburgh
    (pp. 6-15)

    Living in Cardenden as a teenager, I’d written about the place to try to make sense of it. I was asking: how do I fit into the scheme of things? I was also making my home town seem more exciting and romantic than it really was. And I was playing God, controlling the world of my fictional creations in a way that was impossible in reality.

    Moving to Edinburgh in October 1978, it was natural that I would start writing about this strange, complicated city – though to term Edinburgh a ‘city’ can sometimes seem an exaggeration. With a population...

  7. 3 ‘The map that engenders the territory’? Rethinking Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh
    (pp. 16-28)

    Baudrillard begins his influential workSimulacra and simulationswith the allegory of ‘a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory’ of the empire it represents. As the empire declines, the map crumbles to dust. This image is then inverted to make Baudrillard’s point that, in a world of simulation, this difference between the real and representation evaporates. ‘The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it’, he writes: ‘Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory –precession of simulacra– it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to...

  8. 4 Corralling Crime in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay
    (pp. 29-46)

    In a conversational piece for theNew Welsh Reviewin 2003, writers Leonora Brito and Charlotte Williams talked about the difficulties of locating black people in Welsh literature. Cardiff-born Brito suggested that, ‘for the white imagination, which shapes as well as reflects public perception, black people invariably inhabit a sort of psychic corral called “Tiger Bay”. They can comfortably “place” us there, or nowhere.’¹ Tiger Bay, since demolished in the slum clearances of the 1950s and 1960s, once was in the heart of Cardiff’s docklands and was home to one of Britain’s earliest multicultural communities. In its place now stands...

  9. 5 Crimes and Contradictions: the Fictional City of Dublin
    (pp. 47-64)

    In this contribution I wish to provide, from a practitioner’s standpoint, some observations on cities in general, and Dublin in particular, as natural locations for crime fiction. A big city’s identity in opposition to the outside world, compounded by its internal divisions, offers a range of fissures, of fault lines in social reality, inviting the sort of complex exploration of difference that makes crime and transgression appear almost inevitable. The city is the cradle of such developments, and is also the place that calls for faults to be rectified through the enactment of some kind of symbolic justice.

    Details of...

  10. 6 From National Authority to Urban Underbelly: Negotiations of Power in Stockholm Crime Fiction
    (pp. 65-84)

    Often acknowledged to be the first Swedish crime novel,Stockholms-detektiven(‘The Stockholm detective’; 1893) by the author Prins Pierre (Fredrik Lindholm) does not take place in the Swedish capital.¹ Instead, it is set in the small town of Eskilstuna, situated to the south-west of Stockholm, with the plot centring on a mysterious blaze in a factory. A detective from the capital is lured to Eskilstuna by a similarly mysterious letter, whereupon he eventually succeeds in solving the crime and subsequently returns to Stockholm. Stockholm as a centre of power can thus be traced back to the very beginnings of Swedish...

  11. 7 Streets and Squares, Quartiers and Arrondissements: Paris Crime Scenes and the Poetics of Contestation in the Novels of Jean-François Vilar
    (pp. 85-106)

    The epigraph to Jean-François Vilar’s second novel,Passage des singes(1984), is Walter Benjamin’s famous comment on the photographs of Eugène Atget:

    It is no accident that Atget’s photographs have been likened to those of a crime scene. But isn’t every square inch of our cities a crime scene? Every passer-by a culprit? Isn’t the task of the photographer – descendant of the augurs and haruspices – to reveal guilt and point out the guilty in his pictures?²

    Victor Blainville, the reluctant investigator of Vilar’sromans noirs, is a compulsive photographer of Paris who paces its arcades and circulates interminably...

  12. 8 The Mysteries of the Vatican: from Nineteenth-century Anti-clerical Propaganda to Dan Brown’s Religious Thrillers
    (pp. 107-125)

    Contemporary crime fiction has fostered new forms of cultural tourism. Crime fiction fans flock to Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh and to the Swedish town of Ystad, where Henning Mankell’s Wallander series is set. Italy features prominently within this global cartography of crime. Tourists visit Venice through the literary lens of Donna Leon and rent flats in the Sicilian seaside resorts where Andrea Camilleri’s novels (and the ensuing television series) are set. The Sicilian town of Corleone is another popular destination, asThe Guardianreported in 2008:

    In the public imagination, nowhere is most associated with the mafia than Corleone. It once...

  13. 9 A Tale of Three Cities: Megalopolitan Mysteries of the 1840s
    (pp. 126-137)

    It is often assumed that detective crime fiction is an urban phenomenon, developing in the early—mid-nineteenth century as identity and menace both become elusive and threatening in the massification of the modern cities: ahead lie Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe. Yet, emergent disciplinary detection in the city in the hands of the anonymous author ofRichmondin 1827, Samuel Warren in the 1830s and Edgar Allan Poe around 1840 lacked any focused expression of urban forces.¹ However, they appear strongly in the Mysteries of the Cities, a potent but detective-free genre that swept around the world in a few...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 138-142)

    Rural crime fiction – especially the country house mystery – traditionally ends with a sense of resolution and, hence, reassurance as the sole corrupting influence – usually the murderer – is exposed and contained. The urban setting, in contrast, affords prospects for a more realistic and complex engagement with criminality and other societal problems. Unlike its rural equivalent, in urban crime fiction, although the individual crime can be solved and the villain captured, crime itself cannot be contained. The war to police the capital city is never won because as soon as the criminal is dispatched another arises to take...

  15. Index
    (pp. 143-150)